Reaction in Chilliwack to the Canada Post decision to phase out door-to-door mail delivery and rely on community mailboxes has been swift.
Elimination of urban delivery over a five-year stretch will be a blow to certain segments of the community.
The elderly, shut-ins and those with mobility issues are likely going to face challenges just accessing these community mailboxes.
“I feel sorry for veterans who are incapacitated and can’t get out, especially in winter,” said Jim Harris, founder of Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack Historical Society. “It’s going to be hazardous for some to get their mail and will add hardships. I understand that Canada Post has to run a business, but it shouldn’t be on the backs of those who really need door-to-door service.”
The delivery cuts and stamp increases are part of a new five-point plan by Canada Post Corporation to cut losses and streamline operations.
It cites declining use of postal mail – a billion fewer pieces of mail were delivered last year compared to 2006 – as households shift to online bill payments and other digital communication.
The price of stamps will also go up from 63 to 85 cents each if bought in booklets, or $1 for individual stamps.
It means up to 8,000 fewer postal workers will be needed, which Canada Post says will be shed by attrition, as nearly 15,000 workers are expected to retire or leave voluntarily over the next five years.
“With its current labour costs, Canada Post has a much higher cost structure than its competitors in the private sector have,” Canada Post said in a press release. “This is simply not sustainable.”
The reduced workforce and other changes are expected to save a combined $700 to $900 million per year.
A Conference Board of Canada report last spring found Canada Post would face losses of $1 billion a year by 2020 without major reform.Peter Butcher, president of the Upper Valley local of Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), only heard Wednesday about the cut to delivery.
“I think it’s a shock for Canadians.”
He was sorting the mail for his route that day when a co-worker told him.
“We were completely blindsided by this,” the union rep said. “We had no idea this was coming.”
Butcher represents the 63 CUPW workers in Chilliwack, including letter carriers and rural route carriers.
The cuts could mean losing half, or about 10 of the 21 letter carriers who go door to door in Chilliwack proper, he said, not to mention thousands more across Canada.
The loss of those jobs, and potential loss of salaries totalling an estimated $600,000 will impact the entire community, he reasoned.
The rural sections of Chilliwack, including the residential areas in Sardis-Vedder are already on community mailbox service.
But the others, like in the downtown still enjoy it or need it, due to physical challenges.
Another problem with the idea of expanding the use of community mailboxes is the lack of security in the design.
The union would like to see door-to-door delivery reinstated and these collective mailboxes done away with for good.
“It’s being done in the name of cost efficiency but it will cost more with all these break-ins,” he said. “Delivery means better security and better service.”
But with the rash of thefts from the community mailboxes that has plagued Chilliwack of late, there’s little the carriers can do.
“Our hands are tied. Once the mail goes into the mail box, it’s up to the people to make sure they pick it up at night.”
Some will be opposed to this based on the hardships it will create for their citizens.
“If anyone is unhappy with this change, I recommend they go to their MP Mark Strahl and ask him why this decision was made, why they will no longer receive door-to-door delivery.”