How times have changed

The Central Voice - - Editorial -

It used to be a na­tional near-cri­sis — now, it’s an ex­per­i­ment in find­ing the best sort of work­around.

A decade or more ago, the threat of a postal strike was big news. Par­lia­ment was al­ways on top of the is­sue, wait­ing in the wings with back-to-work leg­is­la­tion if it looked like postal work­ers were set to walk out.

Then, the econ­omy hung in the bal­ance — now, you have to won­der if we’re ap­proach­ing a point where a postal strike ranks merely as an in­con­ve­nience. Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are mak­ing al­ter­nate plans; some have sent out early the cheques they do send by mail to get ahead of any job ac­tion.

Util­ity, cable and phone providers are con­tact­ing their cus­tomers and set­ting up on­line pay­ment sys­tems, and the list goes on.

The sim­ple truth is that, when hold­outs are forced to try pay­ing bills and com­mu­ni­cat­ing elec­tron­i­cally, they of­ten don’t come back.

They don’t come back be­cause elec­tronic meth­ods are cheaper, faster and eas­ier.

You don’t get dinged for in­ter­est charges on your credit card when, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, it takes seven days — or more — for a first-class en­ve­lope with a cheque to get from St. John’s to Toronto. It’s not nick­named “snail mail” for noth­ing.

Heck, post of­fices aren’t even the best places to pick up in­come tax forms you need any more; of­ten, they sim­ply don’t have them, and you can print forms from the Canada Rev­enue Agency web­site any­way if you don’t want to fill them out on­line.

There are cer­tainly peo­ple who are go­ing to be in­con­ve­nienced in this prov­ince. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is mak­ing al­ter­nate ar­range­ments, say­ing, “If you re­ceive ben­e­fit pay­ments via cheque from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, please con­tact the ap­pli­ca­ble gov­ern­ment depart­ment or agency to find out how you can con­tinue to re­ceive th­ese pay­ments with­out dis­rup­tion.” (If you do fall into that group, by the way, peo­ple who re­ceive in­come sup­port pay­ments via cheque can call the fol­low­ing num­bers: on the Avalon, 1-877-729-7888; in cen­tral, 1-888-632-4555; in western New­found­land, 1-866-417-4753; and in Labrador, 1-866-449-3144. Those re­ceiv­ing Em­ploy­ment and Train­ing Pro­grams pay­ments via cheque can call 1-800-563-6600.)

The other part of the gov­ern­ment’s mes­sage? “Pay­ments nor­mally is­sued via di­rect de­posit will not be af­fected.”

And those who are get­ting di­rect de­posit? Chances are, they won’t want the in­con­ve­nience of cash­ing a cheque again.

It’s al­most as though the providers of your lan­d­line home phone were to sud­denly an­nounce they were go­ing on strike; your re­sponse might well be, “I’ve got my cell­phone, and I hardly ever pick up the lan­d­line any­way.”

It can’t be some­thing that postal work­ers aren’t aware of: 95 per cent voted in favour of strike ac­tion. You can bet most of them hope that it doesn’t come to that.

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