Royal Mail may be sued by axed directors

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The Independent Online

Adam Crozier, the new chief executive of Royal Mail, has quietly removed three of the postal group's most senior executives. Their departures, after they recently gave up some of their employment rights and signed new contracts, could lead to an embarrassing legal row.

In the last few weeks, Jerry Cope, the group managing director of Royal Mail, Kevin Williams, the managing director of Royal Mail International, and Mick Linsell, the director in charge of service delivery, have all resigned.

Royal Mail would not comment on why they had left and none of the three was available or willing to speak to The Independent on Sunday.

However, it is believed that Mr Cope departed after a disagreement with Mr Crozier and Elmar Toime, the former head of the New Zealand Post Office, who has recently joined as deputy chairman.

Mr Cope and Mr Linsell have been closely involved with the recent reorganisation of postal delivery, which will cut the number of deliveries a day. Mr Linsell was also behind the decision to get rid of the mail train, moving the long-distance transportation of the post on to trucks.

Their departures come as Royal Mail is facing a serious strike in a dispute over pay and productivity. The Communication Workers Union balloted its 160,000 members on Friday, with a result due to be announced by the middle of next month.

The removal of the three directors could also lead to legal action. Under reforms pushed through by the Royal Mail chairman, Allan Leighton, last year, all three signed new contracts that restricted their pay-offs to one year in the event of their departure and stopped them taking early retirement, by saying they could not draw on their pensions until they were 60.

It is understood that they have been advised that, because of the short time between them signing the new contracts and their ousting, they may have a claim against Royal Mail for bad faith.

"Some of the directors are said to be 'livid'," said a well-placed source.

Royal Mail said it would not comment on contractual issues.

Meanwhile, Royal Mail will go head-to-head with courier companies TNT, Business Post and UPS tomorrow by launching a guaranteed 9am- next-day delivery service. "We believe that there is potential to grab a quarter to a third of the market in two to three years," said Ross Drake, the product manager for Special Delivery. "If the service meets full expectations", it would generate £50m to £100m in extra turnover, he added.