Postmasters being forced to take pay cut of up to €30,000
POSTMASTERS are being forced to accept pay cuts worth thousands of euro a year in a move that has rocked the post office network.
Wage cuts of between €4,000 and €30,000 are on the cards, depending on the level of social welfare business generated by each post office, the Irish Independent has learned.
In a confidential letter to postmasters, seen by this newspaper, An Post confirmed that the rate payable to postmasters for administering dole payments was being reduced following an arbitration process.
The news has stunned postmasters - many of whom have expressed fears for the future of their businesses.
Administering dole payments is a crucial form of income for postmasters.
Earlier this year, a Grant Thornton report commissioned on behalf of the Irish Postmasters' Union warned that the loss of the social welfare contract by An Post would result in the closure of over 500 post offices.
But in a fresh blow to the future of the network, An Post announced on October 1 that the cuts were being introduced.
The latest cut is set to put huge pressure on businesses already facing a huge challenge to remain open.
Sources within the network estimate that smaller post offices will lose out on several thousand euro per year, but that large urban post offices could see their payments reduced by up to €30,000.
The decision by An Post was revealed as the company announced the closure of Cratloe Post Office in Co Clare, despite a major local campaign aimed at keeping it open.
Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said many post offices would be unable to survive this latest cut.
"An Post is completely out of touch with what is going on on the ground.
"This latest cut is devastating, to say the least. Postmasters simply do not feel they are receiving the support they need from either the Government or the company," he told this newspaper.
Mr Healy-Rae was highly critical earlier this year of plans by the company to put in place stamp-and-parcel services in over 20 depots.
An Post has said it is targeting depots based in business parks where there is a concentration of business customers and parking facilities.
The company said the move was part of its bid to tap into the small and medium enterprise sector.
As revealed in July, post offices in 10 counties have been considered for the axe since 2012.
Offices in Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Wexford, Kildare, Monaghan and Laois have all been shut, while a number of others have been given temporary contracts to remain open.
Communications Minister Alex White said last month that the Government can't save post offices from closure, adding that the offices needed to generate their own business.