Hundreds of postal workers and supporters rallied in downtown Ottawa Sunday afternoon, saying there have to be better ways to correct Canada Post’s finances without stopping urban door-to-door delivery and eliminating thousands of jobs.
Canada Post announced in December it will phase out urban home delivery over the next five years, replacing it with the community mailbox system currently used in rural areas.
They also said they’ll be eliminating 6,000 to 8,000 jobs through attrition, as 15,000 employees are set to retire or leave the company, and raised the price of a stamp to 85 cents if bought in bulk.
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More than 1,500 people marched from Ottawa’s Dundonald Park to the Prime Minister’s office across from Parliament Hill to call for other solutions to a projected $1 billion deficit by 2020.
“I’m flabbergasted, we’re reducing services to hard-working, tax-paying Canadians which I think is just wrong,” said Enrico Carfagnini, a Montreal-based employee who said he’s been carrying letters for 11 years.
“As a letter carrier, I enjoy being in the fabric of a community. People may think it’s very little but I can advise people if their dog has escaped, if they’ve left their keys in their door, if they’re developing a flat tire in their car in their driveway.
"These are all very small things but I think things that people appreciate.”
”I don’t normally come out [to protest] but I feel these changes are terrible,” said Brian Hardy, who’s been a letter carrier with Canada Post for 28 years.
“What [Canada Post CEO Deepak] Chopra wants to do is slit Canada Post’s throat by raising the price of the stamp.”
'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.”
'Snow and ice' a problem
Much of the concern about the move to community mailboxes in urban areas was around accessibility issues on Sunday.
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“I’ll lend my wheelchair to the people at Canada Post … just do 50 feet with a wheelchair during the winter, I can’t do two feet. It’s too cold with snow and ice,” said Marie-Claude Desrosiers of Terrebonne, Que.
“At home, my mailbox is 20 feet from my door but during winter I can’t do it myself because snow and ice [makes] it too cold for me. My boyfriend has to go get them all.”
Privacy was also brought up, as thousands of incidents have been reported at community boxes in western Canada.
“One day I went to get the post and all three of the sections of the superbox were opened to the weather, unlocked and had letters in every single slot,” said Ottawa’s Heather Stetcher of an incident three years ago.
“What was delivered to me that day? My brand new bank card. That was a Monday. What had been delivered on Friday? My several-hundred-dollar tax refund cheque.
“If the refund cheque had been delivered one post office day later, I would have had my identity and money stolen.”
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.