UK's Royal Mail CEO Thompson to step down after union clash

FILE PHOTO: An ornate Royal Mail post box with Post Office written on it in Liverpool

(Reuters) -Royal Mail's CEO Simon Thompson plans to step down later this year, saying it was the "right time" for the company to move forward under new leadership, as the British postal group tries to draw a line under a lengthy pay dispute.

Parent company International Distributions Services Plc (IDS) on Friday said its board was in "advanced stages" of appointing a new chief, and that Thompson had agreed to remain with the business until the end of October.

Thompson's two-year stint as CEO was marked by a tussle with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that involved several nationwide strikes last year and ultimately led to a deal last month that included a 10% salary increase.

"It is now the right time to hand over to a new CEO to deliver the next stage of the company's reinvention," Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson drew heavy criticism from the CWU and its postal workers over his handling of the pay dispute, which had caused financial distress and major disruptions to mail deliveries.

"I think it's an important development. And hopefully, we now start to see a different attitude from management that our members feel locally," CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said in a livestream.

"Further change in Royal Mail Group's leadership team is vital," he added in an emailed statement.

IDS said Thompson, 56, believed it was the right time for the company to move forward under new leadership.

Royal Mail, which was privatised in 2013, has lost millions of pounds as a result of the strikes over pay and conditions.

In January, the company said it expected to make an adjusted operating loss near the mid-point of a previous forecast range of 350 million-450 million pounds for the fiscal year ending March 31. The company is set to publish full-year results next Thursday.

The company also ran into trouble earlier this year when a ransomware attack disrupted its international deliveries.

Shares in IDS have lost a third of their value since 2021, when Thompson took on the CEO role.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman in London; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee and Jane Merriman)