THERE remains a ‘distinct possibility’ that Strabane postal workers could emulate their Derry counterparts by staging a walk-out over Covid-related working conditions.
On Tuesday Royal Mail staff in the city refused to enter a sorting office until a deep clean of the building was carried out.
According to the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), more than 40 staff – one third of a total contingent of 120 – are off work because of the coronavirus. Some 17 staff have tested positive while a further 25 are self-isolating.
“It’s apparent that Royal Mail is in disarray on every front with both staff and customers suffering from their failure to address the issues that matter,” Strabane councillor, Raymond Barr stated.
Cllr Barr emphasised that the lamentable situation regarding late mail, failed posts and the prioritisation of parcels over letters had been ongoing in Strabane since May.
“It’s obvious they need to sort internal problems before they’re in a position to deliver the service they used to pride themselves on,” he continued.
In its latest correspondence with Cllr Barr, Royal Mail suggested that as sick absence in Strabane has “improved significantly”, the current situation means that “addresses served by the delivery office are now receiving a daily mail delivery.”
Cllr Barr continued, “I had posted that letter on social media for public consumption but I had a postal worker on to me to say that’s lies. I was told it’s as bad as ever in Strabane sorting office.
“The post office staff have become the real victims in this, moreso than the public, because they’re the ones getting all the flack.”
He added, “I used to be the union rep in the post office and if I was there at the moment, 100 per-cent I’d have members out.
“Royal Mail have a duty of care to staff but they are riding roughshod over them. I would say a walk-out is still a distinct possibility for Strabane.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin representatives met with Royal Mail to discuss the disruption to service and also the possibility of operational services being moved from Castlederg.
After the meeting, West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley said, “Royal Mail advised they would be introducing additional Christmas staff earlier to help ease the pressure on staff. I raised concerns regarding the health and safety of staff in light of many Derry Royal Mail workers walking out. I have also grave concerns about the Castlederg sorting office merging with Strabane, given the limited space within the Strabane office, which would not be fit for purpose.
“The Royal Mail director had stated that while the operational side of the Castlederg office will be moved, the services for customers will not be affected. I pressed on the need for the safety and welfare of staff to be paramount in any such move. If we are to see staff relocated to Strabane we need additional investment in this office to ensure a safe working environment.”