Fianna Fail party leader, Micheál Martin, has accused An Post of making a strategic mistake following their decision to close the Little Island Mail Centre in Co Cork with the loss of 216 jobs.
An Post announced plans last year to shut down one of its mail centres with Athlone, Dublin and Portlaoise ultimately being spared closure ahead of Cork.
Staff in Little Island, many of whom have young families, were told of the closure when they turned up for the night shift yesterday.
Deputy Martin, who is also a Cork South Central TD, said it is a "retrograde and strategic mistake" to shut down a state of the art centre.
"This centre is the most modern in the country as it only opened in 2003. This closure is announced against the background of Cork being expected to double its population over the next few decades and it is a key strategic growth centre in the National Planning Framework."
“The staff involved are devastated. They are in reality facing redundancy. This is very unfair on them and their families.
Deputy Martin was joined in his calls for a reconsideration of the closure by Solidarity and Socialist Party TD for Cork, Mick Barry, who has described the move by An Post as "shortsighted."
Mr Barry insists the building should be diversified for usage as a parcel centre because of the huge increase in parcel deliveries.
"It is a fabulous building in Little Island. What would be seen as a prime piece of real estate.
"There is an opportunity here to diversify and to grow this business and to seize the opportunities that are coming our way.
"I would ask the company to put this plan on the shelf for the time being to allow for thoughtful negotiations to talk place between the company on the one hand and workers trade union representatives on the other.
"Just to see if there is a way that diversification can take place without redundancies."
Meanwhile, CEO of the Little Island Business Association, Michael Mulcahy, says workers are devastated at the loss of jobs at the site.
"It is shocking news for all of the employees that have been here for many years. This facility in Little Island could be very easily changed and converted in to a parcel depot as it handles many parcels here at the moment.
The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) said it was “extremely disappointed” with the company’s decision.
They insist that they will engage in 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 their concern now as a result of this decision must be with the staff of the centre and their families.
In an interview on Cork's 96FM Mr McDonagh said it was terrible news for the workers and their families.
"It is devastating for the people concerned and their families and that is a serious situation which the union now has to deal with.
"We don't have all of the answers at the minute. We will certainly get those answers. We were told the day before the decision by the company.
"From a Labour Court recommendation issued in 2017, it was clear one of the mail centres (in Ireland) was going to close. As I understand the company engaged consultants and did a lot of work. As a union, we tried to keep the four centres open.
"The problem is that there is an infrastructure in place for sorting twice as many letters than there are on offer."
An Post says it is consolidating and reducing its letter processing capacity in line with global industry trends, and switching investment into its e-commerce/parcels network in Cork city and county.
Currently, the Cork plant is operating at below 25% capacity as mail volumes decline at about 7% per annum due to customers moving from the old world of letters to the new world of parcels and e-commerce.
The closure will be phased between September of this year and March 2020 and staff will be offered exit packages of six weeks per year of service up a maximum of 2 years’ pay, redeployment opportunities within An Post's networks in the Cork area and further education / re-skilling grants of up to €3,000 per person.
An Post stress that they are engaged with the CWU to ensure the best possible outcome for all the CMC staff.
An Post says that the €11m annual savings from the plant closure will enable them to invest more rapidly in its parcels infrastructure nationally, locally, and in the automation of parcel sorting.
Parcel volumes have grown by 60% since An Post actively re-entered the parcels market in 2017.
An Post plans to invest over €15m in parcels infrastructure across Cork City and the wider region over the next three years:
Garrett Bridgeman, Managing Director of An Post Mails and Parcels, says it was a tough day for staff in Cork who 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
"The switch of investment into parcels infrastructure will greatly increase the range of services to customers across the region and will ensure that Cork has the best e-commerce delivery service while ensuring the mails service to customers will be maintained at the current high-quality levels.”
Around 240 people are employed at Cork Mails Centre, two-thirds of whom are employed on a part-time basis (approximately 20 hours a week), covering 216 jobs.
A number of these part-time workers have job-share arrangements or are employed to cover holiday or sick absence by full-time staff. 78 local delivery staff whose depot is based within the Little Island building will move to an alternative city location early next year.
Cork Mail Centre is a 9716 sq. metre building, located on a 3.7-hectare site in Little Island’s Euro Business Park, a mixed commercial development adjoining the Cork/Waterford N25 Road, eight kilometres east of Cork City.