With the recent announcement by Canada Post of its five-year business plan, many people have been left wondering what is going on at the post office.
For years Canada Post has been successful, making profits in each of the last 17 out of 18 years; with the exception of 2011 – the year that Canada Post locked out its workers and then went to the Government to have them legislated back to work. It was also the year that Canada Post was forced to settle a $200 million, two decade-long, pay equity lawsuit with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
In addition, Canada Post has stated, through a report from the Conference Board of Canada, that they could be facing losses of $1 Billion a year by 2020 if the crown corporation does not make the “necessary changes”. It is important to note that this report by the Conference Board of Canada was commissioned by Canada Post and the CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra just happens to sit on the Conference Board’s Board of Directors. A mere coincidence? A conflict of interest?
For decades now Canada Post has been in the process of creating crisis after crisis and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has been diligent in exposing each and every one of these ill-conceived plans to the public. It is obvious to all that it is the workers and their union that are the only ones at Canada Post who actually care about the service and are proud of the work we do for the public. We have fought the downsizing and closures of post offices, conversion of rural mailboxes to community mailboxes (cmb’s), removal of red letter boxes off the streets, changes to processing of local mail that have increased delivery times, unstaffed routes, to the opening of franchises which undermine the corporate retail post offices and the list goes on and on.
With all the bad decisions made by Canada Post over the years, one that clearly demonstrates their level of incompetency is the investment of almost $3 billion dollars into a plan called “Modern Post”, which included a large investment in new mechanized sortation machines. Canada Post purchased this machinery to sort lettermail when it knew volumes of lettermail were declining, and in fact, it actually encourages the public to no longer use the mail. Canada Post’s digital mailbox “epost” advertisements are everywhere. Canada Post even advertises “epost” on their own fleet of corporate vehicles and has contests with prizes of laptop or cash by switching your bills to online! Instead of working on new mailers to use the public postal service they are encouraging people to stop using the mail. This is a prime example of how Canada Post creates their own crisis; crying that volumes are down as part of the rationale for cutting door-to-door delivery but doing nothing to actually increase mail volumes.
For the CUPW the recent announcement of elimination of door-to-door delivery, slashing of 8,000 jobs, increasing postal rates and the opening of more franchises is sad news but not at all a shock. It’s evident Canada Post has been on a mission of self destruction, not missing an opportunity to devalue the service or helping to making it less relevant; slowly removing it from locations all across the country. “Out of sight, out of mind”.
Another more recent aspect of Canada Post’s attempts to devalue postal delivery for Canadians has been to have people accustomed to not receiving mail on a daily basis or, unofficially, alternate day delivery. We have seen a dramatic increase in letter carrier and rural routes being left uncovered for days at a time. Often times due to Canada Post’s inability to properly staff its operations, postal workers will either volunteer or be forced to deliver their own routes and then deliver parts of other uncovered routes. CUPW has challenged Canada Post’s poor staffing strategy as a complaint under the Canadian Postal Service Charter. The Charter states:
“Canada Post will deliver letters, parcels and publications five days a week (except for statutory holidays) to every Canadian address, except in remote areas where less frequent service may be necessary due to limited access to the community.”
For postal workers, we are not just fighting to ensure that the public postal service remains; we have been and will continue to demand improvements to service we provide Canadians. The CUPW has been making suggestions on ways in which the corporation can offer more and improved services to the public such as postal banking, an initiative which has been extremely successful in many other countries around the world. For Canada Post, one of the last remaining federal institutions in many communities, a strong structure is already in place; one that should be used for expansion, not simply dismantled and destroyed. Canada Post should be mandated to consider seriously all opportunities which would enhance the services it provides to rural and urban communities alike; opportunities that would ultimately improve this country’s public postal system and benefit all Canadians.
Despite the misleading and inaccurate reports issued by Canada Post, the federal government and the mainstream media, the Canadian public is not fooled and remains committed to a public postal service. The federal government would like us now to forgot the accolades and tributes it had for Canada Post and the importance of the services it provided to Canadians when, in June 2011, Bill C-6 was debated in the House of Commons. At the time, the former Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt stated in the House:
“Many of our citizens depend on the services of Canada Post to receive essential government information and benefits. In fact, everyone will be affected by the work stoppage but people with disabilities, elderly people and people who live in remote communities will be hurt the most. This strike will cause undue real hardship to many Canadians”.
Yet now this same government is supporting Canada Post’s plans that would undoubtedly create a hardship for those same people they claimed to have been protecting by legislating postal workers back to work.
With this recent announcement the public can truly see that the people who have been put in place to run the post office are in fact, the same people who are doing their best to destroy it. While Canada Post publically cries poor, internally it continues to reward incompetency and mismanagement. In 2012 Canada Post paid bonuses to over 7000 managers; CEO Deepak Chopra, whose annual salary is close to $600,000, told a recent Transportation Committee hearing held to discuss Canada Post’s planned cutbacks, that he received an additional $200,000 in bonuses alone. With actions such as these it is more than evident that Canada Post and their political masters are not interested in administering a public postal office in this country; their only interest is ready the post office for the chopping block where it can be divvied up and handed over to their friends in the private sector.
Postal workers and the public have been here before. Ever since the late 1980’s there have been repeated calls from the right to close and sell off the post office. Regardless, federal governments have faced stiff opposition and resistance both from CUPW and the public to keep a public post office. One such struggle led to the Liberal Government of the day enacting a moratorium on post office closures that is still in place today.
Our public postal service continues to play a vital part in our communities, providing valued services and decent jobs. As members in the community, Postal Workers are asking for your support and to join us in our efforts to make sure these planned cutbacks do not come to fruition.
Canada Post and the federal government want us all to believe that any opposition to their plan is futile and that there is absolutely nothing that can be done to prevent this 5 year business plan from being implemented. We know that nothing could be further from the truth. As the owners of Canada Post, Canadians will have their say. Let’s send a clear message to Canada Post and this Government that this “business plan” is not acceptable and that Canadians want, and deserve more from their public post office.
Toni MacAfee is the Atlantic education and organization officer with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
This article first appeared on the Halifax Media Co-op