Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 18 November, 2004

Written Answers. - Post Office Network.

[1507]   97. Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will put in place arrangements to computerise rural post offices in order that they can expand their business and add to the quality of life in rural Ireland. [29570/04]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: The Government is committed to a viable and sustainable rural post office network providing a range of services to meet consumer needs. This commitment is illustrated by the Government injection of €12.7 million into the network in 2003 to facilitate modernisation measures. The Government has also supported An Post initiatives such as the channelling of new utility and banking services through the network. In addition, An Post has introduced new service delivery models in order to improve access to post office services. There are 1,000 automated post offices, 475 non-automated post offices, 160 postal agencies and An Post has established 3,000 postpoint outlets in retail premises of which 600 can be used for bill payment.

The automated network accounts for over 95% of An Post’s counter business. This means that the 1,000 automated offices transact 95% of counter business while 475 non-automated offices undertake 5% of business. This figure clearly illustrates the level of business transacted by individual non-automated offices. The current level of automated coverage is considered by An Post to be extremely comprehensive by any objective standard and this level of coverage makes it difficult to justify on either customer-service or economic ground the extension of automation to all offices, regardless of their location or business volumes.

Automation of the post office network was completed in 1997. It is, therefore, only in very exceptional circumstances, such as an existing automated office closing and its equipment being transferred to a suitable neighbouring location which transacts significant volumes of welfare business, that offices are automated today. The core objective continues to be the retention of access to post offices services in as many locations as possible, in the manner which best meets consumer needs, whether services are provided via post office, postal agencies or the postpoint network.

  98. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he proposes to take directly or through the regulator or by other means to avert the threatened postal strike over the Christmas 2004 period (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29645/04]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: Proposals on arrangements for Christmas were presented to unions by the company recently for consideration. An Post indicated that the arrangements are similar to last year in terms of hiring casual [1508] staff and the amount of overtime available. I understand that this issue has been referred to the Labour Relations Commission for determination and therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.