Friday April 18, 2014

Local union concerned by cuts

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Canada Post has announced plans to end door-to-door mail delivery and increase stamp prices in an attempt to better the corporation’s bottom line.

“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 five-years to complete on a national scale,” detailed a Canada Post release.

Not surprisingly the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has come out against the moves.

“If this happens, it would be the end of an era for Canada Post,” said Denis Lemelin, CUPW National President in a prepared release. “We recognize that Canada Post needs to change, but this is not the way!”

The release suggested CUPW has consistently advocated for innovation and service expansion to create a financially viable and service oriented postal service for the future.

“We are extremely concerned that these changes will send Canada Post into a downward spiral,” said Lemelin. “Furthermore, the skyrocketing stamp prices will make the postal service inaccessible to many people.”

The Yorkton 860 local of CUPW made a presentation to the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday seeking the City’s support in its fight to save door-to-door service, and their members’ related jobs.

“On Dec. 11, 2013 Canada Post announced to the Canadian public that it was going to instigate a Five Point Action plan as the beginnings of a “new postal system”. Canada Post did not hold meetings open to the public to discuss this new plan with their only shareholder, the people of Canada. The Canadian Postal Charter states that the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring transparency in how Canada Post provides quality postal services,” local president Gloria Spilak told Council.

Spilak outlined that in addition to the end of door-to-door delivery the Union has other concerns as well. Among those concerns was “eliminating door-to-door delivery service and replacing it with community boxes. Raising the price of stamps significantly from 63 cents to 85 cents each (if purchased in bulk), and $1 each for purchases in smaller amounts. The Canadian Postal Service Charter states that Canada Post will charge postage rates that are fair and reasonable. Such drastic increases to stamp prices do not follow that mandate.”

Canada Post detailed stamp rates in its announcement.

“Canada Post will introduce a new tiered pricing structure for Letter mail 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 two per cent of stamp purchases, will pay $1 per stamp. The average Canadian household purchases fewer than two stamps per month. These stamp price changes will take effect March 31, 2014,” detailed the Corporation release.

Spilak said CUPW’s third major contention revolved around contracting services. She said Canada Post has stated “they will “continue to align” the corporate post offices to customer traffic. In our experience we see that customer business is siphoned off to the nearby private dealers. In turn, Canada Post will cut the hours and staff at corporate post offices.”

The changes are not good for Yorkton, said Spilak.

“These service cuts will have serious effects on communities across Canada and here in Yorkton,” she said.

“Elimination and diminishing of postal services will put the security and safety of our community members at risk.

The proposed community mailboxes will bring many problems including theft, traffic problems, vandalism, and accessibility problems for many of the most vulnerable in our community, our seniors and those with disabilities.

The plan to switch to community boxes and replace corporate outlets with private franchises will take away good paying jobs that contribute to the Yorkton economy and provide for stability in our community.”

With CUPW’s concerns in mind, Spilak asked, “the City of Yorkton to write a letter to Canada Post and the Minister responsible for Canada Post to demand that they not proceed with their “Five-Point Action Plan” to cut postal service and contract more services out to franchise dealers; that Canada Post have open, accessible and transparent public meetings with all members of the community to discuss service options and community needs; and request that Canada Post consider innovative ways to generate postal revenue rather than cutting services.”

But Council had some questions before deciding what to do.

Council Les Arnelien asked how many jobs in Yorkton could be lost by the changes?

Spilak said between full, part-time and casual, there are 14 carriers in the City, and nine full-time postal clerks working inside.

Coun. Randy Goulden asked what percentage of Yorkton residents currently have home mail delivery.

“We think 65 to 75 per cent,” said Spilak.

Coun. James Wilson suggested the percentage would decline into the future since new subdivisions are already served by super boxes rather than door-to-door delivery.

Goulden also noted Spilak’s presentation suggested the Corporation should investigate other options to improve its bottom line, not tied to job cuts, and she wanted to know what those options might be.

“I really don’t have suggestions,” offered Spilak, adding that was more the realm of the CUPW leadership.

As an alternative to the Canada Post announcement the CUPW release suggested the union has been vigorously campaigning to bring back and expand postal banking, with growing support from municipalities and groups across the country. Postal banks have been proven to be a solid source of income for post offices and a much needed financial resource for people in other parts of the world.

“Where many postal operators are responding to a changing postal business with innovation, Canada Post is relying on cuts and rate increases,” said Lemelin.

In the end Council determined it does not get involved in how a business is operated, and after passing a motion to file the presentation, did not act upon the Union’s request.

Other groups have waded in on the issue.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has suggested it has concerns over the announcement. Phasing out front door delivery could have a negative impact on people who currently have access to mail services that meet their needs, but who would have difficulty making their way to street corner mailboxes, particularly in harsh weather, suggested a Commission release from David Langtry Acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

“Many elderly people and people with disabilities live alone. They often lack the resources to ensure access to many of life’s necessities, access that others take for granted,” stated the release.

In the release CHRC encouraged Canada Post, “as it implements its five-point plan, to make every possible effort to ensure that elderly people and people with disabilities continue to enjoy full access to mail services.

“The five year transition period announced on Dec. 11 should allow for Canada Post to engage with representative organizations of these affected groups in order to address their concerns and find workable solutions.”

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, made a statement in response to Canada Post’s Five-point Action Plan supportive of the plan.

“In today’s digital age, Canadians are sending less mail than ever,” he stated in a prepared release. “According to Canada Post, a typical Canadian household buys only one to two dozen stamps per year. Due to the lack of demand, mail volumes have dropped almost 25 per cent per address since 2008 and continue to fall. This is leading to a steep decline in revenues for Canada Post. Since 1981, Canada Post has had a mandate to operate on a self-sustaining financial basis.

“The Government of Canada supports Canada Post in its efforts to fulfil its mandate of operating on a self-sustaining financial basis in order to protect taxpayers, while modernizing its business and aligning postal services with the choices of Canadians.

“I look forward to seeing progress as Canada Post rolls out its plan for an efficient, modern postal service that protects taxpayers and is equipped to meet Canadians’ needs now and in the future.”



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