The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a collapse in the mail business at An Post and a whole new postal company now needs to be built up, the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) has said.
Ahead of the union’s biennial conference on Wednesday, its general secretary, Steve Fitzpatrick, said letter volumes at An Post had fallen by 20 per cent so far this year.
However, he said that parcels and packets volumes had doubled during the same period.
Mr Fitzpatrick said Covid-19 had “accelerated the market changes which it had been hoped could be spread over a number of years”.
He said the challenge facing the union was “how to ensure a strong future for postal workers whose work in the letter business is diminishing by the day”.
The retail side of An Post’s business had also suffered heavy losses, he said, as changes to social welfare payments had seen frequency reduced from weekly to fortnightly.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “In my view, the biggest change agenda in the history of the Post Office needs to be negotiated with the company. The unprecedented change to the profile of the mails business along with the pace customers are changing habits has exacerbated the problems with premises, mail sorting infrastructure, vehicles and equipment.
“We now need to agree how this new delivery world will operate, as the ‘sticking-plaster’ approach up to now cannot continue.
“I am convinced that it will be possible to build a new postal company, which will be very different from the one we grew up with, but which will continue to provide a great service to its customers and well-paid, pensionable employment for postal workers long into the future.”
“While the An Post brand had been elevated to market leader in parcel processing and delivery, this has exposed major weaknesses in its parcel and package infrastructure which will require significant investment if the recent successes are not to be squandered.
“The decline in letter volumes at An Post has accelerated to a 20 per cent drop so far this year. However, parcels and packets volumes have doubled during the same period.
“The change in the profile of the mail business will require a re-examination of the company’s pricing structure, right sizing of the delivery operations and investment in mails sorting and delivery infrastructure to transform the letters operation and secure its future .”
He said workers at DPD, Nightline, UPS and other parcel delivery providers had worked flat out to keep up with this demand.
“We see real potential for further growth in these companies and opportunities for the CWU to organise and grow our membership to ensure decent wages and working conditions.”