Local Fine Gael TD, Charlie Flanagan, has expressed serious concerns about a proposed law before the Dáil which would allow private-sector postal services to deliver ordinary letters for the first time.
Up to 400 people are employed by An Post in Laois and some of these jobs could be at risk if the postal services were opened up to the free market. The fear is that private operators could cherrypick more profitable routes to service, which would result in a loss of revenue for An Post.
Deputy Flanagan said: "I have met with employees of An Post in Laois and with national union representatives of An Post in Dublin to discuss their concerns and a huge number of An Post employees in Laois/Offaly have contacted me about this matter."
"I am very concerned about the effect that the Government's proposed law will have - both on An Post workers in Laois/Offaly - and on postal services for the community in general. An Post is a significant employer in our area, particularly in Laois, and I am very anxious that jobs in Laois/Offaly are not jeopardised by a mishandling of this matter by the Government.
Deputy Flanagan said his party's communication spokesperson, Leo Varadkar TD, had studied the Bill in detail and warned that badly managed and poorly regulated competition in the postal services market could result in the State having to subsidise An Post and the loss of five day a week delivery of mail in rural areas.
"Badly managed and poorly regulated competition will be a disaster for the postal sector. It could give rise to cherry-picking in which private providers take the most profitable parts of the business away from An Post leaving the company with the unprofitable parts thus turning a profitable company into a loss-making one. An Post has never needed State support in the past and competition is not in the interest of taxpayers if it transforms a solvent, profitable State asset into a loss-making one."
He said Fine Gael were also concerned about the future of five-day-a-week postal deliveries in rural areas.
"This Bill imposes a requirement on An Post, to provide a five-day-a-week delivery to every home and business in Ireland. However, Section 17 of Bill allows the Communications Regulator, ComReg, to remove this requirement without Ministerial approval.
If this requirement is lifted at some point in the future, it would allow An Post to curtail costly five-day-a-week deliveries in rural areas to, perhaps, three days a week," he said.
Deputy Flanagan added: "It is absolutely crucial that this Bill is dealt with competently by the Government to ensure that jobs and services for the community are protected."