About two dozen local members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers held a protest outside the Bay Street North federal building Monday to oppose the termination of door-to-door letter carrier delivery in Canada.
Chanting "Stop Harper!" the rally was to raise awareness about Canada Post's decision to phase out urban home delivery over the next five years, replacing it with the community mailbox system currently used in rural areas and many newer subdivisions.
Canada Post's plan means eliminating 6,000 to 8,000 jobs through attrition, as 15,000 employees are set to retire or leave the company, and raising the price of a stamp to 85 cents if bought in bulk.
'They're looking at cities like Hamilton and claiming they're going to set up these community mailboxes in downtown cores, which we think is crazy.'-Mark Platt, president of the local CUPW
That could amount to hundreds of job losses in Hamilton, according to Mark Platt, president of the local CUPW.
"It could be [a couple hundred] based on what they're trying to do because they're looking at cities like Hamilton and claiming they're going to set up these community mailboxes in downtown cores, which we think is crazy," Platt explained.
Sophie Kruk, secretary for the local CUPW and a Hamilton letter carrier for over 30 years, said the community mailbox system isn't feasible for a city like Hamilton.
"I can't even imagine. Take the southwest as an example: the houses are very close together. Very few people even have driveways. Number one: where are you going to put the boxes? You're going to create bottlenecks," she said, adding the job cuts would hurt young people just starting their careers, rather than veterans like herself.
"It leads to more precarious employment and good-paying jobs are important to the economy as a whole."
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The protest coincided with other demonstrations around the country. In Ottawa, more than 1,500 people marched to the Prime Minister’s office across from Parliament Hill to call for other solutions to a projected $1 billion deficit by 2020.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Tom Mulcair pledged to bring the issue to a vote in the House of Commons.
Mulcair says the NDP will use its first opposition day motion to ask MPs to agree that door-to-door mail delivery is a valuable service provided by Canada Post.
The motion, to be introduced by transport critic Olivia Chow on Tuesday, asks the House to "express its opposition to Canada becoming the only country in the G7 without such a service."
Platt said the projected deficit is bad math and that there are lots of ways to save money other than cutting jobs, such as pursuing parcel and priority courier services.
"We find that [deficit prediction] is a bit of a Red Herring," he said, adding Canada Post turned a profit last year.
"Part of this is the government playing a bit of a shell game to try and pay off their deficit because they still get money out of Canada Post."
'No job losses', only attrition, says Canada Post
Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton said they’re continuing to ask for feedback on how they can cut into their deficit and deal with what the government says is a 25-per-cent drop in mail volume over the last five years.
“We’ll continue to talk with Canadians across the country, we’ve announced what we intend to do but we continue that dialogue, we continue to meet with a number of folks with ideas on how we could make adjustments,” he said.
“We know when we move to community mailboxes in some of the more dense urban cores that’s going to pose challenges we haven’t dealt with before.”
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it's been putting forward ideas.
”There’s a vast network of post offices across the country, they should be looking at offering services other parts of the government have discontinued or just aren’t available in the rural communities,” said George Floresco, a national vice president for CUPW.
“It’s a matter of actually putting your mind to it. All the government and Canada Post are doing is looking at cutting jobs and cutting service but charging people more for less.”
Hamilton said the elimination of positions won’t result in any job losses, just roles that won’t be filled as they’re left vacant.
“We’re at the point now where mail is in such a decline that we need to make changes to the business in order to protect the postal service that we all depend on,” he said.
“Canadians are showing through their changing habits and the changing ways they use the mail system they see a future for us, it’s more about parcels. Less mail in the box and more boxes in the mail.”
“This is about jobs for the future,” Floresco countered.
“There’s a lot of people who want to have decent paying, full-time jobs in the future and by getting rid of these jobs it’s just going to hurt the economy and there will be people who will never get these jobs down the road.”
Canada Post has said the first communities that will switch to community mailboxes will be announced in the second half of this year.
The CUPW said it will continue its campaign against the planned changes until the next federal election in 2015.