Socialist Worker

Royal Mail boss Rico Back bows out - but fight to defend workers is not over

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2705

Post workers have been fighting planned attacks for years - and now boss Rico Back has resigned

Post workers have been fighting planned attacks for years - and now boss Rico Back has resigned (Pic: CWU Eastern No 5)


Royal Mail’s hated chief executive Rico Back suddenly resigned on Friday—two weeks after workers delivered him a humiliating blow.

Back—brought in in 2018 to break up Royal Mail and smash workers’ organisation—has stepped down with immediate effect. 

His resignation comes amid a major dispute between Royal Mail and its workers over the future of their jobs and working conditions.

Mark Dolan, a CWU union rep in north London, told Socialist Worker it was a “significant win” for the union. “He was unable to implement the strategy that he promised Royal Mail’s shareholders,” Mark said.

Back is a former head of European parcels company GLS. He had hoped to force through changes that would cost as many as 20,000 jobs and destroy working conditions.

He wanted to break Royal Mail up into a parcels company run for profit, with conditions similar to those in courier services such as Amazon. What remained of Royal Mail’s letters service would be run down.

But with his plan hitting difficulties—including resistance from workers—now it seems he’s been booted out.

Back was humiliated two weeks ago when CWU members threatened widespread walkouts over a major attack on workers’ conditions.

Bosses had announced an end to letters deliveries on Saturdays, without consulting the CWU.

This would have meant huge disruption to workers’ time off and personal lives. And it was a step towards permanently getting rid of the obligation to deliver letters six days a week—something that could lead to tens of thousands of job losses.

Flashpoints

But when CWU members said they would refuse to go along with the changes—raising the prospect of flashpoints and walkouts—bosses backed off. They were forced to say the changes were voluntary, and only temporary.

Workers had already twice voted overwhelmingly for national strikes against Rico Back’s plans.

Bosses were getting frustrated at Royal Mail’s falling profits—down £22 million in April—and rising costs. Now they’ve decided Back’s not up to the task.

In a joint statement, released the same day as Back’s announcement, Royal Mail and the CWU said they were in talks that could lead to an end of the dispute.

They also announced a £200 bonus lump sum for Royal Mail workers for their work during the coronavirus outbreak.

But the battle isn’t over yet. Shareholders will still expect whoever becomes Back’s permanent replacement to deliver their profits—which could mean pushing on with attacks on workers.

Back was originally brought in as a replacement for previous boss Sue Whalley, who also failed to smash up conditions in the face of resistance from workers.

“This is a major thing,” said Mark. “The plan to turn Royal Mail into a parcels company is now in doubt.”

He added, “The ballots and the defeat we just gave him probably led to this. But the war isn’t won yet.”


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