THE Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) is to meet Minister Pat Rabbitte on Monday, amid concerns that a new partnership arrangement and possible change to the social welfare payment system will lead to the death of rural post offices.
Speaking to The Clare Champion this week, Tom O’Callaghan, national executive member with the IPU for County Clare, said the new partnership between An Post and Tesco will signal the death of not only the post office network, but of rural communities.
“I’m trying to get across to people the seriousness of where we are. If this is gone, it doesn’t come back. An Post and Tesco are looking at rolling out 10 sites that take the transactions like any other post office. A post office doesn’t get paid by salary, it is per transaction; the less transactions you do, the less you get paid. This is a direct threat on those post offices, which would wipeout rural Ireland. This has not been accepted by the Irish Postmasters Union,” he said.
He also claimed that these post and pay facilities would not be bound by the Official Secrets Legislation, so confidentiality could not be guaranteed.
Mr O’Callaghan said the meeting on Monday should dictate what the union’s next action will be. “Our mandate is to stop everything right now and to review everything we have brought forward in the Grant Thornton report, which highlights the financial sustainability of the network. We have made proposals and unless they are accepted, these offices cannot and will not survive. We are also asking them to stop this post and pay network, which will attack the transactions that keep these offices sustainable,” he said.
He said the new arrangement with An Post and Tesco is being viewed by the union as “a direct threat to rural society”. “You are centralising all the economic activity to one area, the end result will be detrimental to local shops and butchers and to the urban towns like Ennis.”
Mr O’Callaghan said he cannot understand the logic behind the move and feels if proposed plans go ahead, villages like Lahinch, Clarecastle and Newmarket-on-Fergus will not be viable.
“What will keep the heart of the community alive if you take the post office out? What we have requested in the Grant Thornton report is to be a front office working with all Government departments, for example motor taxation, where we would save €60million over a period of five years,” he said.
There are 36 post offices in Clare and, nationally, 3,000 people are employed directly or indirectly by An Post.