Postmasters today warned that Government needs to act urgently to maintain the Post Office Network, or face ‘unrestrained closures’ from July.
Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) General Secretary Ned O’Hara said that a Government financial intervention must be implemented within weeks, or the Network as we know it will collapse.
The IPU has written to its members to attend emergency local meetings during June to discuss all options, including a members’ ballot on a work stoppage.
There are currently 875 Postmaster and 45 An Post operated Post Offices in the country.
Mr O’Hara said: “Postmaster operated Offices face a major challenge from July 1, as a significant reduction in payment rates (an on average fall of approximately 20%) will take effect.
“This is against the backdrop of rising viability pressure in recent years, which COVID-19 has further compounded. The difficulty is also related to the delay in additional Government services promised in 2018, but only now being seriously examined," he said.
“This uncertainly also puts in jeopardy plans to maintain Bank of Ireland branch services through Post Offices.”
A report commissioned by the IPU from business advisors Grant Thornton, and published last September, warned of ‘unrestrained Post Office closures’ from July 2021.
Grant Thornton’s analysis recommended an annual Public Service Obligation (PSO) of €17million, which it said would represent strong overall value for money for the State.
Mr O’Hara continued “The IPU has since last September been recommending to Government that an annual Government retainer payment be put in place. With just four full weeks until this ‘tipping point’, Postmasters remain in the dark about their future.
“If there isn’t enough time to have a comprehensive solution in place by July, then the IPU is calling for Government and An Post to put in place an interim action that will be effective and is deliverable from July.
“The IPU is receiving calls daily from Postmasters in all areas who are considering their immediate future. We are organising emergency meetings, to take place by mid-June, and all possible actions will be discussed including to ballot on a work stoppage.”
In 2018 a national plan for the Post Office Network was launched giving a commitment to services within 3km in urban areas and 15km or community of 500 people in all rural areas. However, the IPU said this can only be delivered with Government support.
IPU President Seán Martin said Postmasters want to provide a solution to Government for the delivery of all important citizen services in an offline option – and to underpin social inclusion and protect local economies. He also said that current HSE cyberattack highlighted the importance of maintaining offline options for core citizen services.
“Postmasters are ready, willing and able to provide many additional services including motor tax, licences, renewals, registrations, identity verification, community information, IT / Office hub – or advising and helping people and to evolve for the future,” Mr Martin said.
Independent research carried out by RED C last year found that 86% supported the Government providing financial support to keep their Post Office open and 86% wanted more State services available at their Post Office.
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