Postmasters want social welfare guarantee

The Irish Postmasters’ Union has demanded a long-term commitment that social welfare payments will continue to be transacted through post offices, and has also called for a timeline for new services.

File photo of Irish Postmasters' Union general secretary Ned O'Hara.

A spokesman for the union said social welfare payments account for 40% of all post-office activity and, together with spin-off transactions, represent 60% of their business.

Speaking at the 2018 annual general conference of the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) in Cavan yesterday, general secretary Ned O’Hara said that postmasters wanted certainty that the payments woud continue to be transacted through the post-office network long-term.

The IPU also called on An Post to make public a detailed plan and timeline for the roll-out of promised government and financial services to post offices.

The call comes after postmasters and An Post, earlier this month, agreed a new plan for the future of the post-office network.

That plan, which was mediated after three months of negotiation by senior counsel Turlough O’Donnell, will include a €50m investment in the network.

IPU members were balloted on its contents and it received 80% approval. The IPU had warned members it was the best possible, negotiated solution for the future of the network

Under the deal, there are no compulsory closures of post offices.

The majority have been offered a new contract and smaller offices can continue on the existing contract.

Under the €50m plan, investment is to be made in the network and all offices have been promised a range of new government, financial, and parcel services, including:

  • Foreign exchange;
  • Motor tax, vehicle registration, and driving licences;
  • Identity verification;
  • A foreign-exchange card;
  • Additional bill-pay services;
  • Parcel lockers in post offices for collections.

“Now that postmasters have backed the new post-office plan, we need a clear signal from An Post, and government, that they will maximise what post offices can offer to drive footfall and provide the best possible service to communities,” said Mr O’Hara.

“We also need continued public support for post offices, through people using their local service — use it or lose it.

“It is with all of these elements combined that we can keep as many post offices as possible viable into the future.”

It is now more than two years since businessman Bobby Kerr published his report recommending immediate action to tackle serious challenges facing the network.

The report found many rural, isolated post offices were not viable and needed to adapt to remain open.

There was some good news for postmasters late last year, when the Government gave An Post a €30m loan to “protect the continuation of a five-day postal delivery service” to every address in the country.

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