Future use of GPO in doubt as staff face possible ‘permanent’ relocation

‘Initial estimate to refurbish the GPO is prohibitively expensive,’ An Post says

Last refurbished in 1985, the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin  is no longer a ‘healthy or appropriate’ work environment, An Post says. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

Last refurbished in 1985, the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin is no longer a ‘healthy or appropriate’ work environment, An Post says. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

 

An Post staff have been told they will move from the GPO “temporarily or permanently” by the end of next year, raising questions over the future of the historic O’Connell Street premises.

In an internal email, chief executive David McRedmond said the building is in need of major refurbishment, while its lease is due to run out “in a relatively short time”.

“The initial estimate to refurbish the GPO is prohibitively expensive, even if spread over say 15 years, and requires cash up front which we simply don’t have for this purpose,” he said.

A formal process will begin to examine alternative headquarters with a decision expected by the end of the year.

Last refurbished in 1985, the building is no longer a “healthy or appropriate” work environment, Mr McRedmond said. Nor is it conducive to modern work practices “essential for An Post to compete in a new digitally driven and environmentally conscious world”.

While last month’s communication, seen by The Irish Times, does not hint at any final decision, it makes a strong case for the unsuitability of the 200-year-old structure.

“The expert advice about remaining in the GPO while it is being refurbished ranges from extremely difficult to impossible,” Mr McRedmond said.

“A refurbishment is not just about partitioning and decoration but requires extensive mechanical and engineering works and replacement of the building’s core infrastructure including heating, wiring and plumbing.”

Such an overhaul is estimated to require years of work, he explained, adding that he would “not countenance” asking staff to remain in situ.

“We will have to move out of the GPO either temporarily or permanently to develop a new HQ,” with relocation targeted for the end of 2020.

Staff were consulted during the summer as to their views. The majority expressed a desire to remain at the north inner-city premises and a preference to do so during refurbishment works.

Whatever happens, it is likely any alternative HQ would remain in the city centre with most staff living on the north side of Dublin and using public transport.

Members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) have expressed concerns about the issue with the majority wishing to remain in the GPO. A circular to members said its position is that no agreement is in place to accommodate a move and that discussions with management are ongoing.

Aside from union difficulties, any suggestions of major change at the GPO is bound to raise concerns - the central staging post for the 1916 Rising, it is one of the most revered monuments to contemporary Irish history.

However, when the issue of a possible relocation was first mooted in August, 2018, Mr McRedmond said wherever its headquarters may end up, the retail post office, parcel hall and visitor centre “would likely remain” in place.