March 26, 2020 / 11:53 AM / in 3 days

Union says restructuring at UK's Royal Mail now on hold

FILE PHOTO: Royal Mail vans are parked in the Leytonstone post office depot in London, Britain early July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce/File Photo

(Reuters) - Royal Mail (RMG.L) stopped short of confirming it was putting its heavily-disputed restructuring plans on hold on Thursday after its largest union claimed the moves had been halted by the coronavirus and would now be the subject of further talks.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), locked in a dispute with Royal Mail over direction, national agreements and workplace culture, said it had three meetings with Royal Mail since voting in favour of strike action last week.

While both sides agreed to prioritise the current crisis, the CWU said there were also talks on resolving the dispute and that the company was willing to agree a process for further talks and had halted all action in the transformation push.

In a statement in response to Reuters questions, however, the company declined to confirm it had put Chief Executive Rico Back’s turnaround plans on ice.

“Like other companies, we continue to actively monitor the rapidly evolving situation relating to the coronavirus pandemic,” a Royal Mail spokesman said in an email to Reuters.

“Given recent developments, we are assessing our future plans and will update the market when appropriate.”

CEO Back last May pledged to invest 1.8 billion pounds in a plan to transform the former postal monopoly into a sustainably profitable operation by 2024 by refashioning the UK-based company into an international parcel-led business.

Those moves have run behind schedule as it struggled with the threat of labour unrest and a slowing UK economy, but it said last month it was moving ahead.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Patrick Graham

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