THE Dáil will vote at lunchtime today on a motion urging the government to intervene to keep An Post's mail centre in Little Island open.
Cork North Central TD Mick Barry introduced the motion on behalf of his Solidarity party yesterday, saying that An Post should pivot from letter to parcel delivery and keep on its Cork staff.
The party wants the Government to instruct An Post to cancel its plans to close the centre and save the 216 jobs in Little Island.
An Post last week announced that it is to shut the sorting centre on a phased basis starting from this September.
Mr Barry said that the decision to close the centre was based on an "outdated" report that predates the state-owned company's re-entry into the parcel delivery market.
"The challenge for An Post should not be one which involves closing hubs and axing jobs, instead the challenge should be transitioning from a letter delivery company which handles parcels, to parcel delivery company which handles letters, without resorting to job losses," he said.
Mr Barry described the 2004 closure of An Post's SDS parcel delivery service as "one of the most short-sighted business decisions in the history of this state" which gave private enterprises "free rein" over a parcel market that is booming due to internet shopping.
Though An Post has re-entered the market in recent years, Mr Barry said that it's planning has been very poor.
"Demand for An Post letter delivery services are down 7% year on year. But letter delivery is only part of the story," he said.
"Demand for An Post's parcel delivery services are up 60% in the last two years. This is part of a global phenomenon.
"Instead of closing the only mail centre in the south of this country, An Post should talk to workers' representatives and negotiate a plan for expanding parcel services and doing that without resorted to redundancies," he added.
He called for the publication of the McKinsey report on An Post restructuring but said that it was outdated as it was published in 2016, before An Post re-entered the parcel delivery market.
Mr Barry said that the closure also went against the government's Ireland 2040 plan and the Climate Action Report.
He said that Cork is set to be the fastest growing city in the country over the next two decades, but "millions" of letters will now have to go to Port Laoise to be sorted for delivery to the growing population.
He said that would also put more trucks on the road, despite the government's carbon reduction plans.
"How much of this was taken into consideration by An Post. and by your government, Minister, when you made the decision to back them?
However, the Solidarity motion is non-binding, and the government is free to ignore it if it passes through the Dáil.
An Post has said the closure of the Little Island centre would save the company €11 million each year.
The company will provide staff with an exit package of six weeks' per year of service, up to a maximum of two years’ pay and further education or re-skilling grants of up to €3,000 per person will be offered.
The company said there will also be redeployment opportunities with An Post’s networks in the Cork area.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who has seen the report, said that it did not support the case for closing the Cork centre.
"Having read that document quickly - I did not have prolonged access to it - it seems there is no compelling reason that the Cork mail centre had to close vis-à-vis other centres or why a different approach could not be taken.
"Structurally and for other reasons, there was a sense in An Post that the Cork one is easier to close than the remainder. I am not satisfied at all as to the underlying criteria that drove this decision," he said.
Labour Party TD Seán Sherlock said that it did not make sense to close any mail centre, given the current market environment, and questioned why Cork was chosen over other centres.
"It is a fair assumption that the Cork centre was not the one that was slated for closure. I believe there was a politically expedient decision to close Cork on the basis that it was the path of least resistance. This process should be stalled pending a further interrogation by this House in respect of the decisions that have been made about Cork.
"When revenue is increasing, the profit line is increasing and the company says it is moving into the parcels business, why would it then hive off one of the parcels centres as an area of activity and close it? That does not stack up and I do not understand it," he said.