Friday April 18, 2014

Door-to-door will soon be no more

Postal workers face job losses; advocates say seniors will become more isolated
Keith Anderson

Letter carrier Kelly Horncastle delivers the mail door-to-door Wednesday in Sahali during the snowfall.

Canada Post's plan to phase out home delivery over the next five years will cut the ranks of local letter carriers in half and further isolate seniors from society.

So say critics of the postal service's abrupt announcement Wednesday that it also intends to slash as many as 8,000 jobs and dramatically increase the price of stamps.

Canada Post said it will start making the changes next year, with the first neighbourhoods being converted to community mailboxes in mid-2014.

The changes will not impact delivery to rural areas as community mailboxes are already in use or residents pick up mail at a post office box.

The news riled Kamloops posties, who fear half of 80 letter carrier positions will disappear in favour of more community mailboxes by the time Canada Post's five-point cost-cutting plan is complete.

A local seniors' advocate believes the plan will further isolate the elderly. Suzan Goguen, executive director of Oncore Central Services, said maybe one per cent of her 650 clients use email. The majority still rely on door-to-door delivery to pay bills and communicate.

"It will isolate them even more from the community. A lot of the seniors are already isolated, the ones we deal with anyway. This will just exacerbate that," Goguen told The Daily News.

Her organization is also impacted, as phone and snail mail are utilized most when communicating with clients.

Community mailboxes require seniors with mobility issues to rely on someone else to collect the mail for them, she said. Those who use a cane or walker put themselves at risk of falling on ice or snow in the winter.

"I think it's going to be a hardship for many seniors," said Goguen. "This is going to force very vulnerable seniors outside."

The move will also cut local jobs and force those who are left to work longer and harder, said Rich Worthy, a letter carrier for 25 years.

He said the mood was bleak when the news broke Wednesday morning. People are already working 10- and 12-hour days delivering mail because the number of routes was cut to save money.

"It seems like we're under attack," said Worthy.

Canada Post might suggest that letter volumes are down, but carriers are delivering more parcels than ever, he said.

"We all see that as the future of Canada Post, delivering the parcels that are generated from (Internet) technology. Most people here (in Kamloops) were hoping Canada Post would embrace the new technology."

Kamloops-Thompson Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said parcel delivery is a service Canada Post offers, but the reality is the company still projects a $1-billion loss by 2020.

Canadians are sending fewer letters than ever, leaving Canada Post with no choice but to adapt to a significantly changing world in terms of mail volume, said McLeod.

"If you look at how you communicate with friends and family, how you pay your bills, there's a significant decrease in letter volume," she said.

McLeod said door-to-door service costs $269 annually, while community boxes are $117. By moving to community boxes, the company looks to save $400 million to $500 million a year.

Details of the five-phase plan will be worked out in 2014. But McLeod said Canada Post anticipates 15,000 staff will retire during the next half decade, so those 8,000 jobs will be lost through attrition.

Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 758 president Bob Mitchell doesn't understand how a company can project a loss when annual reports from the last five years show a $500-million profit.

"My estimate is Canada Post will break even or come to a small profit this year," he said.

Mitchell said cuts in service are unnecessary and he can't help but feel this is an effort to weaken or break the union.

Canada Post also plans to increase the price of a stamp by 35 per cent to 85 cents when purchased in a booklet, starting on March 31. Stamps that are purchased individually will cost $1 each.

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Courtney Romeo: I have door-to-door service. All our bills are online, so it’s not really important for our home. It would be an absolute shame if they stopped delivery to businesses.

Don Fisher: I use a community box, so it won’t have any impact on me whatsoever. I don’t have a problem picking up mail at a group box. I don’t see why anyone else would.

Mardi Gammie: It has to be this way. They can’t afford to keep doing door-to-door delivery. If we still want to have some sort of postal service they need to figure out a way to do it right?

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