Postal workers overwhelmed by crushing Christmas season

Postal workers have been so swamped with deliveries from online purchases this holiday season that some are working from dawn to dusk or longer, according to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Now that it's back at the bargaining table, the union is asking for workload adjustments.

Canada Post has delivered 1 million parcels a day since mid November

Canada Post workers delivered one million packages a day 73 times in 2017. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Like many Christmas shoppers, an Ottawa mother of three thought she'd save some time by ordering her children's presents online.

But Kristen Labelle says Canada Post didn't deliver a Tickle Me Elmo doll for her two-year-old son until Dec. 27.

"I opened the door and there was the package," said Labelle. "The mailman was still delivering his normal mail that would have come at 1 p.m. at 9:40 last night. I felt really bad for him that he was still working."

Canada Post workers have been so inundated with packages from online shoppers this year that some are working from dawn to dusk or longer, according to the Mike Palecek, the national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. 

"Our members across the country are telling us they're receiving way more parcels than their routes are structured for and being asked to solve that problem themselves, mostly by working overtime," said Palecek. "There is more work being put on our shoulders everyday."

Its workers delivered one million parcels a day since Nov. 14, according to company officials.

According to Palecek, these mounting workloads will have to be dealt with during the current round of bargaining between CUPW and Canada Post.
Blake Labelle, 2, opens a Tickle Me Elmo that his mother rushed out to buy on Christmas Eve after her parcel from Canada Post didn't arrive on time. (Submitted)

A million parcels a day delivered 73 times this year

Canada Post projects this holiday season could smash the record books with a 20 per cent increase in deliveries compared to last year.

The Crown corporation hit one million parcel deliveries in a day for the first time in 2012. This year, by Dec. 22, it delivered a million parcels a day more than 73 times. To put that in perspective, Canada Post said Canadians received more than twice as many parcels this holiday season than they did just five years ago.

Canada Post wouldn't say how many packages were not delivered in time for Christmas. It did say, that they added an extra 3,000 staff and 1,000 trucks to the network amid the holiday mail crush. It also added weekend deliveries and dropped off packages on Dec. 23, a Saturday, to make sure presents were delivered in time for Christmas. 

Back at the bargaining table

The collective agreement for rural and suburban mail carriers expires in a few days. The urban operations agreement expires at the end of January. 

The union wants a better way of predicting how many parcels postal workers are expected to deliver. It also wants realistic targets for how long each route should take to complete.

It's a longstanding issue which is now being "exacerbated" by the increase in online shopping, according to Palecek.

According to Canadian Union of Postal Workers national president Mike Palecek, “We’re being asked to work harder, longer hours. Which is always difficult, but particularly around Christmas time because we know people are counting on those parcels.” (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"We have issues with projecting the number of parcels that a letter carrier is supposed to get on a given day," he said. "So you can imagine if your route is built so that you're supposed to have 20 parcels a day but then you end up getting 100 parcels every day in addition to all your other duties, that places an extra burden on our members."

As for Labelle, when Canada Post didn't drop off her package by Christmas Eve, she rushed out to the store to get it herself. She's now delivering her extra Tickle Me Elmo doll back to the store in person. 

"It's more annoying than anything," she said.