Post office issues go well beyond home delivery
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Post office issues go well beyond home delivery

If you’re one of those people still receiving mail at your door, chances are you want to keep that service. Canada Post has other ideas, planning to phase out home delivery over the next five years for the third of households that still have a use for their mailboxes.

Poll results released this week show 60 per cent of respondents oppose the post office’s plans to replace door-to-door delivery with a community mailbox. The survey of some 1,500 people last month will have swept up people currently enjoying the communal boxes that are part of all new subdivisions. While some are fine with the changes, others yearn for the postal services of the past.

Trouble is, the volume of mail continues to decline, leading to losses the corporation says need to be countered by cuts in services. Earlier this month, Canada Post reported an operating loss of $193 million for 2013, with what it calls transaction mail volumes falling by 5.3 per cent. The downward trend has been constant since 2007.

The parcel business, on the other hand, has continued to increase, buoyed by online shopping. In 2013, Canada Post employees delivered 5 million more parcels than in 2012, boosting revenues by $93 million. Annual revenues from top e-commerce customers increased 29 per cent, the corporation reports.

Packages will continue to be delivered to customers’ doors.

With its current labour costs, Canada Post argues it has a much higher cost structure than its competitors in the private sector, a situation it calls unsustainable. The corporation expects nearly 15,000 employees to retire or leave the company over the next five years, more than enough, it says, to allow for the reduction of between 6,000 and 8,000 positions, mainly through attrition.

Not surprisingly, that model doesn’t cut it for the unions representing postal workers. The poll released this week was commissioned by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which adds a grain of a salt to the findings (just as the sponsor should be taken into account with every survey).

While much less militant than in the past, the postal unions have made few friends over the years. With animosity towards public sector unions growing, postal workers will have trouble finding sympathy for their plight, even among those who’d like to keep their home delivery service intact.

The union notes that, to date, 61 municipalities – representing close to 30 per cent of the population  – have passed resolutions or sent letters in support of door-to-door delivery or opposing the cuts. As well, six municipal bodies or organizations have voiced concerns, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus, representing 22 of the largest cities in Canada and 65 per cent of the country’s population.

At this point, however, Canadians seem resigned to the changes. Demographics are not in the workers’ favour, as many younger people have grown up with community mailboxes. More to the point, the younger generations simply don’t user letter mail – its existence is irrelevant to them. That they don’t write letters goes without saying, but electronic replacements also extend to bills, cheques and a host of other paperwork that used to be the mainstay of letter carriers. Today, all of that is largely immaterial.

Canada Post’s letter delivery isn’t helped by the large hikes in the cost of stamps. Each increase makes the price tag of electronic alternatives – free – that much more appealing.

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