After privatisation Royal Mail finds itself on collision course with Unite

Royal Mail staff sort post at Nottingham Mail Centre. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Five months after privatisation and Royal Mail finds itself on collision course with one of the unions that represents its staff.

1,300 management and head office jobs are going in an attempt to save the business £50 million. A decision the Unite union describes as "ruthless".

Royal Mail is a company trying to adapt to a world in which we are sending far fewer letters and more parcels. It is doing so at a time when an increasing number of rivals are trying to steal its business.

Royal Mail calls this process "modernisation". Change has returned the company to profitability but has come at a price: the number of people employed by Royal Mail has fallen by around 50,000 over the last decade.

Moya Greene, the chief executive, has made it pretty clear that she believes the workforce is likely to continue to shrink. The unions are well aware of the this but the scale of today's cuts seems to have taken Unite, which represents 7,000 Royal Mail managers, by surprise.

1,300 management and head office jobs are going in an attempt to save the business £50 million Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Unite is threatening strike action unless the company promises no compulsory redundancies. Royal Mail won't go beyond saying it expects most job losses to be voluntary.

It's worth noting that today's announcement does not affect so-called "frontline staff" (postmen and women). You may recall that just before Christmas the Communication Workers Union, which represents 120,000 posties (most of them, least we forget, now also shareholders), was also threatening strike action. The CWU ended up striking a deal with the company which protected the pay and working conditions (no outsourcing, no zero hour contracts) of its members.

For the moment then, the union that could cause Royal Mail the biggest headache is content. Much depends on how the business performs going forward. If, as some in the City expect, the redundancies keep coming it's a relationship that could quickly sour.