Why Canada Post still mat­ters

There is a still a need for old-fash­ioned ser­vice

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

The cheque is in the mail, ex­tra gravy with your fries, more salt for your steak, keep those cards and let­ters com­ing in. All of the above ex­pres­sions are be­com­ing as ob­so­lete as TV sets with “rab­bit ears,” eight track tapes and disco balls. Stacks of mail in the old-fash­ioned road­side let­ter re­cep­ta­cle are also rare sights these days, even when Canada Post is not backed up by labour un­rest.

Another se­ries of strikes by Cana­dian Union of Postal Work­ers has ended, but “de­liv­er­ies will be de­layed dur­ing the peak hol­i­day sea­son and into Jan­uary 2019,” Canada Post re­ported last week.

The big clogs in the sys­tem are caused by the high vol­umes of Christ­mas pur­chases while let­ter mail “should be cleared and de­liv­er­ies cur­rent be­fore De­cem­ber 25.” Who cares? Good ques­tion. Here’s another com­pelling query: How of­ten do you use the con­ven­tional snail mail?

Tech­nol­ogy and past postal strikes have re­duced cit­i­zens’ and busi­nesses’ reliance on Canada Post.

In the av­er­age house­hold, tra­di­tional ser­vice, with a hard copy be­ing de­liv­ered into a real box, has be­come a dis­tant mem­ory. Elec­tronic fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions and e-com­merce, de­spite their in­her­ent se­cu­rity risks, have be­come rou­tine.

Six years ago the fed­eral gov­ern­ment did away with cheques in favour of di­rect de­posit.

The cost to pro­duce a cheque then was about 82 cents while a di­rect de­posit pay­ment cost about 13 cents. Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments have fol­lowed suit, mov­ing away from pa­per to elec­tronic pay­ments.

At one time, when peo­ple used Canada Post to send Christ­mas cards and pack­ages, postal strife dur­ing the sea­son of peace and good will were quite com­mon. With ev­ery ser­vice in­ter­rup­tion, busi­ness peo­ple de­vised new ways to re­duce their de­pen­dence on an un­re­li­able ser­vice.

Although the courier busi­ness has be­come a vi­able al­ter­na­tive, many busi­nesses still use Canada Post be­cause there is not yet a cost-ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive to the Crown cor­po­ra­tion.

Thus, any dis­rup­tion in the vi­tal, yet im­per­fect, postal ser­vice can cre­ate ma­jor prob­lems for nu­mer­ous small en­trepreneurs.

That is why many were cheer­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to force strik­ing CUPW mem­bers to go back to work.

“As Canada Post works to re­duce the back­logs, which rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant op­er­a­tional chal­lenge, the health and safety of our em­ploy­ees will re­main our high­est pri­or­ity,” the cor­po­ra­tion has said.

The guf­faws you hear come from union peo­ple who claim the em­ployer cares not a whit about the wel­fare of its em­ploy­ees.

“From now un­til the hol­i­days, there will be 315 dis­abling in­juries among postal work­ers, ru­ral and sub­ur­ban postal work­ers will work 250,000 hours with­out pay, and ur­ban postal work­ers will work thou­sands of hours of forced over­time, all be­cause the gov­ern­ment has not re­spected these work­ers’ con­sti­tu­tional rights,” stated On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Labour Pres­i­dent Chris Buck­ley.

CUPW mem­bers “suf­fer the most in­juries of any pro­fes­sion, are be­ing forced to work long hours of over­time, and face pay in­equal­i­ties that should not be tol­er­ated in any work­place,” he com­plained.

It is true that it is dif­fi­cult to walk a kilo­me­tre in the shoes of a let­ter car­rier, par­tic­u­larly when most of the cargo con­sists of parcels. Ru­ral de­liv­ery peo­ple face chal­lenges as well. When the long hours and wear and tear on ve­hi­cles are cal­cu­lated, the con­trac­tors who bring the mail to coun­try folks are barely break­ing even.

“The right to strike is en­shrined in the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms. All Cana­di­ans should be con­cerned by the ease with which the gov­ern­ment has stepped in to ig­nore work­ers’ rights and end this job ac­tion,” cau­tioned Mr. Buck­ley. OK, so in­di­vid­ual con­sti­tu­tional rights have been un­der­mined. But a per­son can worry about ero­sion of rights and still de­mand that Christ­mas presents ar­rive be­fore De­cem­ber 25.

While CUPW mem­bers were re­turn­ing to their jobs, Canada Post re­ported a $94 mil­lion loss in the third quar­ter, “mainly due to the costs of im­ple­ment­ing the fi­nal pay eq­uity rul­ing, which will ad­just how much de­liv­ery em­ploy­ees in sub­ur­ban and ru­ral Canada are paid.”

If not for the pay eq­uity costs re­lated to prior years, the Cor­po­ra­tion would have re­ported a small profit be­fore tax for the first three quar­ters of 2018. The im­pact of pay eq­uity and on­go­ing ro­tat­ing strikes are ma­jor fac­tors in the Cor­po­ra­tion ex­pect­ing to end 2018 with a loss.

Canada Post ex­pects pay eq­uity will cost ap­prox­i­mately $550 mil­lion by the end of 2018, and will cost ap­prox­i­mately $140 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

But at the same time, Canada Post re­mains the coun­try's lead­ing par­cel de­liv­ery com­pany; parcels rev­enue in­creased by $106 mil­lion or 21.2 per cent in the third quar­ter, and vol­umes in­creased by 14 mil­lion pieces or 23.3 per cent com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2017.

Do­mes­tic parcels, the largest prod­uct cat­e­gory, con­tin­ued to grow, as rev­enue in­creased by $92 mil­lion or 25.7 per cent and vol­umes grew by seven mil­lion pieces or 18.1 per cent in the third quar­ter.

The postal sys­tem is still around be­cause of the money it makes on de­liv­er­ing on­line pur­chases.

Mean­while, the vol­ume of “Trans­ac­tion Mail,” com­prised of let­ters, bills and state­ments, con­tin­ues to plunge.

These num­bers de­creased by 35 mil­lion pieces or 4.6 per cent in the third quar­ter and rev­enue de­creased by $24 mil­lion or 3.6 per cent, com­pared to the third quar­ter of 2017.

In the first three quar­ters of 2018, Trans­ac­tion Mail vol­umes de­creased by 119 mil­lion pieces or 4.9 per cent and rev­enue de­creased by $103 mil­lion or 4.6 per cent, com­pared to the same pe­riod a year ear­lier.

“The on­go­ing de­cline in mail vol­umes, due to the use of dig­i­tal al­ter­na­tives, re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for the Cor­po­ra­tion,” Canada Post points out.

Like many other things in life, postal ser­vice has changed dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent years. It seems that the demise of Canada Post is not ex­actly in­evitable. And that is good news for those who still need a tra­di­tional and much ma­ligned in­sti­tu­tion.

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