Closure of An Post mail centre in Cork a ‘strategic mistake’

FF leader criticises decision to shut Little Island operation with loss of 216 jobs

An Post says it is consolidating and reducing its letter processing capacity in line with global industry trends. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

An Post says it is consolidating and reducing its letter processing capacity in line with global industry trends. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

An Post has been accused of making a strategic mistake following its decision to close the Little Island mail centre in Co Cork with the loss of 216 jobs.

An Post announced plans last year to shut down one of its mail centres with Athlone, Dublin and Portlaoise ultimately being spared closure ahead of Cork.

Staff in Little Island were told of the closure when they turned up for the night shift on Wednesday.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, a Cork South Central TD, said it was a “retrograde and strategic mistake” to shut down the state of the art centre.

“This centre is the most modern in the country as it only opened in 2003. This closure is announced against the background of Cork being expected to double its population over the next few decades and it is a key strategic growth centre in the National Planning Framework,” he said.

“The staff involved are devastated. They are in reality facing redundancy. This is very unfair on them and their families. Every effort should be made to give them all the support they need during this very difficult time.”

Some 240 people are employed at the centre, two thirds of whom work on a part-time basis (approximately 20 hours a week) covering 216 jobs.

A number of these part-time workers have job-share arrangements or are employed to cover staff holidays or sick leave. The 78 local delivery staff, whose depot was within the Little Island building, will move to an alternative city location early next year.

Socialist Party TD Mick Barry described the decision by An Post as “shortsighted” and said the building should be adapted for use as a parcel centre in light of a huge increase in parcel deliveries driven by online purchases.

Michael Mulcahy, chief executive of the Little Island Business Association, also suggested the site could be used as a parcel depot and said the affected workers were devastated at the loss of jobs.

Rebuilding

The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) said it was “extremely disappointed” with the company’s decision. It said it would engage in detailed negotiations with An Post to ensure that those losing their jobs are supported in rebuilding their lives and careers.

“From a Labour Court recommendation issued in 2017 it was clear one of the mail centres (in Ireland) was going to close. As I understand the company engaged consultants and did a lot of work. As a union we tried to keep the four centres open,” said Seán McDonagh, CWU deputy general secretary. “The problem is that there is an infrastructure in place for sorting twice as many letters than there are on offer.”

An Post says it is consolidating and reducing its letter processing capacity in line with global industry trends, and switching investment into its e-commerce/parcels network in Cork.

It said the closure would be phased between September and March of next year and staff will be offered exit packages of six weeks per year of service up a maximum of two years’ pay, redeployment opportunities within An Post in the Cork area and further education grants of up to €3,000 per person.

The company said the €11 million annual savings from the plant closure will enable it to invest more rapidly in its parcels infrastructure nationally and locally, and in the automation of parcel sorting. It said parcel volumes have grown by 60 per cent since An Post actively re-entered that market in 2017.