Postmasters call for government action as network "faces collapse"

The Irish Postmaster Union is holding a demonstration outside the Department of Communications today

Postmasters call for government action as network "faces collapse"

File photo: Dermot Kirwan from Friends of the Elderly protesting with postmasters outside the GPO, 12-04-2017. Image: RollingNews

Postmasters are accusing the government over overseeing the collapse of the Irish postal network.

Members of the Irish Postmasters Union are gathering outside the Department of Communications this afternoon warning that more post offices will close around the country if the government fails to take action.

The union has announced that it has pulled out of talks with An Post – claiming that new contracts on offer will result in heavy losses in earnings.

The general secretary of the IPU, Ned O’Hara said the protest is the direct result of “government inaction and its refusal to invest in its own services” adding that the situation is looking bleak for union members:

“They want to reduce the number of post offices in the network and they want postmasters to sign a new contract,” he said.

“So they are the main sticking points.

“I suppose the contract would be the biggest one of those because the proposals in relation to the new contract would significantly reduce postmaster’s earnings.”

The union is calling for the Communications Minister Denis Naughten to get involved in the negotiations – and has insisted An Post needs to be able to offer more services in order to keep the network viable.

He warned the network is facing collapse unless the government intervenes.

“The postmasters themselves will decide that they are just not able to make a living from the post office network and they will stop providing the services.”

Negotiations

Negotiations between unions and An Post have been underway since May – however Mr O’Hara warned that there is no longer any prospect of reaching agreement.

The IPU has organised a series of meetings across the country over the coming weeks to discuss the challenges facing the union.

An Post Smart Account

The dispute will also see the postponement of the planned An Post Smart Account.

Postmasters have refused to attend a training programme to enable the roll-out of the service “until an overall network plan is agreed.”

“We will support the Smart Account once we have agreement that it sits together with a Network development and investment plan – which sanctions a wide-ranging suite of additional over the counter transactions such as motor tax, identity verification, transport, tourism, health social hub services,” said Mr O’Hara.

The account, launched last month, aims to offer a new current account service allowing An Post customers to manage their household bills while potentially earning money back through partnerships with a range of partner businesses.

Cabinet meeting

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications said it was aware of the planned protest outside department headquarters.

She said the Minister Naughten is currently attending the Cabinet meeting in Celbridge, County Kildare this afternoon and is therefore unable to meet with the group.

The Minister has instructed his advisor to meet with IPU members and receive their letter for his attention.