The threat of a postal strike used to cause great upset among Canadians, including St. Albertans who relied on “snail mail” to pay their bills and keep in touch with family and friends through letters and postcards.
That’s not the case today, given the reaction from a number of shoppers randomly polled at a local mall this week. And that’s bad news for Canada Post.
None of the shoppers surveyed by the St. Albert Gazette are too worried about the impact of a potential shutdown of mail delivery, which the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has warned could happen as early as Sept. 26, when its members are in a legal strike position.
“I get my bills and other correspondence online, so I’m not really going to be bothered if the carriers aren’t on the job. It’s too bad for them though,” said Randy MacLean, 26, who works at a St. Albert restaurant.
“Not a big deal to me,” said Evie Sinclair, 32, an employee at a local bank. “I can live with fewer flyers in my apartment mailbox. I deal with all the bills online anyways so it definitely won’t be a hassle for me.”
The possible delay in parcel delivery also didn’t faze those polled, with most noting that their online purchases are usually shipped through FedEx or Purolator.
While the majority of residents did express empathy for the thousands of CUPW members who face the possibility of another labour dispute after voting overwhelmingly in favour of job action, several were quick to question Canada Post’s relevance in the digital age.
CUPW said this week nearly 94 per cent of workers in urban postal operations and almost 96 per cent of rural and suburban mail carriers were in favour of walking off the job if a new collective agreement can’t be reached with the Crown corporation. The previous deal expired in December.
Wages and working conditions are the main issues in contract talks, which continue with a mediator, a Canada Post spokesman said on Thursday.
Postal employees were last locked out in 2011, but were legislated back to work.
The level of apathy among St. Albertans about a possible shutdown of a service the federal government has deemed essential is a problem for the national postal system, which continues to face challenges in a competitive market.
It’s likely a gauge of the mood across the country, which does not bode well for Canada Post’s attempts to bolster its bottom line.
For a business fighting to hold on to its existing customers and attract new ones, a strike/lockout is the last thing that is needed. Particularly since there are many options available to Canadians thanks to technology.
Hammering out a deal with postal employees before Sept. 26 will be a critical step in preventing a significant drop in Canada Post’s customer base.
It will then be imperative that those in charge of the service commit to a major revamp – and consider privatization as other countries have done – to help counter the indifference that currently exists toward a former national institution. The status quo is not a recipe for survival.