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Cork Mail Centre: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins] The union was prepared for this. It knew it was going to happen and how it could potentially impact on workers. Union officials visited the mail centre over the last week to talk to union members. On the point regarding a new centre that will employ workers who are not union members, the CWU will be representing its members to ensure that does not happen.

It struck me that two thirds of the 240 jobs are part-time. This shows the way work has changed over the last number of years. Permanent full-time workers are now outnumbered by part-time workers. It is important that part-time workers join a union to ensure they are represented when things change. We do have to adapt to change.

The increase in parcel services should maintain these jobs rather than result in workers losing their jobs. The union will represent the postal workers to the best of its ability. It is a bad day for people in Cork. It could have been a day for people in Portlaoise, Athlone or Dublin if the mail centres in those areas had closed as well. We have to ensure that no worker at the Cork mail centre is forced to take redundancy or give up his or her job. As I said, the union has put in place a structure to ensure that does not happen. It is confident that no worker, other than those who wish to do so on their own terms, will have to leave a job.

It is worthwhile having this debate and calling for the Cork mail centre to remain in the ownership of An Post to be used to develop the parcel service such that the current workforce can be maintained and additional workers can be recruited into the future to deliver that service. I again welcome the motion.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I am glad to support my colleagues on the other side of the border. While it should not make any difference, I should put on the record that I am a postmaster of a rural post office. Having looked at the figures in terms of the savings that will be made, I believe this was a political decision to take out Cork. The Government took the view that the local economy in Cork would better absorb the hit than the other two areas in which there are mailing centres. I do not agree with it. I think it is ill-thought out. A lot of the methodology in which An Post has engaged in the last ten years, in my humble opinion, leaves a lot to be desired. I know that many of the An Post workers listening to this debate would want the issue of collection and delivery, C&D, allowances raised. These are allowances that are not being paid to people who entered the An Post service after 2007. For the benefit of those who do not understand what this means, in blunt terms it means they are not getting €50 or €60 per week to which they are entitled. As things stand, one employee is in receipt of €50 or €60 per week more than another employee who is doing the same work. The latter are being denied €50 or €60 per week, which is a lot in anybody's language. It is a lot of money for those paying mortgages and struggling.

To the workers directly affected by this closure, all I can do is support the Deputies who represent them, for example, Deputy Micheál Martin, and others. My job is to support the motion and to thank those who brought it forward. It provides us with the opportunity to show An Post that we are not going to sit idly by and keep our mouths shut while mail centres are closed. It is our job to support this motion. In regard to redeployment, I find it hard to see how those affected will get jobs of equal financial recompense in a short timeframe.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins I welcome the motion. The decision by An Post to close the Cork mail centre by March 2020 will result in the loss of 240 jobs, which will have a devastating effect on the workers and their families. These staff have been hardworking and loyal and this is how they are being repaid. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is on record in regard to the need for An Post to be commercially viable. This Government has no problem throwing money down the Swanee on grossly overrun projects such as the national children's hospital and the national broadband plan. It has a neck to cut jobs now because it wants An Post to be commercially viable. What about all the taxpayers' money that has been wasted on project overruns? The Government has nothing to say on that issue.

What is crazy about all this is that An Post has turned the corner and entered profitability yet the staff who worked tirelessly to make it profitable are being discarded with nothing but a thank you for all their hard work and effort. The Government cannot stand idly by, as it did when An Post closed the post offices in Allihies, Ballineen, Drinagh and Minane Bridge. Most of the post office closures were in Cork. Cork is the pick of the deal when it comes to An Post. If there is any cut to be made, it will be made in Cork and west Cork.

It makes no sense that in the future a letter posted in Goleen and destined for Schull, a distance of 15 km, will have to travel 280 km to Portlaoise and 270 km back to Schull. I am no ecologist but a journey of 550 km is one hell of a carbon footprint. How can the Government justify this in the context of climate change and the need to reduce our carbon emissions? The closure of the Cork mail centre is one more attack on rural Ireland. It is a case of one step forward, two steps back yet this Government insists it is making progress.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am happy to speak on this important motion. I note the decision of An Post to close the Cork mail centre by March 2020, with the loss of 240 jobs and the devastating affect this decision will have on the workers concerned and their families. There is an increasing sense among communities that An Post is deliberately moving away from a model based on supporting communities towards a solely profit driven model. This is happening under the watch of the Minister, Deputy Bruton. We accept that An Post has to make profit if it is to succeed but what is happening is to be deeply regretted. We know that An Post returned to growth and profit in 2017 following a restructuring of the business and an increase in the price of a stamp to €1, which I voted against at the time. Along with the previous two speakers, I am a small business owner. If we increased our prices by 30% we would be out of business the day after doing so. An Post did it and it made €140 million and a profit of €8.4 million. An Post has no sense that this money and these profits are being generated through the good will and custom of communities and its employees. Where is the sense of public obligation? It is non-existent.

I agree with the motion that this is a very short-sighted action by An Post in Cork. The motion makes clear that the Government's Project Ireland 2040 and national development plan targets are to make Cork the fastest growing city in Ireland for the next two decades with a 2040 population of 320,000. It even took in part of west Cork to County Cork to make it bigger. When it comes to this Government, one hand does not know what the other is doing. It is shambolic.

Yesterday, on the Order of Business I asked the Minister, Deputy Bruton, about the relocation of the post office in Liberty Square in Thurles to a private shopping centre anchored by Dunnes Stores. I spoke an hour ago with the planners. Huge issues have arisen in regard to this shopping centre. Work has stopped. When I raised this issue yesterday, the Minister told me that work has recommenced. It has recommenced in spite of the fact that Tipperary County Council has issued warning letters for non-compliance to the anchor tenant, Dunnes Stores. This Government thinks it can ride roughshod over everybody. An ordinary man building a kitchen or an extension in respect of which he did not get planning would be stopped in his tracks. The council has not issued an enforcement order; it has issued a warning letter for non-compliance across a huge area in that development to which it is proposed to relocate the post office. The Minister is happy to stand over relocating the post office to a building that is non-compliant with fire regulations and building regulations. It is also in breach of Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, guidelines, with run-off into the river and so on. It is a catastrophe. If the EPA was acting properly, it would close it down. A road which is supposed to be used for emergency access is being used every day. Earlier today, concrete was being mixed on it. Plastering of the inside of the building continues even though it is non-compliant. Is the Minister going to stand over this?

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