By Catherine Shanahan and Seán Ó Riordan
The Cork Mail Centre in Little Island is to close with the loss of 216 jobs, affecting 240 people. An Post officials travelled to Little Island last night to inform employees that the closure of the sorting centre will occur on a phased basis between September 2019 and March 2020.
An Post said the closure will result in annual savings of €11 million.
In a statement, An Post said staff will be offered:
Speculation around the future of the centre, one of four nationwide, has been rife for some time.
The possibility of job losses was raised in the Dáil last November. Labour Party TD Seán Sherlock told the Dáil that he had been informed that the Little Island centre had been earmarked for closure.
He warned that this would “have a devastating effect on postal services in the southern region”.
He said such a move would be “unconscionable”. Last night, An Post said it was engaged with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) “to ensure the best possible outcome for all the CMC staff”.
It said the closure of a mail centre was considered by the Labour Court in its recommendation of September 2017. However, the remaining three centres — Portlaoise, Athlone and Dublin — are unaffected.
Statement by Little Island Business Association on the closure of the An Post Cork Mail Centre in Little Island pic.twitter.com/gVvPctUOg5— LIBA Cork (@LIBA_Cork) June 27, 2019
An Post said the Cork plant was “operating at below 25% capacity as mail volumes decline at around 7% per annum due to customers moving from the old world of letters to the new world of parcels and e-commerce”.
The company said the €11m annual savings that will result from the plant closure “will enable An Post to invest more rapidly in its parcels infrastructure nationally, locally, and in the automation of parcel sorting”.
It said parcel volumes have grown by 60% since An Post actively re-entered the parcels market in 2017. The statement said the company intends to invest €15m in parcels infrastructure across Cork City and the wider region over the next three years.
Cork’s GPO on Oliver Plunkett St is due to undergo a major refurbishment and over 1000 parcel lockers will be installed across and city an county to make collection more convenient for customers. Of the 240 people working at the centre, two-thirds are employed on part-time basis.
Employees were told the news at around 11pm last night when most of the staff were in attendance as mail is sorted overnight.
Garrett Bridgeman, managing director of An Post Mails and Parcels, said it was “a very tough day for the staff at Cork Mail Centre who have delivered a consistently high level of performance over the years”.
“The closure is simply due to the global trend of mail volume decline which has led to significant over-capacity in the mails system.
“Our priority is to look after our employees who have given great service to An Post by providing alternative employment options, good redundancy terms, further education grants and active access to other employers,” he said.
An Post CEO David McRedmond, said An Post was responsible for its own finances and had worked hard to return to profit and growth.
“The company’s task now is to develop long-term sustainability. Closing the Cork letters’ facility is a tough but necessary step as we invest in the new world of parcels for our customers.
“I want to be sure of two things: first, sustainability is about decent work and we will look after our employees as well as possible; and second, I want Cork to be the first city in Ireland to benefit from the new parcels infrastructure for customers.”
Reacting to last night’s announcement by An Post, the Communications Workers’ Union said it was “extremely disappointed” with the company’s decision
The Union said that the decision will be “devastating news to those affected” and that it will have detailed negotiations with An Post to ensure that those workers losing their jobs are supported in rebuilding their lives and careers.
Sean McDonagh, CWU National Executive Officer and Deputy General Secretary said: “Our concern now as a result of this decision must be with the staff of the Cork Mail Centre and their families, and the CWU will seek to ensure that redundancies are voluntary to the greatest extent possible.
Mr McDonagh said that despite the turnaround in the wider An Post business, in particular extensive growth in parcels and packets volume, it is clear that letter mail volumes continue to decline which has had implications for mail handling services around the country.
Mr McDonagh said that since becoming aware of An Post’s intention to close the Cork Mail Centre, the CWU had agreed provisional arrangements to deal with the difficult situation facing their members at the Cork centre.
He said the Company has assured the CWU that it will deal with the closure and its impacts on workers affected in a sensitive manner, and will work closely with the Union in addressing all issues which may arise. In this regard, CWU has agreed the following immediate steps:
A full ‘outplacement programme’ similar to that which took place in the recent GPO HQ FTE reduction process will be implemented. This will involve financial, career and other advice for all staff directly impacted by the closure of the CMC.
As part of the ‘outplacement programme’ the Company will hold a ‘jobs forum’ in the Cork Mail Centre with local employers who are currently undertaking recruitment campaigns being invited to attend and meet with An Post employees impacted by the closure and who may be interested in exploring new career opportunities outside of An Post.