June 8th 2015.
Postmasters are calling on the Minister for Social Protection to withdraw new Social Protection forms – which recommend payment through banks and discourage use of the Post Office.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) said that all Post Offices will be under threat of closure if Social Protection transaction business is taken away.
The IPU said members were shocked to receive the new forms in recent weeks which ‘recommend’ direct payment of social protection payments to bank accounts as the ‘best payment option’. The new forms only reference using the Post Office for those who ‘don’t have Bank Accounts’.
The IPU has written to the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, requesting that the forms be reissued in their previous format, with the Post Office as the first option listed and where no recommendation is made.
The IPU is also contacting its 1,100 members, covering all constituencies, and asking them to contact their TDs, demanding that the forms be revised and reissued in the interest of keeping local services in the community.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said Social Protection Payments is the single biggest part of Post Office business accounting for more than 30% of transactions – and removing this core business would close Offices.
“A solution needs to be found whereby both electronic transfer and collection options can be offered at the Post Office, instead of migrating Post Office business to the banks. Postmasters will not accept these forms as fair or appropriate. The new forms show a complete disregard for the commercial future of Post Offices which are a trusted and valued part of Irish life.”
This week the IPU will work intensively with its 1,100 members to raise the issue with TDs and Senators, calling on them to highlight it in the Dáil and Seanad and directly with the Minister.
Earlier this year, the IPU submitted its Six Point Plan to Protect the Post Office Network and Support Local Communities to Government providing solutions on what can be done to support Post Offices and keep them as local businesses at the heart of communities.
At the IPU’s Annual Conference last May members voted in favour of running political candidates in the next General Election. Since then numerous Postmaster candidates have been identified to run, particularly in high profile constituencies where Ministers have to date failed to deliver on election promises. Details of candidates will be announced in the coming weeks and months.
Concern about the Post Office Network follows an independent report by Grant Thornton in 2014 which found that loss of core social protection business, due to the move towards EFT being pursued by Government, would result in Post Offices across Ireland becoming commercially unviable and closing.
To date Government has not supported the development of Post Office based electronic banking which Postmasters have called for as part of the solution to increased consumer demand for EFT.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.