Postal chaos as strike by key An Post workers continues - and could go on 'indefinitely'
The postal system is in chaos, with no immediate signs of breakthrough, as industrial action by 36 employees who supervise key An Post equipment continues today.
The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) says that strikes at IO Systems - the contractor that maintains machines at An Post's four mail centres - could go on "indefinitely" if the dispute is not resolved.
The national postal service told customers not to send any items yesterday morning. Consumers and businesses were left stunned by the move.
CWU is against moving rosters from seven days of 12-hour shifts to five of eight-hour shifts.
Spokesperson for An Post Anna McHugh said that the service was unable to accept items for postage if the sorting machines were not supervised.
"It's catastrophic for business - for our business and everyone else's business," she added.
It is estimated that An Post processes some 2.5 million letters and parcels per day.
The Passport Express service, via post offices throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland, has been suspended due to the industrial action.
There is an online system and drop-off boxes will be in operation at the Dublin and Cork Passport Offices and at the Irish Aid Office in Limerick.
The Department of Social Protection said that contingency arrangements to deliver payment cheques to customers will be put in place if the dispute lasts into next week.
Steve Fitzpatrick, secretary general of the CWU, called An Post's decision to suspend deliveries "bizarre and reckless".
"We have had our suspicions up to now and these have been confirmed by the irrational action of the company to escalate this dispute, threatening a €850m business to save €100,000 in wages."
A spokesperson for IO Systems told the Irish Independent that the roster change had been disputed for two and a half years and called the action "completely pointless".
He added that there was a definitive Labour Court Recommendation that confirmed the company's decision and that the dispute had been in the Labour Court three times.
He also claimed that the dispute could be settled "today or tomorrow" if the CWU referred it for binding decision.
"After two and a half years of discussions, the discussion needs to be centred and focused on how to resolve this," he said.
Dermot Jewell of the Consumer Association of Ireland said the cessation of postal deliveries was "an extremely poor approach to take".
"It's a wake up-call for both An Post and the consumers of the service," he said.
Minister for Communications Alex White has urged the three parties to find a resolution in order to end the disruption.