Public outcry over planned abolition of 300 post offices across Czechia

The government has nodded to the planned closure of 300 post offices around the country. The state-owned company Czech Post is in the red, due to a marked drop in demand for its services, but critics argue that the state must continue to meet the needs of the thousands of elderly citizens who depend on postal services.

Czech Post is undergoing the biggest overhaul in its history. The once mammoth organization has been unable to compete with the new courier services and has been something of a black hole for state funds.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said there was no other option on the table that to make this painful cut.

Vít Rakušan | Photo: Office of Czech Government

“This step should have been made a long time ago. The Czech Telecommunications Office has been pushing for an overhaul of Czech Post since 2015.”

The service currently operates 3,200 branches and employs about 25,000 people. The decision to cut 300 branches and lay-off close to 1,000 employees should save around 700 million crowns a year and help Czech Post avoid insolvency in 2023.

The planned changes mean that Czech Post may no longer be close-by or even accessible for thousands of people, that they should expect longer queues and that sending a letter or parcel by post will take three days instead of two.

According to newly approved regulations, every municipality of over 2,500 people must have a post office within a distance of three kilometers, not two as stated by the previous norm. Czech Post has already released a list of the 300 outlets it plans to close, and is preparing to sell off some of the buildings.

Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

News of the closures, planned for July, have caused an outcry both among the general public and town councils who say they were not consulted about the move, which will present a big problem particularly for elderly and disabled citizens.

The head of the Czech Union of Towns and Municipalities, Radka Vladyková says the lack of communication is deplorable.

Radka Vladyková | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“Mayors were informed about the closures by the local Czech Post manager. There was no chance to influence the decision or discuss it in advance. They were not given the chance to arrange Czech Post Partner schemes or find some other solution.  Someone made this decision from their desk in Prague, with no concern for how many people a given post office serves, whether there is a bus connection to the nearest one and whether it is barrier free. The approach is totally wrong and we see no goodwill on the part of Czech Post to correct it.”

In response to the protests Czech Post representatives have agreed to hold further meetings with the mayors of the affected municipalities, and it is possible that the final list will change. However, the total number of post offices to be closed is not negotiable.

Details of the planned transformation of Czech Post will be made public in the summer. By the end of 2024 the company is to be split into a state-owned enterprise providing basic postal services, including those it must provide by law, and a state-owned joint-stock company offering specialized transport and logistics services.