Canada Post plans on doing things differently in 2014, starting with phasing out home delivery of mail.
Along with switching everyone over to community mailboxes, Canada Post plans to cut 6,000 to 8,000 jobs, open more franchise post office locations and hike the price of stamps, with the price for an individual stamp rising to a dollar.
It’s all part of a plan to return the Crown corporation to financial sustainability by 2019, addressing its decreasing revenues and increasing losses, which were $73 million in this fiscal year’s third quarter compared to the same quarter in 2012, according to their own financial data.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers was quick to respond, saying that rather than saving Canada Post, the changes would be the end of an era.
“We are extremely concerned that these changes will send Canada Post into a downward spiral,” said Denis Lemelin, CUPW National President. “Furthermore, the skyrocketing stamp prices will make the postal service inaccessible to many people.”
Barb Perry, president of the local Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said the first she heard of the plan was in an email Wednesday morning directing her to remove all permanent stamps from sale in advance of the price rise, effectively preventing customers from stocking up on lower priced stamps.
The price of a single stamp rises to one dollar, up from 63 cents, on March 31. If purchased as a pack, stamps will cost 85 cents each.
Permanent stamps — those without a price printed on them — were introduced in 2006, allowing customers to purchase stamps that would retain their value through price changes.
Perry is also concerned the restructuring might mean the closure or reduction of services at the Penticton Canada Post outlet.
“They want to pretty well close every corporate office there is, because they say it costs them too much money. Unfortunately, they are also going to lose all the people with knowledge if they do that,” said Perry, pointing out that franchise offices are often only staffed part time, or not by dedicated postal employees.
“We really make an effort to give our customers the best bang for our buck. We will make suggestions that it might be better if you mail it this way or that way,” said Perry. According to Canada Post, the average age of their workforce is 48 years, and they expect 15,000 workers to retire over the next five years, leaving plenty of room to absorb the 6,000 to 8,000 job cut through attrition. But losing letter carriers may have other consequences than just customers having to walk for their mail. That will be a hardship for many, Perry said, like a blind customer who had recently called the post office.
“She needed to have a redelivery because she couldn’t get out. It’s the same thing for people that are housebound. How are they going to get their services?” said Perry. And people forget, she said, how often the letter carrier is an extra set of eyes on a neighbourhood.
“When the mail is piling up or they haven’t seen someone around — especially with the senior population here — they let the police know that maybe someone should check on them, there is something wrong here.”
According to a Canada Post release, about a third of Canadians still get their mail delivered to their door, but by switching to community mailboxes, the corporation will save up to $500 million annually. Raising the price of stamps and introducing a tiered pricing scheme will increase revenues by $150 to $200 million and the plan to “streamline operations” and increase reliance on franchise post offices will save up to another $200 million per year.
“Where many postal operators are responding to a changing postal business with innovation, Canada Post is relying on cuts and rate increases,” said Lemelin.