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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016\Second Stage
Bills\Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016\Second Stage

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016

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Snippet Contents:

I attended yesterday's committee meeting and noted the absence of the Minister, Deputy Naughten. As I was not aware that he was out of action, I would like to wish him well in his recovery.
Although I was not present for the whole committee meeting, my impression was of a love-in between a plethora of representatives of the many committees that were investigating how we could make An Post viable. Each committee has been studying one aspect or another of the problem, yet none seems to have reported back with any meaningful solution other than to increase the price of a stamp. One might say that it is only 30 cent, which is not all that much, and it would give the company a cashflow and enough breathing space to survive, as argued by the Labour Party Deputy before me. That sounds reasonable, but when one considers how the volume of mail has declined - Deputies have referenced the percentages - and the cohort of people who pay for stamps, one realises that this would place the 30% increase on the shoulders of those who can least afford it. I refer, in particular, to pensioners, older people and small organisations, for example, communities and organisations that regularly communicate by letter with their audiences. As Deputy Barry stated, an increase of 30% would probably see them turning to e-mail, being put out of action or having their budgets hurt badly. Needless to say, the Government will not give them an increase in their community grants, which have been slashed consistently during the years of austerity.
We will not deal with the serious problem facing us simply by increasing the price of a stamp as an emergency measure. Instead, this will have the opposite effect, in that more people, and smaller organisations in particular, will move away from using postal services.
As the House knows, An Post's key loss maker is the USO. An Post had an operating profit of €5.2 million last year because of the increase in the volume of parcel post, but it has been forced to compete in that regard with the likes of DHL and FedEx, which do not have the compunction of the USO, and the Government cannot subsidise the USO under EU law.
With more than 1,100 outlets across the country, 74% of An Post's business is connected with social welfare, savings accounts etc. Attempts are being made to get more such business. That would be of considerable help, but it should also be acknowledged that An Post's workers have helped to reduce the company's running costs through various means down the years, for example, through wage reductions, productivity measures etc. Unless I am mistaken, the contribution of An Post's 10,000 staff has led to savings of approximately €100 million.
There have been all sorts of attempts to make An Post better, but this latest attempt should be rejected. It is the wrong way to try to mend the service. It is like being given a plaster after splitting one's head. It will do nothing to service the rural and isolated communities whose post offices are facing closure. As a member of the committee, I have seen no real attempt being made by any of the study groups that have been established to consider the impact of the removal of post offices on the fabric of society in rural and isolated communities. Post offices play a vital role. Although it might be said that they only service small communities, those communities are just as important as this community in the Dáil or any other.