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Thursday 14 December 2017

Postal chaos continues as sorting centre strike rumbles on

It is now understood that An Post will consider issuing protective notices to some of its 9,500 staff members in the coming days if the strike action continues
It is now understood that An Post will consider issuing protective notices to some of its 9,500 staff members in the coming days if the strike action continues
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

The chaotic disruption to the Irish postal system has escalated as An Post has advised customers not to post items today as strike action in their sorting centres continues.

This is the second posting day the company has been forced to warn customers they can not adequately fulfil their services, due to an ongoing dispute between the Communications Workers' Union (CWU) and contractor IO Systems.

It is now understood that An Post will consider issuing protective notices to some of its 9,500 staff members in the coming days if the strike action continues.

The staff involved in the dispute are employed by IO Systems to maintain sorting machines at An Post's four mail centres.

It is understood that 36 staff members are involved in the dispute and they have been on strike since midnight last Friday over a row which centres around a new roster arrangement.

The union claims this new arrangement will result in a loss of earnings for their members, who supervise and maintain the sorting machines.

A spokesperson for An Post last night said they are "hugely concerned".

"We are regretfully advising customers not to post as the action is still underway.

"This is a dispute between IO Systems and the CWU," the spokeswoman said.

"We call on them to cease this action and to use the channels available to them to resolve the dispute without any more impact on customers and on An Post business." An Post said it will deliver what mail it has been able to process today but it said this will be reviewed in the coming days.

The CWU has called on the semi-state company to "withdraw its threat to shut down the national postal service", but An Post maintains it has no other option.

The union says it is against moving its workers' roster from seven days of 12-hour shifts to five days of eight-hour shifts.

The CWU said that "parcel and packet mail are not processed through these systems and are therefore unaffected".

It also said its members will extend manual sorting "as needed", in a statement issued last night.

"The decision of An Post management to shut down the postal system is a strange and reckless escalation of the dispute at IO Systems that will wreak havoc and long-term damage to the national postal service," Steve Fitzpatrick, the CWU general secretary, said.

It has also warned that if protective notices are issued, it will ballot members in An Post on industrial action.

Fergal Lynam, managing director of IO Systems, told the Irish Independent he is urging the union to "go for a binding resolution to the Labour Court".

The roster change has previously been discussed in the Labour Court, and Mr Lynam claims the union has not accepted that recommendation.

"My technicians are the utmost professional people that you can work with.

"They represent my company to a very high standard and I would have to question how many of them would actually like to be in the situation," he added.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Alex White said he is "looking for the three parties involved to focus on finding a resolution to quickly end the disruption".

It is understood the Department of Social Protection is making alternative arrangements for postal cheque payments.

If the dispute continues, these cheques will be available to collect from social welfare offices.

Alternative arrangements for customers

Services that rely on An Post have been forced to make alternative arrangements.

• The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is continuing to urge customers to postpone submitting applications for passports while the service remains suspended.

They said the Passport Express Service is still suspended, but added that the online appointment system for the Dublin and Cork passport offices will operate as normal.

They will also facilitate applications made in drop-off boxes and passports can be collected from their offices.

• It is understood that cheque payments issued by the Department of Social Protection through the post will be available to collect in social welfare offices if the industrial action continues.

• An Post said post offices will be open and that all other services offered there will continue to remain available over the coming days.

Irish Independent

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