U of S shutters on-campus post office, jobs lost as result

In a statement sent to CBC from George Foufas, director of consumer services, he said the decision was not an easy one for the U of S.

CUPE says closure 'devastating' to employees, will hurt university as a whole

The University of Saskatchewan has shuttered its on-campus post office resulting in job losses for three people according to information from the school. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Three people have lost their jobs and the University of Saskatchewan has lost what many considered an "indispensable" service as the school shuttered its on-campus post office on Nov. 1.

Craig Hannah, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 1975, which represents workers at the U of S, said the closure was "devastating" for the people who lost their jobs, but said the loss goes beyond his members.

"It affects all ... students. It affects faculty. It affects staff and everybody here on campus that needed and used the post office, not just once-in-while, but daily, especially for our international students who use that quite often."

Information from the University of Saskatchewan indicated the three employees involved in the closure are "working through their options in the collective agreement."

In a statement sent to CBC from George Foufas, the school's director of consumer services, he said the decision was not taken lightly.

George Foufas, Director of Consumer Services at the U of S, says the decision to close the post office on campus was made carefully and with consideration to students, faculty and staff. (CBC News)

"The decision to close this location was made carefully and with consideration to students, faculty and staff," he said. "Unfortunately, the cost of operating the Canada Post location is no longer fiscally feasible for the university."

He noted the campus community "will still have access to campus mail, and department-related shipping services will be made available through the Bookstore." Items shipped to the university will be managed through campus mail services and the school is now asking staff and faculty to use their departmental addresses.

A petition to save the post office, started in October, is still gaining signatures.

Joanne Leow, an assistant professor at the U of S who started the petition, echoed Hannah in saying it's the school's 3,000 international students, and those with mobility issues, who will be affected the most.

"International students who used the post office to keep in touch with family and friends, to send international mail and parcels, and registered post will be particularly affected," she said in an email. 
"Quite a number of these students rely on public transport to get around and the nearest post office now will not be within walkable distance," she said. "I think for these students, having a post office on campus was an essential service that catered to their well-being and sense of connection to far-flung relations." 

 She said the service was also important as they navigated things like study permit applications and other forms of bureaucracy that require postal services.

Leow also said the post office helped her to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues from around the world. 

"That material connection allows for many of us to feel less isolated in our scholarship and everyday lives," she said. 

She said the solution proposed by the University is not a perfect substitute, as the post office provided other services beyond shipping, alongside "knowledgeable and trained employees."

More than 360 people have put their support behind keeping the post office open and the list appears to include at least three department heads, including the department head of psychology Gordon Sarty, the head of political studies Loleen Berdahl and head of linguistics Olga Lovick.

Regan Ratt-Misponas, president of the University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU), said while he has received a "couple of e-mails" from students expressing concern, he said there hasn't been a large number of people coming forward.

"We'd be happy to have conversations with students that this matter might directly impact, including those who have used the service before," he said. 

"I'm happy to sit with individuals who would like to talk about the closure of this and I think our executive team would be happy to have a conversation with those folks," he said.

Craig Hannah, president of the Local CUPE 1975, says the closure of the post office will come to be a decision the University of Saskatchewan will regret. (Bridget Yard/ CBC)

Asked for response to the University's reasoning behind the closure, Hannah said sometimes, people need to look beyond their bottom line. 

"Sometimes you have to go above and beyond where it might not be making you a few extra dollars, is it needed? Was it needed? Absolutely it was and I think it's going to hurt the university."

However, the U of S notes students will still have access to mail service on site.

"In an effort to offer continued convenience to our students, staff and faculty, personal mail can be posted in the mailbox located outside of Place Riel, and stamps, envelopes and other mailing materials will be available through the Bookstore."


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