Dáil Éireann - Volume 435 - 02 November, 1993

Private Notice Questions. - Cork Postal Dispute.

Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will take steps to bring the postal strike in the Cork area to a conclusion in view of the hardship being caused to the public and the damage being done to business.

Mr. Cox asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if, in view of the protracted nature of the unofficial postal strike in Cork, the fact that new work practices in An Post are operational throughout the country by agreement between the Communications Workers Union and An Post with the exception of Cork because of the current wildcat strike, the difficulty which this dispute is creating in particular for business in Cork city and county, the dislocation for individuals, particularly pensioners, who normally receive their pension cheques by post, and the fact that intense efforts behind the scenes have so far failed to resolve the matter, he will explore and use all avenues open to him to ensure a speedy resolution of this dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Cowen): The postal dispute in Cork arises from unofficial action taken by a small group of workers. I understand that the dispute has not the support of the union representing the workers and it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the matter. Efforts are being made by the [591] union to bring the unofficial action to an end. In the meantime An Post has made special arrangements with the Department of Social Welfare and other bodies to minimise the impact of the dispute on pensioners and others.

As there will be a general meeting of the union's Cork branch this evening to consider the matter futher, a debate on the matter would not be helpful. I ask Deputies to await the outcome of this meeting before commenting further on the matter.

Mr. Allen: In view of the Minister's statement that a meeting will be held this evening, I respect his wishes. However, I hope both sides of the House will take this opportunity to appeal to everybody concerned to think of the wellbeing of the business and commercial life of the city and to remember that hardship is being imposed on people who are dependent on postal cheque payments. Despite the good efforts being made, not all the people on social welfare have received their cheques. I ask that for the wellbeing of the city and county the strike be settled.

Mr. Cox: I note what the Minister has said about the meeting due to take place this evening and I accept one must respect the due process. I would remind the House that there were high expectations about a similar meeting due to be held last Friday, but unfortunately it came to nothing. I join with Deputy Allen in his appeal to all those involved to try to find a way through a third party to resolve the outstanding grievances and to find a back-to-work formula.

I am aware of the enormous efforts which have been made by the general officers of the Communications Workers' Union in spite of the unofficial nature of this strike. This House owes them a debt of gratitude for their efforts on behalf of the people in Cork city and county. I hope the problem is resolved soon.

Mr. Barry: As the Minister has requested, we will not aggravate the position [592] by adding further comment on the matter. However, the workers involved are not a crowd of wildcat militants; they are a very reasonable group of people. I do not know what misunderstanding between An Post and the union gave rise to this dispute. There are pensioners outside the social welfare system who have not received their cheques and there are many small businesses whose cash flow is grievously interfered with because most of their income comes in at the beginning of the month. The union has been damaged due to loss of authority and An Post has been damaged due to loss of income. Therefore it is in everybody's interest to bring about a resolution of this strike. I hope the Minister will not join in the chorus of condemnation of the workers because they are not, as has been implied, militant; they are very reasonable people. I do not understand what gave rise to the misunderstanding, but it is in everybody's interest to speak softly with a view to resolving the matter.

Mr. Cowen: I am obliged to Deputies for their approach to this issue. I note their concerns and join with them in hoping there is a speedy resolution to the dispute.