Irish Independent: An Post’s future is ‘gravely uncertain’ without major government investment

Reprinted from The Irish Independent, article by Anne-Marie Walshe

WEDNESDAY 4TH MAY 2022: An Post’s future is “gravely uncertain” without major government investment, a conference will hear today.

Communications Workers Union general secretary, Seán McDonagh, will urge the state to “step forward” to protect and maintain post office network services and letter and parcel deliveries.

Speaking at the union’s biennial delegate conference in Athlone, he will say €100m is needed to cover Covid-related losses of the last two years.

He will say the financial sustainability of the company will be difficult without commitment from its government shareholder.

His speech refers to the growth of global technology companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google, and warns they should be carefully regulated.

He backs staff trying to organise in unions.

“Government needs to step forward to protect and maintain the valued and necessary public services provided by An Post,” says his speech this morning.

“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.”

However, it says the services provided by An Post during the pandemic have been widely praised as critical to keeping communities connected and supporting business.

The speech says the union has agreed pay deals with An Post for 5.06pc over two years and 6pc over three years at Eir.

However, it says workers are reeling from the impact of inflation and unprecedented energy price increases caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It says the union has called on the Government to engage with unions to offset the worst effects of cost of living increases.

“We have negotiated significant pay increases for workers in our sectors and we will ensure that these agreements are fully implemented by the employers,” it says.

“Hard won pay rises need to be insulated from the worst effects of inflation and the CWU fully support the efforts of the Ictu in its engagements with government and employers to lessen these effects.”

Mr McDonagh will claim that the Eir network must be defended against a repeat of the “corporate raiding” of the last 25 years.

He will refer to plans by Eir to sell its fibre access network which could net its French owners, Iliad, €1bn, describing the network as the backbone of Ireland’s communications infrastructure.

His speech says the union supports the €3bn national broadband plan but says it will put significant pressure on the resources and skills available within the telecoms and related sectors.

It says the pay and conditions of workers that will build the networks are at stake as companies vie for National Broadband Ireland contracts.

Mr McDonagh will say Eir has received “a lot of justifiable criticism” for its customer care services but welcomes new CEO Ollie Loomes and his mission to repair the brand.

He will say the company is facing a retirement cliff among its networks and technical employees and the union is prioritising an apprenticeship programme to bring in new staff.

The union leader claims global technology companies including Amazon, Facebook and Google have the capacity to “hollow out” local economic activity, within the SME sector in particular.

“We see our worker comrades in Facebook, Amazon and Google attempting to organise,” says the speech.

“The reaction of these billionaire-owned tech multinationals is to spend millions fighting unions gaining a foothold in their companies because they recognise that trade unions improve working conditions and pay, and reduce inequality.”