POSTAL workers from around the country are expected to join a protest in Cork city this Saturday against the closure of the Cork mail centre in Little Island.
The protest is being organised by the Cork Mail Centre Action Group, which represents the 240 staff who are facing redundancy after An Post announced the shut down of the centre with services to be transferred elsewhere.
At a press conference today, staff warned that closing the centre will mean delays in deliveries, the end of next-day delivery in Cork and Munster, and potential chaos during the peak mail and parcel season at Christmas.
Members of the action group said that there is a business case for a mail centre in Cork to be retained due to the growth of revenue, but they expect that work will end up being outsourced to the private sector once they are made redundant.
"When the dust has settled over this closure, they will open a privately-run parcel hub in Cork where casual workers will be employed for minimum pay and few conditions," said Donal Desmond, who has worked at the centre for 14 years.
"This won't be the last closure either - and the Athlone and Portlaoise centres will be under threat too."
The group also criticised An Post for offering a reduced redundancy package to workers over the age of 60 due to their proximity to the retirement age.
A number of affected workers said that their packages have been halved compared to what their length of service would be worth if they were under 60.
Adrienne Sheehan, aged 62, accused the company of ageism.
"We do the same work as everyone else in the centre. We are not discriminated against in that way. So why should we be discriminated against when it comes to pay and redundancy packages?"
Her colleague Norma Creech, aged 61, said that people at their age will struggle to find work.
"I am very concerned about my future. I won't get another job at 61," she said.
"Three weeks on, we have had so little information that we can't plan," she said.
"It is tense and stressful; people are heartbroken. We paid our union fees for years and there is no protest (organised by the union)."
Charlotte Gillis said that workers' lives have been turned upside down by the announcement, and that they have been unable to plan due to a lack of further information.
She said that the announcement came as a shock and she only found out through a message on the texting app Viber.
"It was half ten at night and it just said 'Cork closed'. Our whole lives are upside down. I still have a mortgage to pay, my youngest child is just starting school. These packages mean nothing to me," she said.
The group is planning to bring a motion to general meeting of the Communication Workers Union opposing the closure of the Cork mail centre and a campaign of non-cooperation from members.