Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Postal service changes slammed

In an effort to cut costs, Canada Post is making big changes to its mail services beginning next year, including phasing out door-to-door delivery and hiking the price of individual postage stamps to $1.
But not many are happy about the changes, not the least postal workers.

“The worst part to us is the loss of jobs,” said CUPW Local 538 president Sandra Lange.
“They’re saying there’s no loss of jobs but of course there is—through attrition mainly—but that’s still a loss of jobs,” she noted.
“Six to eight thousand jobs gone across Canada.
“We, as the union, feel that letter carriers especially are a necessary part of a community, especially small communities like ours,” said Lange.
“There have been a lot of instances where letter carriers have saved lives by calling 9-1-1, all kinds of things.”
Lange said letter carriers are dedicated to do their job no matter what. While some people might remark they’d love to deliver mail during the summer months, they change their tune when winter comes.
“It’s not an easy job and yet they want to fight for it; they want to keep that job,” she remarked.
“They’re proud people, letter carriers.”
The changes also will be a major setback for certain residents, including disabled people and seniors, who rely on door-to-door delivery, added Lange.
“That is the biggest thing,” she said, noting letter carriers sometimes are the only regular point of contact some residents have with the outside world on a daily basis.
“A lot of the letter carriers have relationships with their customers,” Lange said. “They ask them questions, they’re a form of comfort for [the customers].
“I was a letter carrier in Thunder Bay for a few years and you do build relationship, especially with seniors,” she stressed.
“They look for you every day, and like to chat about the weather.”
Lange also noted CUPW has come up with other ways for Canada Post to stabilize its finances, such as postal banking (where local post offices offer basic banking services for customers in communities without banks), but it seems Canada Post isn’t interested.
“But the union has proven that some of these things have worked in other countries,” said Lange.
“Canada Post don’t want to save the company, it seems like,” she charged.
The first neighbourhoods being converted to community mailboxes (CMBs) should begin in late 2014, but Lange estimated this will start in larger communities first.
As such, Fort Frances likely won’t change to the new system until “the tail-end” of the transition.
Even the CMBs raise some questions and concerns—ranging from where they’ll be located to who will clean up the mess of discarded flyers.
“There’s even danger to people because of snow issues,” Lange warned.
“As a matter of fact, one letter carrier last winter was putting mail in a CMB and a snowplow came along and didn’t even see her.
“She kind of got pushed into [the snow].
“It could have been bad. It wasn’t, but it could have been,” Lange said, noting there’s also the question of who is going to shovel out CMBs and make sure the approach to them is not icy?
“I just think it’s a bad idea,” reiterated Lange, noting Canada Post is supposed to be more of a public service than a business and the focus should be on customer service.
While Lange said it’s true Canadians are sending fewer letters through the mail, certain times of year, such the Christmas season, continue to be extremely busy.
“This time of year, you would not believe the amount of Christmas cards that go through the system,” she remarked.
“You hear people say, ‘Well, I’m not sending out Christmas cards,’ but then they still do.”
Local MP John Rafferty said he feels that instead of looking for ways to modernize operations, Canada Post and the Harper Conservatives are “taking an axe to our postal service.”
“It’s really a backwards approach,” he argued. “You eliminate home delivery, you cut rural post office hours . . . and drastically raise postal rates and kill good-quality jobs.
“It sounds like they’re not much interested in making the operation better.
“It’s the same thing with CBC and other things this government does—they starve it to the point where they say, ‘Look how awful this is! Let’s get rid of it,’” Rafferty added.
“But really, the problem is theirs all along.”
Rafferty said the service cuts may not affect everyone the same, but they definitely affect the elderly and those with disabilities.
“They depend on home delivery—for pension cheques and whatever. They can’t leave their home,” he noted.
“And I know the postal workers are really good,” he added. “They’ll take time and talk to people.
“It might be the only person an elderly person sees all day.
“We have a government that thinks everybody is able-bodied and working—you just go by the super mailbox on your way home from work and pick up your mail,” said Rafferty.
“Well, not everybody is like that.”
Rafferty said he feels there is an ulterior motive and that is to privatize Canada Post eventually and get it off the books—even though for more than the last decade, the government has been siphoning money off the profits of Canada Post.
He noted that over the last 15 years, Canada Post has made $1.7 billion in profit, but it currently is in deficit for 2013.
“And, of course, that’s being used by the Conservatives as a justification to cut services,” Rafferty charged.
“That $1.7 billion in profit over 15 years was sucked up by the federal government rather than reinvesting in what they needed to do to make the service work,” he added.
Rafferty also questioned the timing of the announcement last Wednesday.
“The announcement was made the day after the House rises so nobody’s there, right? You can’t ask any questions at Question Period and so on,” he noted.
“It’s almost like a sneak attack.”
Rafferty also took exception to the consultation process, which included an online survey and invite-only sessions where Canada Post met with community leaders, Chambers of Commerce, and business owners.
He added they should have asked postal workers themselves.
Meanwhile, raising the cost of stamps to $1 and cutting post office hours “does not make sense” when you want more people to use the postal service, said Rafferty.
But worst of all is the elimination of jobs.
“You’ve got 8,000 people looking for work over the next five years as they get laid off,” Rafferty remarked.
“You replace them with contractors who barely make ends meet when they do that work.
“The question I would have for [Transport minister] Lisa Raitt or for Mr. Harper is, ‘What’s wrong with Canadians having a decent-paying job, working hard and raising their families, and having something decent to retire on?”
Rafferty said the public should not sit idle but should speak up about the Canada Post changes, noting that sending e-mails to Raitt and Harper would be a good start.
Raitt can be e-mailed at lisa.raitt@parl.gc.ca while Harper can be reached at stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca
“People need to let them know that they’re unhappy,” said Rafferty.

More stories