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Saturday 23 August 2014

Post office staff facing job losses over cuts

Niall O'Connor and Majella O'Sullivan

Published 03/05/2014 | 02:30

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Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte. Photo: Frank McGrath

An Post is planning to slash the salaries of postmasters across the country – in a move that could place thousands of jobs in jeopardy, the Irish Independent has learnt.

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The future of the post office network was thrown into fresh doubt last night after it emerged that postmasters face payment cuts in the region of 10pc.

The Irish Independent understands that the drastic proposals have been tabled by An Post in the company's negotiations with the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU). If implemented, sources say the plans would almost certainly result in the closure of post offices across the country.

An Post is adamant that it needs to cut the payments it makes to more than 1,100 postmasters so it can diversify into new businesses.

The payments are connected with the multimillion-euro social welfare contract, which was secured by An Post last year following a competitive tendering process.

Many postmasters are paid in the region of €20,000-€30,000 per annum for administering social welfare payments.

The Irish Independent has confirmed that cuts of between 7pc and 13pc are currently being discussed by An Post and IPU officials.

Postmasters, who are contracted by An Post to provide services, are desperately concerned for the future of their businesses following an independent report by Grant Thornton. It claimed 557 post offices were under threat if An Post lost its contract to deliver social welfare payments.

Post offices are already under huge pressure as An Post pursues new 'Post point' ventures with the likes of Tesco and Dunnes Stores.

But if such a pay cut is implemented, there are fears it would result in mass closures of post offices, particularly those in rural Ireland.

Details of the plans are revealed as hundreds of postmasters and their families descend on Tralee, Co Kerry, for the annual conference of the IPU.

The conference will now be dominated by the proposals, as well as the shock resignation of IPU general secretary Brian McGann.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, inset, has emphasised repeatedly that the Government has no plans to shut post offices.

SAVINGS

It emerged this week that a cross-department committee has been set up to examine the future of the network.

However, An Post is understood to have told the IPU that it must find savings in the area of payments to postmasters.

In a statement last night, a spokesman said that the company could not comment on specific contractual negotiations with postmasters.

However, he added that An Post, like other semi-state companies, must look to make savings in different areas.

"In order to safeguard and grow business in a highly competitive marketplace, An Post continues to make cost savings across every aspect of the group's operations. The company has achieved annualised core operating cost savings of €100m to date and reduced staff numbers by 1,619 FTEs (full-time equivalents), with a further 1,000 FTE reductions scheduled by 2018," An Post said.

"Contractor (postmaster) costs must also be addressed so that An Post can compete for and win new business, and retain existing business, which in turn is handled by postmaster contractors in retail post offices and for which they are paid a fee."

Irish Independent

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