Cork Post Offices still in jeopardy

The Irish Postmaster’s Union (IPU), representative for Cork, Paddy
O’Shea warmly welcomed the decision by the Department of Social
Protection and Minister Joan Burton TD to award An Post another
contract toprovide over the counter cash transactions.

Mr. O’Shea, a member of the National Executive of the IPU, said it was
heartening to Postmasters, their staffs and the 1.7 million customers
who use Post Offices every week, that the contract had been renewed
for a further two years with a possible extension beyond that.

“While we welcome the announcement as highly important for the Post
Office network in the immediate future, serious danger lurks: the
network could be devastated by current Government policy.

“Let nobody be under any illusions-the Post Office network has not
been made safe by this contract. Another tender is to be issued soon
that could spell the death-knell to some 400 Post Office throughout
the country, many of them in Cork city and county.

“Post Offices’ income is based on each transaction it processes on
behalf of clients and customers and if the Government presses ahead
with its drive for all social welfare payments to be delivered
electronically that income will be devastated. The social welfare
contract accounts for some 35% of Post Office business and if this is
lost it will be catastrophic for the network and communities both
urban and rural.

“All our offices are fully automated and we embrace technology
enthusiastically. But we also support consumer choice. And there are
serious consequences if this policy is implemented,” he said.

“The Minister has confirmed her plans for a new electronic payments
method to be implemented by the end of 2014 so there can be no place
for complacency because of today’s’ positive news. Within a few short
years communities, who depend on their Post Office for saving money,
paying bills, buying Postal Orders and stamps, obtaining dollars or
sterling (commission free), using Passport Express and paying Garda
Fine, plus many other services, will have to travel long distances to
obtain services.

“The Government repeatedly states, as Minister Burton did in recent
correspondence, that it is committed to maintaining the post office
network and refers to the fact that it is in the Programme for
Government. The question that she and her Government colleagues need
to answer is this: if she presses ahead with her plans to force people
into electronic payments through bank accounts, how does she and her
colleagues in government propose to ensure that this strategically
important network is sustained for the future?

“There is a total contradiction between the Minister’s alleged
“commitment” to the network and what is being advanced very speedily
by the Minister and her Department. The general public must be made
aware of the serious threat to the Post Office network before it is
too late,” said Mr. O’Shea.

“As part of winning this contract An Post had to commit to assisting
the Department in migrating people to electronic payments which
demonstrates Government determination to pursue this e-commerce
policy.

“What must be done to help ensure the viability of the Post Office
network is for more Government business, including welfare payments in
the long-term, to be diverted into the Post Office network. We
commissioned international firm Grant Thornton to evaluate our
business proposals and they found that if Motor Tax renewals alone
were made available through the Post Office it would save taxpayers
some €60.6m.

“Other services we can offer the Government include over the counter
payments for water charges, local authority rents,driver licence
renewal, electronic signing on, the updating of the register of
electors and credit union transactions. Post Offices can also play a
hugely important role in achieving financial inclusion and helping
people to budget in these difficult economic times.

“The Post Office network is “Open for Business.” Let the Government
use it and at the same time ensure the continued sustainability of the
network. It is, after all, Government policy!!”

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