Notorious Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson is on his way out. That’s according to reports from Sky News. The incompetent CEO will leave behind him a trail of disastrous decisions and nincompoopery – all coupled with hyper-corporate capitalist approaches to dealing with workers and the Communication Workers Union (CWU). However, will Thompson putting his head on the chopping block (or it being put there for him) actually change anything at the company?
Royal Mail: from one disaster to the next
The Canary has extensively covered the Royal Mail, and Thompson’s toxic tenure as CEO. He has repeatedly acted pretty badly – like telling a load of untruths while giving evidence to a parliamentary committee. For example, he’d said that Royal Mail managers did not track employees to see how quickly they were working. However, the committee received evidence to show that this was in fact the case, so it called Thompson back. As Sky News reported:
The committee’s chairman, Labour MP Darren Jones, said failures in company policy relating to working conditions and the monitoring of postal staff “can only be due to either an unacceptable level of incompetence or an unacceptable level of cluelessness about what is happening at Royal Mail”.
Meanwhile, he and his cronies also threatened to declare Royal Mail insolvent if the CWU didn’t bow down to their demands, during the ongoing dispute with the trade union. All this comes on top of Royal Mail saying that it lost nearly £300m in just nine months. Yet it managed to pay out over £500m to shareholders in the previous financial year. So, to say Thompson’s time as CEO has been a bit of a mess would be an understatement.
Thompson: being pushed, or jumping?
Sky News reported that Thompson:
had become increasingly disillusioned about the job in recent weeks amid a bitter fight with union bosses over the company’s future.
An industry source said that some board members had also concluded that the business requires fresh leadership after a turbulent period.
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In other words, it’s likely that the board and shareholders are pushing Thompson, as opposed to him jumping himself. An “insider” told Sky News that any announcement on his future would “likely” be before Royal Mail’s parent company announces its annual results on 18 May.
This is a fairly obvious attempt by the board to lessen the collapse of Royal Mail’s share price, in the wake of what’s likely to be a terrible annual report. By forcing Thompson out, the board will be seen to be proactive regarding the state of the company’s finances. And of course, it also sends a message that the chaos was down to him. However, this is blatantly not the case.
Royal Mail: blame the Tories (and Thompson, too)
Royal Mail has gone down the shitter ever since the coalition government privatised it in 2013 – at a loss to the public. As the CWU warned in 2015, when the government completed the privatisation:
The Tories have instead chosen an ideological course that puts the fundamental ethos of a centuries-old national institution in jeopardy.
This has, of course, come to pass. In 2020, before Thompson got the CEO job, Royal Mail was already talking about an “accelerated pace of change” – trying to stem falling revenue, at that time around £22m. Maybe if the board hadn’t given previous CEO Rico Back a £6m ‘golden hello’, the losses wouldn’t have been quite so bad.
The point is that Thompson is a symptom of the illness: privatisation and corporatisation. When governments sell off public services, they end up being little more than profit vehicles for unscrupulous rich people. They don’t care for the public or the workforce. Nor do they care for the quality of the service a business provides. All bosses care about is turning a profit for them and their shareholders. So, Thompson may be off – but it’s unlikely that much at Royal Mail will change.
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