Canada Post is cutting mail service to three days per week, as the corporation and its union continue to negotiate a new contract.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post seem to be very far apart in their negotiations for a new contract, as both sides insist the other is being unreasonable.
Jon Hamilton, a spokesperson for Canada Post, said they had no choice but to reduce service, because postal volumes are way down.
“We have seen the amount of mail in the system drop by up to 50 per cent on some days and we have had to take steps to manage our costs,” he said. “We can’t keep our costs the same while our revenues and our volumes drop.”
The latest cost-cutting measure comes after Canada Post ended all overtime and cancelled shifts for casual employees. CUPW has been running a series of rotating strikes across the country, with a different location each day.
Hamilton said that is scaring consumers who are not sending the same volume of mail.
Bev Ray, president of the Edmonton CUPW chapter, said the reduced mail volumes Canada Post is talking about don’t line up with what carriers are seeing.
“The letter carriers are saying the volumes are essentially normal to what we would have this time of year,” she said. “There is enough mail in the system to continue to provide five-day a week mail delivery.”
The two sides have cleared up many issues, but remain divided over staffing levels, a new two-tiered wage structure and modernization plan.
Hamilton said the problem with the union’s demand is that they are all trying to add costs, when mail volumes are dropping at a time when digital communication is rising.
“The union has no interest in talking about anything that reduces costs to the company. They seem to want to pretend the Internet doesn’t exist,” he said. “They still have some 50 demands on the table that would add new positions to the payroll or simply add costs.”
Ray disputes the idea the union’s demands are all about raising costs and said Canada Post hasn’t been straightforward with their numbers.
She said the union has offered to use funds from a profit sharing program to ensure the pension plan solvency and has made other suggestions to improve the system.
The dispute is about more than postal worker concerns but about making a stronger system for customers, she said.
“There is far more at stake here that is going to impact not just the 50,000 workers at Canada Post. It will have an impact on everyone in this country.”
Hamilton said the company has to think long-term and would encourage the union to do the same.
“Once you get past the finish line of retirement you are not scot-free, you need a secure company to be able to pay the pension.”
The rotating strikes hit the Capital region on Wednesday. Ray said the public understands what the union is fighting for and they got generally supportive responses.
The union remains in a legal strike position and could expand the rotating strikes to a full walkout, but Ray said they are eager to avoid that.
Hamilton said the company would continue to evaluate the situation, but further service reductions were possible. The three-day-a-week schedule does not affect post office hours, parcel delivery or mail pickup. Rural routes, which are covered under a different union, are also unlikely to be affected.