THE union representing postal workers who will operate the new postcode system from the end of 2011 has claimed it will not improve mail delivery to the customer and is a waste of money.
On Monday, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan announced that his department had issued an invitation to tender for consultants to advise on the implementation of the national postcodes system. He said the selected team would begin their work in late March and the system would be in use throughout the country by the end of next year.
However, the Communications Workers Union said the timing of the introduction was poor, especially as the postal service was going through a major process of liberalisation to open up the market to competition.
“We have not objected to postcodes,” said Ian McArdle, head of organising and regulatory affairs at the union.
“However, we have questions in relation to the implementation process which the minister has engaged in. The cost issue is one with which we have major concerns at a time when the country is pretty much broke. The minister has said it will cost between €15m-€20m. That completely contradicts a report done some years earlier for the previous incumbent in the department, Noel Dempsey.
“It was under his brief that the ‘postcodes board’ met and costed it at €50m though they may have factored in a number of costs that Minister Ryan’s PA Consulting report did not include.”
Mr McArdle said the set-up cost to the taxpayer would be accompanied not just by an annual maintenance cost but also by a significant financial burden on An Post which would have to reconfigure its hardware and software.
“An Post are going to be hit for the cost regardless. If a postcode system is introduced that does not match up to their existing one, they will have to re-engineer what they have at a significant cost,” he said.
“An Post have their own effective postcode system which they own. The minister claims this new system is going to improve the postal service. It is not. An Post’s quality of service has gone up and up quarter on quarter over the last two years. It is so efficient that what net benefit could be accrued through the new postcode system?
“It is not going to get post to people’s houses any more efficiently as is being claimed. It is not going to increase mail volumes.”
Mr McArdle said the timing was poor.
“This is ultimately tied into the liberalisation agenda in the postal service and liberalisation itself is going to be a huge change to the postal market. We have concerns he is introducing not one but two very heavy change agendas at one time.
“They could do more harm than good. The liberalisation agenda opens the market to competition. Obviously that competition will be delighted to have the postcode system in place at the taxpayers’ expense because it will avoid a cost for them.”
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