Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Tough Task Delivering the Goods at Consignia; CITY COMMENT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Tough Task Delivering the Goods at Consignia; CITY COMMENT

Article excerpt

Byline: ANTHONY HILTON

IF Government ministers worry about problems other than tomorrow's headlines, they ought to turn their attention to Consignia and shudder. The organisation that incorporates the Post Office and Royal Mail has the potential to be as big a disaster as Railtrack or the National Health Service - bigger, even, in that it touches every home and business in the land.

In the next few weeks, the postal service has to come to terms with the opening-up of some of the choicest markets to private-sector competition when it loses its monopoly of business bulk mail. The betting among those who have dealt with the organisation is that it is in no shape to compete. Some 30,000 jobs need to be shed to cut costs.

The business has just had its worst-ever January and losses have soared to [pound]1.5 million a day.

Yet management and unions have spent the past months arguing over a 5% pay rise. Neither side seemed able to rise to the challenge or do anything other than the same old tricks. It really is the last refuge of the authoritarian management and unreconstructed trade unions that characterised the Britain of 30 years ago.

Perhaps the Government is alive to the dangers. That would explain leaks yesterday that the Post Office regulator might be about to back down to give Consignia more time to adjust. Even if that is so, a huge amount is riding on the leadership skills of Allan Leighton, the interim chairman appointed a few weeks ago. He showed when chief executive of Asda that he has a huge ability to motivate employees and he is obviously trying to forge the same links at Consignia.

That, I suspect, is why he said that renaming the organisation Consignia was a daft idea. It was probably also why he this week shamed his chief executive into deferring acceptance of a 10% pay award when the union was being refused 5%. …

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