STRABANE postal service is currently operating at only half capacity with over 41 per-cent of staff off work.
Many people in the town and the surrounding areas have complained in recent weeks that they have not received their post, or have experienced long delays.
However Royal Mail this week suggested that the absenteeism is partly due to three staff members testing positive for Covid-19. Other absences are due to annual leave, whilst others are awaiting covid test results or off on normal sick leave.
Of the 34 staff, 14 (41 per-cent) are currently off sick.
An update from MLA Daniel McCrossan urged people to be patient as “local posties are trying to do their best under difficult circumstances.”
However local councillor Raymond Barr believes the delay in the post is nothing to do with covid or sick leave but rather parcel deliveries being favoured over letters.
A spokesman for Royal Mail subsequently confirmed that they are prioritising parcels “as they take up more space,” but Cllr Barr branded this as “scandalous.”
Cllr Barr said, “This is not the fault of the postmen – they are on the frontline and they are getting it in the neck but it is not their fault.
“Postmen are being told not to deliver letters and to prioritise parcels because they are more profitable, so they are being told to leave letters behind them.
“I think there are three postmen off who had tested positive and they are using this as an excuse but I brought this up in May, and the same thing was happening then.
“It has got worse instead of better. I don’t accept covid as an excuse because it has been going on longer than staff have been off,” said Cllr Barr.
Cllr Barr said people are missing out on vital hospital appointments because of the delay in the post.
“I was talking to a woman who was waiting on an appointment for cancer treatment but the letter never came so she rang the hospital and she has an appointment for today (Thursday), but she easily could’ve missed that.
“Another man missed a flu vaccine appointment on Monday but he never got the letter.
“A lot of people will be waiting on flu vaccine appointments, so if you are waiting, call the surgery because the letter might not come in time,” concluded Cllr Barr.
Commenting on the situation a Royal Mail spokesperson said, “Royal Mail takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which we operate very seriously.
“Three people at our Strabane Delivery Office have recently tested positive for coronavirus. They are currently recuperating and we wish them a speedy recovery.
“We have since carried out three intensive cleans of the Delivery Office.
“From the start of this crisis, we have always said that despite our best endeavours, it is possible that some areas of the country may experience a reduction in service levels due to coronavirus-related absences at their local mail centre or delivery office.
“We have been working hard to deliver the most comprehensive service we can to all our customers in challenging circumstances throughout this period.”
Posted: 7:43 pm October 3, 2020