Postmasters reject An Post proposals on contracts as 400 offices face closure
Around 300 postmasters gathered at a union meeting to turn down an agreement for new contracts with An Post amid fears up to 400 post offices could close across the country.
There were heated scenes at the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone at the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) general meeting, as postmasters, staff and their families, gathered to discuss the crisis affecting the postal network.
Last week, the Irish Independent reported that the IPU had told its members in a letter that the company had prepared a "blueprint" that would mean the closure of 400 post offices.
Yesterday, postmasters voted to reject the new Postmasters' Contract from An Post.
IPU general secretary Ned O'Hara said: "The post office network is under huge pressure as postmasters' incomes are falling dramatically. The IPU's aim is to keep as many offices as possible open, to introduce new services and to develop the network's social function within communities."
Speaking at the meeting yesterday, postmaster of Usher's Quay Post Office in Dublin Tony Wall said the postal network was slowly being eroded. He told the Irish Independent: "We discussed An Post's new contract. Initially the closure of up to 400 post offices is a long-term objective but we've resolved to reject the proposals because if we said yes to the terms, it's the start of the erosion of the postal service nationally."
It is understood most of the closures will affect rural parts of the country, but many feel that this will be extended.
Several postmasters said they had already previously had to lay off workers due to earlier cuts. Now they fear they will have to get rid of more employees just to stay afloat.
Seona O'Fagan is the postmaster of two post offices, one in Barna, Connemara, and the other in Galway city.
"An Post knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing," she said.
"I have huge support from my customer base for the services we provide. We are there for our communities and we believe they will be there for us over this.
"Post offices are a vital service for the older people and for the offline community.
"The Government talks about broadband but many communities don't have access and need the post office."
There are 1,100 post offices across the State.
An Post chief executive David McRedmond last week conceded that up to 400 post offices could close in the near future.
Sean Maher, postmaster of Berkley Post Office in Phibsborough, Dublin, has been working in the premises since 1982.
"I feel we have solidarity as postmasters today and that our communities will support us," he said. "In city post offices we have already had to put up with rises in rent."