Cork postal workers in tears over Little Island sorting centre closure

Cork postal workers in tears over Little Island sorting centre closure
Staff at work at the An Post Sorting Depot in Little Island. picture: Gerard McCarthy

WORKERS in the Cork Mail Centre cried when they were told by An Post that the centre will close in the coming months.

The announcement, which heralded the loss of 216 jobs, has been described as devastating for both the region and workers who are now facing redundancy or redeployment.

Margaret Hegarty is the branch officer of the sorting centre and has worked there for 16 years.

“It’s devastating news,” she told The Echo. “I was gutted for everybody in the Cork mail centre.

“There were people crying — it just came as a terrible shock and blow, because people were hoping against hope that it wouldn’t be us.”

The prospect of closure had been hanging over staff in three mail centres — Cork, Portlaoise, and Athlone — for the past two years, since An Post brought in outside consultants who recommended the closure of a centre.

“We’ve been worried sick for the past two years, hoping that it wouldn’t be us,” said Ms Hegarty.

While she conceded that the volume of letters the centre deals with has reduced in recent years, Ms Hegarty said the number of parcels coming through the centre each day is rising.

“I don’t see why we’re the ones being closed when we have this level of work coming through and when we’re the only centre in the south really,” she said.

An Post said the closure of the Cork branch will be phased between September 2019 and March 2020, and that staff will be offered exit packages or possible redeployment opportunities. Ms Hegarty said the severance package will mean little to many workers, particularly part-time workers in the centre who are on just over 21 hours a week.

“It was an appalling way for the company to treat their workers and I’m devastated for my colleagues,” she said.

“There’s a girl getting married in a few weeks time, there are single parents working there, there are people working there who are the only source of income in their houses.

“We all thought we’d be there for life or until we decided to retire ourselves.”

Ms Hegarty added that many will find redeployment very difficult, having worked the same non peak-hours for years due to family commitments and other lifestyle choices.

She said that while staff are not hopeful of a reversal of An Post’s decision, they are hopeful that the Communication Worker’s Union can negotiate improved terms for employees.

Local politicians have hit out at the decision. Solidarity TD Mick Barry called for An Post to turn the Cork centre into a parcel sorting centre to avoid any closure.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien and Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony described it as a “crushing blow” for employees and the region, while Worker’s Party councillor Ted Tynan labelled the move a “a vote of no confidence in the region”.

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