How the Westmeath Independent broke the story in our September 5 edition

Athlone company at centre of national postal shutdown

A major industrial dispute at Athlone company IO Systems has been the catalyst for the national postal system grinding to a halt today.

The dispute involves between 20 and 30 staff of Athlone company IO Systems who maintain and operate key sorting equipment at the four An Post mail centres in Athlone, Portlaoise, Cork and Dublin.

Following strike action by IO Systems employees, An Post has advised people not to send letters.

The dispute centres on changes from a 12-hour to an eight-hour shift pattern and the resultant loss of shift premium payments, which has been opposed by the IO Systems staff involved, who are members of Communications Workers Union (CWU)

The dispute has been rumbling for almost two years and has been the subject of three Labour Court hearings, a Labour Relations Commission mediation and mediation from an external industrial relations expert.

The dispute intensified from August 31 when IO Systems pressed ahead and implemented the controversial working practices. In response, the CWU instructed its members to only work the old practices.

The company then informed staff concerned that if they failed to operate the new measures it would consider them in breach of their contracts and no longer on the pay roll.

The CWU had already balloted members on the issue - and had approval for strike action, which it initiated in response to the company action.
Strike notice came into effect at midnight last night

In a statement today, An Post said: “Due to industrial action in mails processing centres by staff of supplier company IO Systems who are members of the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU), An Post greatly regrets to advise customers not to post any mail items, with immediate effect.

'Also, as a result of this industrial action, there will be no mail collections from businesses today, Friday. Due to the withdrawal of labour by staff of IO Systems, we are unable to process mail for delivery to customers.

'Mail deliveries are operating as normal today (Friday). A small number of letters were not processed last night due to the industrial action between IO Systems and the CWU.

'An Post greatly regrets this inconvenience to our customers and urges the parties involved to resolve their differences through the normal industrial relations procedures.”

In a hard-hitting statement, the CWU described the decision by An Post to shut down services as “bizarre”

An emergency meeting of the CWU National Executive this morning unanimously backed and endorsed the strike action to defend the rights of IO Systems workers and the total solidarity and support from postal workers at An Post.

CWU General Secretary Steve Fitzpatrick said: “The decision of the Company to close mail services is bizarre and reckless and will have long term damaging consequences for postal services in Ireland and industrial relations at the company.

The CWU also called for the appointment of a special investigator from the C&AG’s office to examine the background and process for the awarding of the IO Systems contract by An Post.

“We are appalled that well paid An Post executives are supporting IO Systems management in seeking to cut wages and consign IO Systems workers to permanent night work without proper recognition in their pay and conditions.

“Severe amnesia has clearly set in among management at the company who have quickly forgotten the sacrifice in time, money and working conditions that postal workers have made to keep the company afloat during the technology revolution and the traumatic and devastating economic depression.