April 15 2015.
Postmasters are to mount a nationwide campaign for people to vote against the Government if action is not taken on sustaining Post Offices before the next General Election.
Speaking at the launch of its Six Point Plan to sustain the Post Office Network and support local communities the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) said that An Post runs the Network on a purely commercial basis and does not recognise Post Offices’ social or community value.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said: “The IPU is calling for Government to intervene and bind An Post to operate the Network according to an agreed policy framework which is developed by the Oireachtas and recognises Post Offices as a National Asset.
The IPU said this framework would include commitments on the size and geographic spread of the Network, on developing Post Offices as front offices of Government and to community based full-service Offices.
“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 that we can implement key steps in the short term and develop a comprehensive National Post Office Plan after this.”
Concern about the future of the Post Office Network has been ongoing following an independent report by Grant Thornton which concluded that hundreds of Offices nationwide would close by 2017, mainly due to current changes in how social welfare payments are being made.
Mr O’Hara said a further step which must be taken is to cease the current move towards payment of social welfare by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) until a Post Office bank account enabling electronic payments is developed and in place.
The IPU also called on Government to instruct An Post to immediately cease the development of Post and Pay facilities in retail outlets – which is damaging to the existing network.
IPU President Ciarán McEntee said that while the IPU’s demands do involve some cost, none were expensive to deliver on. He added that Government could also save money by working more closely with Post Offices. “Savings of €63 million can be made over five years by providing Motor Tax renewal at Post Offices”.
Mr. McEntee said that the IPU’s Six Point Plan provides solutions on how to protect and develop the future of Post Offices.
“Fine Gael and Labour can take the necessary immediate steps before the election to safeguard Post Offices at the heart of the community. 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.”
Full details of the Irish Postmasters’ Union Six Point Plan is available at www.postmasters.ie. Postmasters Annual Conference comes up in early May when further details of its campaign to protect Post Offices will be announced.
- There are 1,150 Post Offices in Ireland – just under 1,100 are operated by individually contracted postmasters
- The 1,100 postmasters around the country are paid per completed transaction. All rates, rent, wages, etc. are paid by the postmaster
- All 1,100 postmasters are SME’s providing employment and encouraging economic activity and community engagement within their area
- 3,700 people are employed throughout all 26 counties
- The social welfare contract was worth €57m to An Post in 2014. Postmasters were paid about €25m of this in transaction fees which represents about 33% of Postmasters incomes
- An Post returned €65m, of uncollected benefits, to the Department of Social Protection in 2013 – some of this may have been subsequently paid out, however there would be NO return of any uncollected payments from Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) leaving the Department potentially exposed up to €65m
- Payment through to the Post Office Network deters fraud and this is acknowledged by Government.
To read the IPU Six Point Plan click here.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.