CWU: Postcode plan will be late, won’t save money and will damage post office

THE Government’s €15 million roll-out of postcodes by 2011 will not be delivered on time, will not offer any savings to businesses and will damage the postal service, postal worker representatives claim.

Communications Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Steve Fitzpatrick said this week’s announcement by Communications Minister Eamon Ryan that postcodes will be introduced in 2011 came without consultation with interest groups, including the post office.

“The minister has come out at the height of an economic crisis when we have no money for anything and is going to spend €15m for postcodes which is 1.5 times the amount it will cost for the national cervical smear test for girls,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. “He has done this with a number of justifications which are not backed up by fact.”

According to the CWU, the timeframe to introduce codes is far too aspirational.

“The department will need to draw up a tender document. That takes some months to complete with the specific details that need to be included. Then under EU regulations, the tender has to be put out for three months to allow people time to put their bids together.

“Then depending on the number of bids you get, you have another number of months to go through each bid to see which one is the most viable.

“You then find a successful bidder who has to design a code for 1.8 million addresses. The best case scenario is into 2012 never mind January 2011.”

Mr Fitzpatrick claimed the savings mooted by the minister were unproven.

“He said this will save somewhere in the region of €22m a year. At the same time, he says the benefits of postcodes cannot be calculated. In terms of the cost, every single company in this country would have to update or change or get new address databases to include the postcode. It could cost the banks and utilities millions. It will have to be maintained on a daily basis to reflect the demolition and creation of new properties and we estimate it will cost €3m to carry out that maintenance based on consultancy figures.”

Mr Fitzpatrick also raised concerns that post office quality of service will not be improved, claiming instead postcodes will damage it.

“If you go to any of the major sorting offices around the country, the machinery which the post office has developed is cutting edge, better than anywhere else in the world. Because we did not have postcodes, it developed machinery which actually reads the address and puts a dye on the letter which sorts it into the proper stream.

“If you write a postcode under Cork city the machine in the post office will not be able to read that and will not put any indicator on the letter meaning it will have to be sorted manually.

“These multi-million euro machines will simply not be able to handle it and the post office will either have to develop a whole new type of software to make it read the codes or teach it to ignore the postcode.”

Mr Ryan said a postal code system throughout the country will bring faster and more accurate postal delivery and will benefit householders and business and save money for the State as a major postal customer.

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