Public Values

Postal employees being set up to be "problem" in Canada Post challenges

Corporation wants tories to reassess pledge to maintain moritorium on rural closures.

Canada Post letter carrier working after 1998 ice stormby Denis Lemelin

Canada Post is not being sold to the private sector just yet, but the Crown corporation is in the midst of selling the public on its view of today and its vision for the future. This vision includes some privatization and more post office closures.

In recent months, Canada Post has been featured in news stories that paint a picture of a post office in need of a major tune up. The corporation has been telling anyone who will listen that volumes and revenues are down, in part, due to the recession. According to senior management, business is difficult. The post office faces increased competition from electronic communication and its machines and plants need to be upgraded and repaired.

Not to worry, Canada Post says it has a plan to deal with its challenges. The problem is it needs the federal government's support to fully succeed.

For a start, the corporation is modernizing our post office by investing $2.5 billion in new plants, vehicles, equipment and other items. It expects to save millions annually from modernization, largely through productivity gains that pave the way for management to eliminate thousands of jobs in communities across the country. It is also making cuts to service (eg. closing post offices, removing rural home delivery) and argues that it must do much more to reduce operating costs. This is where the government comes in.

The corporation wants the federal government to reconsider its moratorium on rural post office closures, even though the Conservatives recently announced they would be maintaining this moratorium.

  "Instead of simply asking "How do we revamp the post office?" the union thinks senior postal managers should be asking "What is the best way to keep our universal, financially-sound, service-oriented public post office?""

Canada Post has also asked the Conservatives to approve an employee share ownership plan. The corporation believes workers would be more engaged and productive if they owned shares. It ignores the fact that such a move would partially privatize Canada Post. If shares are sold or given to anyone, even employees, our post office would be expected to make profits to satisfy shareholders. Its focus would be profits, not providing service to the public.

For the record, the corporation is not opposed to deregulating our post office either, but it would like to modernize first. A recent review of Canada Post found there is virtually no support for postal deregulation.

Canada Post has also asked the government to appoint a third party to review its contract with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). It wants this person to identify changes that would make the contract more "competitive", which is code for cutting labour costs. It wants the government to show support for these changes.

It appears that postal workers are being set up to be one of the problems that must be solved if Canada Post is to meet future challenges. In fact, CUPW members have worked hard at improving postal service and being part of the solution to post office problems.

CUPW understands that our public post office faces challenges but it has a different view of what they are and a different vision of how to meet them.

Instead of simply asking "How do we revamp the post office?" the union thinks senior postal managers should be asking "What is the best way to keep our universal, financially-sound, service-oriented public post office?"

A few suggestions for a better postal future follow:

1) Add revenue-generating banking services to postal outlets in communities that do not have banks.

2) Get the government to improve Canada Post’s financial future by not reintroducing Bill C-44. Thankfully, Bill C-44 died when Parliament was prorogued. This bill would have partially deregulated our post office by removing international letters from Canada Post's exclusive privilege to handle letters. It is the exclusive privilege that allows our post office to generate the money it needs to provide postal service to everyone, no matter where they live.

3) Urge the government to reject an employee share ownership program at Canada Post.

4) Urge the government to stop taking dividends from Canada Post. The money the government siphons off in dividends should be invested in preserving and improving public postal service. The government waived dividends for 2008. This is a good start.

5) Don’t impose solutions on postal unions and their members. Imposed solutions usually fail to solve underlying problems. Let free collective bargaining work.

6) Insist that Canada Post use the money it saves from modernizing our post office to preserve jobs, keep public post offices open, continue rural mail box delivery, extend door-to-door delivery and take other measures that allow the public and postal workers to share in the benefits of modernization.

Any vision of our public post office’s future should be good for the public, not sell it short.

Denis Lemelin is president of CUPW, representing 54,000 members who work in large and small communities from Twillingate, Newfoundland to Tappen, British Columbia.

Links and sources
  Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) - Vision for Canada Post

Posted: February 12, 2010

Categories:
  Public services
  Front lines
  Voices of privatization

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