Allan Leighton, Asda chief executive in the supermarket chain’s pre-Wal-Mart days, is renowned for his bare-knuckle skills.

In his current role as executive chairman of Consignia – soon to revert to its original branding as the Royal Mail Group – Leighton has unlaced his gloves as he glowers across the ring at the bosses of the Communication Workers Union.

Having failed to achieve his aims in negotiation with the union honchos, Leighton decided to appeal over their heads direct to the 170,000-strong workforce.

In a matey letter to all employees, the scarred knuckles were exposed. Leighton disparaged not only the union bosses but some of his own managers, pointing his finger every which way in blame for failing to agree new working practices that could cut costs and lead to a staff pay increase.

“Having talked to so many of you,” Leighton wrote, “I know that like me you are fed up with the politics and treacle that clog up this business. They [the union bosses] must all be in the Costa del Sol, or watching every game in the World Cup, so in theory the pay deal cannot go through. Frankly, I’m hacked off with the whole lot of them and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were too,” he continued.

The CWU’s management expressed surprise and emotional hurt at Leighton’s attack. Deputy general secretary John Keggie declared himself “absolutely amazed at Leighton’s letter – a “shallow attempt”, he opined, to curry popularity. The reference to the union’s officers sunning themselves in the Costa del Sol or watching the World Cup, Keggie said, was derogatory and typified the chairman’s “lack of respect for democracy”.

Meantime, according to Leighton, Consignia continues to bleed cash at the rate of around £1.2 million ($1.79m; €1.87m) daily.

Data sourced from: The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff