Customers, businesses hit by Canada Post delays at Mississauga plant
Outbreak of COVID-19 at Gateway East facility saw 273 cases, 1 employee death
When Naomi Wise sent a package through Canada Post from Toronto to California in January, she was told the process would take between four to seven days to complete.
She had sent a broken computer piece belonging to her son to be repaired and shipped back to her.
One week went by, and then another. After three weeks of waiting, Wise called the Crown corporation only to find out that her package had never even left the city.
"We went on the Canada Post website and we saw that it went from Toronto to Mississauga, and then it kind of never left," she said. "So it's like, what the hell is going on?"
On Jan. 23, just one day after Wise put the package in the mail, Canada Post confirmed it temporarily shut down afternoon shifts at its Gateway East facility in Mississauga due to an outbreak of COVID-19, causing delays and disturbances that have heavily impacted customers and local business owners.
"Given the significance of the Gateway facility, we are evaluating and adapting our existing contingency plans to manage the impact on customers," Canada Post said in an online statement on Jan. 23, announcing the shift shut down on the same day that 350 employees at the plant were told to go into isolation for 14 days.
As of Jan. 30, Canada Post said 273 people who worked at the plant had tested positive since the beginning of the year, and one employee had died.
Business owner says one transaction takes one month
Meanwhile, some business owners received notice of the closure through their business accounts, and many let customers know through social media.
Stephanie Galway, owner of the Parrot Hotel and Shop, said she tries to tell her customers to plan ahead as the delays and disruptions continue.
"Providing products that have kind of a niche market, you can't necessarily go to a store to pick up these items," she said of her online parrot store business that sells essentials like food, toys and treats.
Galway said she usually ships 70 to 80 per cent of her orders through Canada Post. Now, it's less than 60 per cent.
"I would say a lot more of my customers are choosing UPS as an option just because of the unknown, I guess, with the shipping time," she said.
Meanwhile, some business owners say shipping to customers is only part of the problem.
Alex Nakatsu, a coordinator for a Toronto-based seller of collectable games and toys called Madhaus Toys, said shipping out to customers hasn't been impacted as much as the products coming in.
"Some of the products that we bring in, they do go through Canada Post and they do go through the Mississauga plant. They have been delayed two to three weeks," he said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
That creates a delay of nearly a month for every transaction, he says.
Nakatsu said he's also had to hold some orders due to other couriers' costs.
"It is quite frustrating, to be honest, for certain orders. We were asked by our customers if we could go through other sources, other shipping companies, and for some of them we did. Others, it became a bit more cost prohibitive to do so."
Mississauga plant resumes regular three-shift schedule
Over the weekend, the Crown corporation told CBC Toronto that on-site testing was complete for employees and processing operations at the Gateway East facility resumed to their regular three-shift schedule on Feb. 7.
"We are seeing progress on managing volumes, though customers are being advised they may experience delays with their parcels as we follow our contingency plans," said Phil Legault, a spokesperson for Canada Post.
Canada Post didn't say if their facility was still in the midst of an outbreak or not. They also wouldn't give a precise figure on the number of cases seen at the facility since the onset.
For Peel Public Health's part, a spokesperson said they "cannot provide details of an active investigation that have not been made public by the employer."
'Really, really unprofessional', customer says
In the end, Nakatsu said the customers' response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"They really appreciated that we were upfront about it and we were open with them," he said.
That's something Wise said she wanted from Canada Post.
"The fact that they didn't notify me, I find really, really unprofessional," she said. "If there's a problem, they need to send an email: 'There's a delay, we've had an outbreak.' I need to know that my package has been delayed. I had no idea," she said.
When Wise asked Canada Post if she could simply pick up her package, they told her that wasn't allowed.
"The fact that there wasn't any planning in place; there's no indication at all when it'll be sent. I just find that really not OK."
With files from Jessica Ng