Canada Post workers in Kamloops wore black armbands to work on Tuesday to bring attention to what they say is the local service's "death by a thousand cuts."
The armbands were part of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' day of action, which spread across Canada in conjunction with the Crown corporation's 31st anniversary, to address increasing distress over changes in letter mail delivery.
The union learned last week that letter sorting for Kamloops and outlying areas usually done at the Canada Post centre on Dalhousie Drive will go to Vancouver beginning Nov. 4.
Bob Mitchell, local CUPW president, said the change will result in a reduction in service. Letters travelling between two points in Kamloops that used to take one day will take four days, said Mitchell.
That means bills may go into arrears and small businesses will have to wait longer for invoice payments, he said, adding that problems will be felt most acutely around Christmas, especially if the Coquihalla Highway creates challenges.
He said a resulting loss of local jobs will look like attrition rather than layoffs, but it will hit the Kamloops economy nonetheless.
Canada Post's cuts since the Conservatives were elected six years ago already add up to a $2 million a year loss to the local economy, said Mitchell.
"There's already been seven jobs deleted leading up to this announcement," he said. "It's slowly but surely sucking the life out of the Kamloops mail processing plant."
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said she's been assured that there will be no Canada Post jobs lost in Kamloops. She said the Vancouver mail sorting centre will get new equipment that will improve mail delivery in the city.
But just the possibility of job loss had Kamloops City council alarmed.
Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to write Canada Post for clarification about the fate of the mail sorting facility.
Mayor Peter Milobar said the impact isn't just in lost jobs, but also on businesses having to wait longer for their mail, especially if it's being mailed locally.
"This has the potential to drag things out," he said, adding there would also be an environmental impact if trucks are shipping mail from Kamloops down to Vancouver and then bringing it back again.
Since Tuesday was the first time he and other council members had heard about the changes, council wanted to get more information about the situation before taking other action.
"We haven't even been told formally this is happening," the mayor said. "It can't hurt to ask. It can't hurt to state our opinion."
Canada Post spokesperson John Caines said job attrition "has nothing to do" with moving mail processing to Vancouver.
"If we do have openings that aren't being refilled we'll have those discussions with the union at that time," he said. "But right now anybody who's working in Kamloops will not be affected by this change."
In terms of the level of service, Caines said 80 per cent of Kamloops mail is already processed in Vancouver.
"It'll be sorted and back in Kamloops in plenty of time for delivery standards (of two days)," he said. "There will be no impact in Kamloops. It'll be invisible actually."
He said the move is necessary to address the large scale mail volume decline, which is in its sixth consecutive year as more and more Canadians lean towards electronic alternatives.
He added there's "absolutely" a commitment to retaining the mail system as a Crown corporation.
— with files from Jason Hewlett and Michele Young