CORNER BROOK Chris Caravan says he is never surprised by the changes he has seen in the postal delivery service in his 12 years as a Corner Brook mail carrier, but Wednesday came awfully close.
In fact, Caravan does not know how much longer he will have a route to walk.
The acting union president of Local 039 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said he was actually delivering mail when he was informed via text message by a fellow carrier about Canada Post‚Äôs service changes, announced Wednesday.
As part of the changes over the next five years, the remaining households throughout Canada that have their mail delivered to the door will no longer. That service will be converted to community mailbox delivery ‚ÄĒ as is the case now for two thirds of Canadian households, according to Canada Post numbers.
Caravan said the news came ‚Äúout of left field‚ÄĚ and is disheartening for mail carriers.
‚ÄúEver since I‚Äąhave been at this, that is all we have heard is cut and delete, cut and delete,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey are going to do what they are going to do, and I don‚Äôt think, at any level, the union is going to have much to do on it. That‚Äôs a sad reality.‚ÄĚ
However, Caravan expected he would be hearing from his members, and they would formulate some kind of response or plan of action.
‚ÄúWe are pushing,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe will push, and we will push, to try and conserve as many jobs as possible, for as long as we possibly can. But, the bottom is falling out of it.‚ÄĚ
The mail carrier looked right to the top in placing blame, saying it is Prime Minister Stephen Harper‚Äôs way of governing the country. He said the appointment of the president and chief executive officer of Canada Post was a political appointment.
‚ÄúCanada Post is in this position because this is where they put themselves,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey made their own bed, they have to lie in it, but we have to pay the price.‚ÄĚ
Caravan was critical of the ‚Äúbillions of dollars‚ÄĚ‚ÄąCanada Post spent on equipment for sorting mail, despite their message that mail is declining at an alarming rate. He said employees and the public must also consider the large bonuses managers are taking.
‚ÄúThey want people to be upset with this corporation and, if it happens that way, they will abolish the union and privatize the whole thing,‚ÄĚ he said, adding the corporation does not care about the elderly who will have to walk to retrieve their own mail.
Bernice Buckle, a member of the Seniors Wellness Committee in Corner Brook, does care about the elderly though. She called the news terrible for seniors, and ridiculous in general. She estimated about 75 per cent of seniors depend solely on mail.
Buckle wonders what the people who cannot drive or walk far distances will do, especially those who have nobody to help them. She said many of the seniors she works with are isolated.
‚ÄúRight away they lose that independence,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúNot being able to get their own mail, having to wait until somebody gets their mail for them.‚ÄĚ
Buckle called the move a backwards step for society.
‚ÄúWe are asking seniors to stay in their homes longer now than ever,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúHow can they do that, when we are taking their services away from under their noses?‚ÄĚ
Michael Burry, executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Newfoundland and Labrador, had a similar response pertaining to people with disabilities or injuries.
His immediate concern was for people outside the Metro St. John‚Äôs area, where access to public transportation is questionable at best, let alone for those with disabilities or impairments.
‚ÄúIf they have to go to a central location to get their mail now, it is going to be extremely difficult,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey will have to arrange their own transportation or have somebody pick it up for them.
‚ÄúIt certainly doesn‚Äôt assist with their self-reliance.‚ÄĚ
Burry hopes people with mobility issues are considered by Canada Post in its plans for this new system.
Meanwhile, in a press release issued Tuesday, Canada Post stated it has a mandate to fund its operations with revenues from the sale of its products and services, rather than become a burden on taxpayers. With the increasing use of digital communication and the historic decline of lettermail volumes, Canada Post has begun to post significant financial losses, the release says.
‚ÄúThe implementation of this plan means Canada Post can return to financial sustainability by 2019,‚ÄĚ the release stated. ‚ÄúOnce fully implemented, four of the five initiatives are expected to generate financial benefits with an estimated combined worth of $700 million to $900 million per year.‚ÄĚ
Canada Posts integrated plan‚Äôs five main initiatives are:
1. Community mailboxes
Over the next five years, the one third of Canadian households that receive their mail at their door will be converted to community mailbox delivery. This change will provide significant savings to Canada Post and will have no impact on the two thirds of Canadian households that already receive their mail and parcels through community mailboxes, grouped or lobby mailboxes or rural mailboxes. Community mailboxes have advantages for busy Canadians as they offer individually locked mail and small packet compartments as well as locked compartments for securely receiving parcels. The initial neighbourhoods slated for conversion in the second half of 2014 will be announced once plans are finalized. The transition is expected to take 5 years to complete on a national scale.
2. A new approach to pricing lettermail to take effect March 31, 2014
Canada Post will introduce a new tiered pricing structure for lettermail mailed within Canada, which will better reflect the cost of serving various customer segments. Under these changes, the majority of Canadians, because they buy stamps in booklets or coils, will pay $0.85 per stamp, with discounts for customers that use the mail most. The minority of consumers who purchase stamps one at a time, which represents an estimated 2 per cent of stamp purchases, will pay $1 per stamp. The average Canadian household purchases fewer than 2 stamps per month. These stamp price changes will take effect March 31, 2014.1
3. Expanding convenience through postal franchises
Canada Post will strengthen its retail network by opening more franchise postal outlets in stores across Canada. The company will partner with local retail businesses that are conveniently located in the communities they serve and offer added benefits, such as better parking and longer hours. This will allow busy Canadians to do more shopping in one place. Canada Post will also continue to align its corporate post offices to customer traffic patterns.
4. Streamlining operations
Changes to internal operations will make for a more efficient flow of parcels and mail through the network and to the customers. These changes are driven by technology (such as faster computerized sorting equipment), consolidation (such as processing mail and parcels in a central location) and providing more delivery employees with fuel-efficient vehicles, so the same employee can deliver both mail and parcels. Improved operations will yield cost-effective and more reliable delivery to Canadians, along with better parcel tracking capabilities.
5. Addressing the cost of labour
Canada Post is changing its business model and, as a result, will require fewer employees to serve the future needs of Canadians. With its current labour costs, Canada Post has a much higher cost structure than its competitors in the private sector have. This is simply not sustainable. The company will continue to bring the cost of labour in line with its competitors through attrition and collective bargaining over time. The average age of current employees is 48 and Canada Post expects nearly 15,000 employees to retire or leave the company over the next five years. This is more than enough to allow for the reduction of between 6,000 and 8,000 positions, mainly through attrition. Canada Post will also take the necessary steps to permanently address the sustainability of its pension plan. A leaner workforce will create a more flexible and competitive Canada Post, able to respond quickly to the changing marketplace.