Fewer letters and more parcels resulting in a need for profound changes in the way Canada Post does business

Regional district politicians and local MP look for answers to declining services at region's post offices

 

Canada Post is feeling the effects of the growing popularity of internet – and post offices customers in the region are paying the price.

At the Aprill 18 regional district director’s board meeting, Canada Post’s service levels in the area were  discussed after  a director’s motion, introduced by Oliver rural Director Allan Patton, resulted in a letter to Canada Post in January of this year.

The letter inquired about possible reductions in service levels after learning about a mail sorting change implemented by Canada Post.

The change now sees mail destined for delivery between communities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen shipped to Vancouver for sorting rather than Kelowna. The move adds a considerable delay to mail moving between regional district communities.

The board subsequently recieved a letter from Jacques Bellerive, Canada Post Director of Operations for B.C. and Yukon, who cited significant losses from steadily decreasing volumes of letter mail as the reason behind the service changes. He also noted that the move helped to optimize operating capacity of sorting equipment in Vancouver.

More recently, the board received a letter from BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko, expressing concern about declining service levels. He also enclosed a proposed draft resolution for the board’s consideration.

The resolution instructed Steven Fletcher, Minister responsible for Canada Post, to:

– keep post offices in the regional district open.

– consult with the public, their elected representatives, postal unions and other major stakeholders to dramatically improve the Canadian  Postal Service Charter, including developing a better process for making changes to the retail and delivery network.

The board opted to accept the letter from Atamanenko and extend an invitation to Penticton MP Dan Albas to stop by and discuss the postal issue, amongst other things.

A decision on  Atamanenko’s motion will be tabled until after that meeting.

In late April, concerns were raised nationally when theConference Board of Canada released a report called “The Future of Postal Service in Canada.”

It looked at how the needs and expectations of Canadian households and businesses are evolving, and assessed a range of options that could enable Canada’s postal service to remain self-sustaining in the digital age.

 

Among the highlights of the report were the following points:

– almost half of Canadian households send no more than two pieces of mail through the postal system each month.

 

– Canada Post’s present standard of service is higher than Canadians now expect or need.

– the growth of e-commerce is driving up demand for parcel delivery.

The report also suggested that eliminating delivery to the door for urban residential customers would be the option with the largest financial impact, followed by alternate day delivery.

Lettermail volume declined by 6.4 per cent in 2012 alone. Without savings reached in a new collective agreement with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers that was signed late last year, Canada Post would have lost 54 million dollars in 2012.

The constantly growing use of  internet is the main reason for the steady decline in letter mail, but Canada Post also benefits from the internet as parcel delivery increases – fueled by customers’ on line purchases. Parcel volumes grew by 6.7 per cent in 2012, but the increase in parcel volume wasn’t substantial enough to make up for the letter mail losses.

 

 

 

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko sent a letter to Deepak Chopra, President of Canada Post Corporation, also in late April, urging him to reconsider a decision to open a postal franchise office within a half kilometre of the main corporate office in Castlegar. Atamanenko was concerned that the manouever was a part of a plan to eventually close the main post office. He said:

Dear Mr. Chopra,

I have just learned from the Castlegar local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) that Canada Post has served notice of its intent to open a postal franchise office within one half of a kilometer from the main corporate post office located at 1011-4th Street.

Apparently, Canada Post has also advised that it intends to “review and reduce” the retail counters and services at existing corporate outlets.

According to CUPW when Canada Post is planning on closing down the main office, one of the first steps is to set up a private franchise to take away revenue.  It can then claim that the corporate office is no longer viable.

It is my understanding that Castlegar is protected by the moratorium against closures under the Canadian Postal Service Charter. The workers at our main post office are very concerned that if a franchise is established within close proximity to the corporate office, this will soon justify reductions in service at the main office.

I have been told that Canada Post is reviewing its retail operations across the country and has already begun removing a number of tills at the front counter. This, of course, creates line-ups and unnecessary delays for customers.

On behalf of our postal workers and the citizens of our community, I strongly urge you to ensure that our main post office remains a strong viable operation with adequate dedicated personnel to serve its customers. Introducing a franchise at such close proximity interferes with this.

It is important to understand that good-paying union jobs are one of the pillars of our small rural communities and contribute to small businesses as well as other aspects of our economy.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,

Alex Atamanenko, MP

BC Southern Interior

Within a few days of the above letter, Atamanenko wrote Chopra once more, after it came to his attention that Canada Post was planning to establish other dealership outlets in Oliver, Nelson, Trail and Grand Forks.

Unfortunately or not, Canada Post has a mandate from the Government of Canada to remain financially self-sufficient as well as to provide a standard of postal service that is affordable and meets the needs of the people of Canada.

“Canadians recognize that the way they use mail is changing, but haven’t yet fully understood how severely that is affecting Canada Post’s business model,” said David Stewart-Patterson, Vice-President, Public Policy.

The Conference Board came to the conclusion that no single change to prices or service standards will be sufficient to enable self sustainabilty as mail volumes are expected to continue to decline.

The report examined five options for cutting costs: wage restraint; alternate-day delivery for mail (but not parcels); converting Canadian households door-to-door delivery to community mail boxes; further replacement of corporate post offices with franchised postal outlets; and reduced speed of delivery.

Eliminating delivery to the door for urban residential customers would be the option with the largest financial impact, saving a projected $576 million a year. Door-to-door delivery is still the largest single category of delivery method, but two-thirds of Canadian households are now served by delivery to centralized points, group mailboxes, delivery facilities, and rural mailboxes.

Canada Post responded to the Conference Board’s report on April 23. In a statement, Canada Post said that it must “seriously consider all the options put forward by the Conference Board with the understanding that no single initiative will be sufficient to stem the losses from the steep decline in mail volumes. In doing so, the Corporation must continue to meet its public policy obligations, such as serving every Canadian address, including those in rural and northern Canada.” The corporation added that it had launched a public online forum for Canadians to join a national conversation that will help to shape future postal services. The forum, called  “The Future of Canada Post”  can found at:

http://www.canadapost.ca/ext/en/future/?page_