Postal delivery drivers in the Letterkenny district say they were shocked when told at a union meeting that An Post intends to cut their numbers by as many as six positions with immediate effect.
The union members gathered in the Mount Errigal Hotel at the weekend had expected to hear details of progress on their 2% salary increase, which they say was due to, have been paid in July.
This latest jobs twist comes as talks between postmasters and An Post have broken down again and a national executive meeting is scheduled to discuss what is termed a deteriorating situation for employees of the company.
A meeting of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) on Friday evening at the Mount Errigal Hotel heard of An Post’s plans without any formal contact with the drivers: according to sources.
It is believed the Letterkenny area which extends to Dunfanaghy; Fanad Head: Kilmacrennan: Milford: Rathmullan and Downings has in the region of 60 drivers and the workers believe these cuts are the beginning of a rationalisation phase by the company to reduced manpower and leave many communities with much later services every day of the week.
It is understood that six ‘casual’ posts in Letterkenny are being cut with immediate effect and the union members fear for their own positions in what they believe is only the beginning of a huge rationalisation programme within the service.
In recent years the decline in letter post has between 5 and 10% each year, but in the most recent year An Post had performed well and kept the decline to 5%. However the increase of a postage stamp to €1 is seen as a step too far for most consumers.
Meanwhile the resumed talks between the Union and An Post have broken down again. The IPU has steadfastly rejected An Post’s plan to operate a new ‘smartcard’ system. The postmasters fear loss of income and the move will effectively close hundreds of post office across Ireland.
An Post sees the introduction of the Smart account is a key attempt to ensure the survival of the post office network.
However the IPU Members are refusing to co-operate with the roll-out of the new product because they believe it reduces their earning capacity and poses a huge threat to many branches staying in business.
The dispute continues amid fears that up to 500 post offices could be forced to close as they are losing money, with consumers increasingly using electronic forms of payment.
The Smart account is aimed at offering an electronic payment option to the 1.7 million customers who use the post office network each week.
But those receiving social welfare payments, such as child benefit, are increasingly having the money transferred straight to a bank account.
Less than 10% of new pensioners are thought to be opting for cash payments through a post office.
A letter from the Irish Postmasters’ Union to its members had already advised them not to co-operate with the rollout of the new Smart account.
The letter, signed by IPU general secretary Ned O’Hara, says that the union has twice voted at its annual conference not to co-operate on the training of postmasters to operate the new account without an agreement on the future structure of the post office network.
The IPU wants An Post to agree to recommendations made by businessman Bobby Kerr on a new contract, and is seeking extra funding for postmasters.
“In the absence of any agreement on the future of the network, the national executive is advising and recommending to you that you do not engage in any training in relation to the An Post Smart card account, until final agreement is reached on outstanding issues,” said the Union advice to members.
An Post, whose chief executive is David McRedmond, lost €15.6m last year. The new account, if agreed will be a direct challenge to AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster, Permanent TSB, and KBC.Account holders will get a debit card, which can be used across the MasterCard network.
Customers will also be offered a reward scheme on a range of products and services but there is no cheque book or overdraft facility with the new product.
A number of IPU members told the Tribune that An Post has now begun telephoning them in a in an attempt to convince them into operating the Smartcard service The National Executive is meeting to address the new crisis.
In the meantime the IPU has advised their members that they are not in a position to give a response to An Post until they are in receipt of further instructions from the Union.
And the Postmasters have also been advised to contact the IPU Executive if An Post persists with this practice, which could be seen as a form of bullying.Tags: