Amid concerns that up to 557 post offices could close by 2017 as more social welfare payments are made electronically, the Irish Postmasters’ Union claimed their social and community value is being ignored.
General secretary Ned O’Hara said post offices need to be recognised as a national asset.
“Every customer, community and individual TD we talk with wants to sustain the network, but until the Government takes an active role to protect them, post offices will continue to disappear,” he said.
“This intervention needs to happen before the general election. I am confident we can implement key steps in the short term and develop a comprehensive national post office plan after this,” he said.
The IPU claimed that the network of 1,150 post offices is seen by An Post on a purely commercial basis.
It said that this needs to change in favour of a framework sanctioned by the Oireachtas with commitments on the size and geographic spread of the network and on developing post offices as government front offices.
Mr O’Hara called for the development of electronic social welfare payments to be slowed until a special post office bank account is created to enable postmasters to process the funds.
He also threatened to escalate the campaign with a rallying cry for the public to vote against the Fine Gael and Labour coalition in the next election if the policies are not adopted.
Union president Ciaran McEntee said €63m could be saved on motor tax renewals alone in five years if post offices are the point of contact for more government services.
“If the Government does not take action there will be a lot of angry voters in our communities across the country and postmasters will be making their frustration very clear,” he said.
The union said that post offices employ 3,700 people and that its services deter social welfare fraud.