Barring an eleventh-hour U-turn, Royal Mail will today go to the High Court in a bid to delay a planned shutdown of Britain’s postal service, almost eight years to the day after the last one.
The strike is over changes to pensions, pay and working conditions. We’ve seen a lot of the Communication Workers Union leaders in the newspapers and on TV, radio and social media championing their side of the argument. By contrast, Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene has been conspicuous by her absence.
The Canadian, whose £1.9m 2017 pay includes a generous £200,000 pension, is not known for regularly courting the media. In addition, the CWU says Greene has not attended talks to avert the strikes. While she leaves it to her deputies, she hands the union an easy win.
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Not all chief executives wish to directly engage in industrial disputes, whether in the press or facing off against unions representatives around a table. But City analysts stress fears over the industrial action are the largest weight on the 501-year-old company’s shares. So what could be higher up Greene’s to-do list?
Over a fifth of Royal Mail’s market capitalisation has been wiped away in the last 12 months, culminating in an embarrassing demotion from the FTSE 100. Its current share price, 378p, remains just ahead of the 330p it floated at in October 2013. However, it is well behind the 455p it had soared to by the end of the first day of trading.
Industry-watchers add the strike will be particularly damaging by giving its rivals a vital leg up. The likes of Deutsche Post-owned UK Mail and Barclay brothers’ Yodel are among a number of firms to have popped up by filling a void during previous strikes.
It is a tense time in many boardrooms. With criticism over executive pay high on the agenda, and with calls for public and executive leaders to be more visible, Greene’s absence from the public stage leaves her open to accusations that she has a tin ear not just at a critical time for Royal Mail, but for the business community more broadly.
Surely, now is the time for her step into the limelight and make her case.