The talks follow the rejection yesterday of proposals by An Post on the future of post offices where 400 postmasters heard that their contracts have been threatened by the company.
At a special national meeting in Athlone, members of the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) called on Mr Naughten to support an investment programme in the network which financially recognises the social value of post offices.
There were heated exchanges at the meeting, as postmasters, staff and their families, gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in the town to discuss the crisis affecting the postal network.
IPU general secretary, Ned O’Hara, said An Post had contacted all postmasters over the past two weeks threatening their contracts over members’ non-co-operation with training on the new An Post Current Account.
IPU members had withheld taking part in the training pending an overall plan being agreed between An Post and postmasters.
Mr O’Hara said following the threat and concern raised among members, they will now engage with An Post on the account. However, the new postmasters’ contract proposal, which An Post made to the IPU in recent weeks, was rejected.
“The proposed new contract is for each post office to operate on a stand-alone commercial basis and places no value on post offices’ social function.
The post office network is under huge pressure as postmasters’ incomes are falling dramatically. The IPU’s aim is to keep as many offices as possible open, to introduce new services and to develop the network’s social function within communities.
“We need to agree and introduce a mechanism of payment to postmasters for the core social services they provide. Minister Naughten needs to address this issue. A much better plan is possible, and is required, if we are to keep post offices open,” Mr O’Hara said.
The IPU is meeting with Mr Naughten on Thursday and will demand he invest in the network.
As hundreds of mainly rural post offices face closure, Mr O’Hara said his union’s members were annoyed at the suggestion by the head of An Post, David McRedmond, that it is not the company that is closing post offices but postmasters.
“A lot of postmasters were upset by that,” he said. “The mood of the meeting was one of annoyance,” he told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ radio.
He also rejected an assertion made on the same programme by independent TD Michael Healy-Rae that IPU members were more interested in exit packages than in saving the postal network.
“The union did not vote to accept exit packages,” Mr O’Hara said. “We want to protect as many post offices as possible.”