Canada Post phasing out home delivery

Union official says it’s too early to say how many of Cranbrook and Kimberley’s 30 letter carriers will be affected

Community mailboxes have been the standard for new housing development for decades.

Canada Post plans to  phase out door-to-door delivery of mail in urban areas in a new bid to cut costs, the Crown Corporation announced Wednesday.

Many newer suburban neighbourhoods already have community mailboxes. But Canada Post says the remaining one third of Canadian households that still get home delivery will be switched to community mailboxes or grouped or lobby mailboxes over the next five years.

It cites declining use of postal mail — a billion fewer pieces of mail were delivered last year compared to 2006 — as households shift to online bill payments and other digital communication.

The price of stamps will also go up from 63 to 85 cents each if bought in booklets, or $1 for individual stamps.

It means up to 8,000 fewer postal workers will be needed, which Canada Post says will be shed by attrition, as nearly 15,000 workers are expected to retire or leave voluntarily over the next five years.

“With its current labour costs, Canada Post has a much higher cost structure than its competitors in the private sector have,” Canada Post said in a news release. “This is simply not sustainable.”

The reduced workforce and other changes are expected to save a combined $700 to $900 million per year.

John Bail, national director for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Pacific region, said in Cranbrook and Kimberley there are about 30 letter carriers. He estimated five of those jobs may be on the company’s chopping block, but cautioned that they have no idea.

Bail said he spoke to local upper management on Wednesday and found they had been informed about the plans that morning.

“We have a government in Canada that doesn’t believe in consultation. They just impose things,” Bail said. “We’ve had brochures and everything all shown to us today. This had to be prepared.

“So they waited until parliament dissolved and then they announced that they are going to eliminate door-to-door delivery with no consultation to the public.”

Bail said it is extremely frustrating to work with the Conservative government, and compared it to when former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was closing retail outlets.

“They don’t consult, they’re secretive and they don’t know how to run these companies, these Crown corporations. So they destroy them,” he said. “What they could have done is improve service instead of cutting everything and making it less secure.”

A Conference Board of Canada report last spring found Canada Post would face losses of $1 billion a year by 2020 without major reform.

Reaction has been mixed but one concern being raised is that many more banks of community mailboxes will be vulnerable to mail theft by identity thieves.

There have been ongoing mail theft reports in Metro Vancouver communities that already have the clustered group boxes. Surrey resident Craig Findlay told Black Press the community mailbox in his Fleetwood neighbourhood was broken into repeatedly and says Canada Post must make them more secure before converting the remaining urban neighbourhoods.

“It’s going to be an exercise in futility as far as I’m concerned,” Findlay said.

Findlay said it might be smarter to reduce home delivery to every second or third day, or else put group boxes in publicly accessible indoor areas such as malls, until mail thieves can be thwarted.

Bail said there is hope.

“There is a future to fight for and we intend to do that,” Bail said. “I don’t think the public should just take this sitting down. They should tell their MP that this kind of secrecy and opaque approach is just the wrong thing to do.”

He said concepts such as postal banking, used in many other countries, could be an alternative.

With files from Black Press

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