UPDATE 2-Royal Mail to kick off labour talks with union in bid to reconcile

* Talks to focus on 5 key areas including operational change

* CWU welcomes Royal Mail’s statement

* Talks come after former CEO Rico Back resigned (Adds CWU comments)

July 1 (Reuters) - Royal Mail and its largest labour union have agreed to start talks to settle a long-running dispute over pay and operational changes, the former British postal monopoly said on Wednesday.

Rico Back, who founded and ran the company’s international parcels operation before becoming CEO, resigned in May following a year of union resistance to his 1.8 billion pound restructuring plan.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), representing Royal Mail postal workers, had been discussing industrial action since late 2019. Workers voted in favour of a strike in March but no action was taken due to the coronavirus crisis.

“Both parties recognise it is essential we move faster to ensure the business can respond and adapt efficiently to changing customer demands,” Royal Mail said in a statement.

Among other issues, the talks will also focus on company’s future strategy, including for its UK courier and logistics service Parcelforce, and its financial position, the company said.

“We think its a very good statement .. it doesn’t mean the dispute is over, there are big issues that we still face,” CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said in a live statement on social media.

“We’re confident that from now on in it’s the right thing to get stuck into some serious talks with the company.”

Royal Mail, which has been struggling with sliding letter volumes, laid out a restructuring plan last week that included 2,000 management job cuts, saying the pandemic had increased the need for change.

Labour union Unite, which represents around 6,000 Royal Mail managers said it would “press the top management” on the rationale for the job cuts. ($1 = 0.8035 pounds)

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M., Kirsten Donovan