Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson to step down

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Simon ThompsonRoyal Mail

Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson is to step down from his role, the owner of the postal giant has said.

Mr Thompson said he believed it was the “right time” to go after Royal Mail and the main postal union struck a deal that could end a long-running dispute.

He has had a difficult two years in charge of the firm.

Mr Thompson had come under pressure after he was accused of misleading MPs when he denied Royal Mail tracked workers’ productivity.

He will remain in post until the end of October, and the board is in “advanced stages” of appointing a new chief executive, it said.

There were reports that Mr Thompson had become “increasingly disillusioned” during strike action by members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

It is believed leaders of Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services, also wanted fresh leadership at the firm after the dispute over pay and conditions.

Last month, union bosses recommended that workers accept the new deal which would end the bitter dispute. Union members will be balloted later this month.

The company had said that more industrial action, which had already cost it £200m, could lead to Royal Mail going bust.

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Analysis box by Emma Simpson, business correspondent

Royal Mail will be soon be appointing its third boss in five years.

Mr Thompson’s predecessor, Rico Back, was ousted after he promised to transform the service but ended up at loggerheads with unions as well as being criticised for commuting from his home in Switzerland.

Given all the structural challenges the business faces, it feels like the job has become mission impossible.

But Simon Thompson also didn’t do himself any favours with his performance in front of MPs, and his handling of a pay dispute became increasingly confrontational as industrial action wore on.

Whoever the new chief executive is, they will have to improve the Royal Mail’s relationship with its workforce, and push through some big changes to modernise the business and make it more efficient.

It’s a big and difficult job.

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CWU demonstration

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The CWU, which had called for Mr Thompson to go, said on Friday that he was “one of the key individuals responsible for the financial crisis that Royal Mail Group has created over the course of the last year”.

It called for “further change in Royal Mail Group’s leadership team”, saying Mr Thompson “was only one of the senior leadership team responsible for the unacceptable actions and behaviours of managers across the UK throughout this dispute”.

Mr Thompson’s position within the company was weakened after he was recalled by MPs to give evidence to an inquiry in January.

This followed “hundreds” of complaints about the accuracy of an earlier testimony, in which he denied that the firm tracked workers’ productivity through their handheld computers.

MPs also questioned his denial that Royal Mail prioritised parcels over letters.

Hack attack

At the beginning of the year, Royal Mail was also hit by a ransomware attack linked to Russian criminals which disrupted overseas mail.

It took more than a month for international mail services to resume.

In the statement announcing his departure, Mr Thompson said he had been “incredibly proud to lead Royal Mail during this crucial period”.

He said the firm “now has a chance to compete and grow” after changes to the business and the agreement with the union.

“It is now the right time to hand over to a new chief executive,” he said.

Board chairman Keith Williams said Mr Thompson had made a “significant contribution” to the firm.

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