Irish Examiner: Future of An Post ‘gravely uncertain’ without Government investment, union warns

Reprinted from The Irish Examiner, article by Rebecca Laffan

WEDNESDAY 4TH MAY 2022: The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) has warned that the future of An Post is “gravely uncertain” without Government investment to protect and maintain its vital postal services.

The 11th biennial CWU conference is to begin in Athlone today.

CWU General Secretary Seán McDonagh said: “The financial impacts of Covid have placed a huge burden on An Post, which has compounded the effects of the sharp decline in letters and packets volumes that was already underway.

“The growth in on-line financial services and the ‘exit from cash’ is putting further pressures on footfall across the Post Office network,” Mr McDonagh continued, adding how An Post’s services during the pandemic have been “widely praised as critical to keeping communities connected and supporting business”.

Mr McDonagh said at least €100m is needed to cover the Covid-related losses of the pandemic, and that the Government needs “to step forward to protect and maintain the valued and necessary public services provided by An Post”.

Over 300 CWU delegates are attending the conference addressing motions across multiple companies represented by the CWU including An Post, Eir, Vodafone, UPS and others.

One motion being raised is inflation and the rising cost of living, with the CWU calling on the Government to engage with the trade union movement to offset the worst of its effects on workers.

Mr McDonagh said: “We have negotiated significant pay increases for workers in our sectors and we will ensure that these agreements are fully implemented by the employers.” 

He added that “hard-won pay rises need to be insulated from the worst effects of inflation”.

The conference is also to hear about issues regarding eir, the National Broadband Plan, and the CWU’s campaign to rebuild its apprentice programme.

Mr McDonagh said the eir fibre network is the backbone of Ireland’s communications infrastructure and “has been the subject of repeated corporate raiding over the last quarter-century”.

Commenting on plans by eir to sell its fibre access network which could net its French owners, Iliad, €1bn, he urged that ComReg and the Government must ensure that the network’s development “is not derailed once again by short term, private financial gain”.

Mr McDonagh also highlighted the progress made in overhauling the pay and conditions of customer care workers at eir.

He said the network had received “a lot of justifiable criticism” for its customer care services, and that the CWU welcomed the recent appointment of Mr Ollie Loomes as CEO and his stated mission to repair the eir brand.

Also up for discussion is the CWU’s campaign to rebuild the apprenticeship programme within eir.

Mr McDonagh said: “Eir is facing a retirement cliff among its networks and technical employees.

“The only sustainable way to counter this is to ensure a flow of new recruits who see an interesting and rewarding career path and who will receive high quality training from the outset.”