The company warned the public yesterday morning not to post any letters or parcels until further notice and said last night it could not guarantee the warning would be lifted by Monday.
Union chiefs lambasted the move, claiming An Post was escalating the dispute. “Only half the mail is sorted by machine so there was no need to tell people not to post,” said Sean McDonagh of the Communications Workers Union (CWU).
However, a spokeswoman for An Post said 85% of the 2.5m items handled daily were sorted by automated system: “We had no choice. We cannot take in mail that we cannot ensure we can process and deliver.”
The dispute centres on 30 workers at IO Systems, contracted by An Post to maintain the automated mail sorting systems at the Cork, Dublin, Athlone, and Portlaoise mail centres.
They served strike notice a fortnight ago after IO Systems introduced roster changes leading to pay cuts of around 22% and putting some workers on permanent night shifts.
Employers group IBEC urged the CWU to call off the strike, warning it would jeopardise jobs. “It is outrageous that the country’s postal service is held to ransom in this way,” said head of industrial relations Maeve McElwee.
An Post urged both sides to take their differences to the Labour Relations Commission. The CWU said there was no possibility of engaging with IO Systems until staff were restored to their previous rosters and pay.