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Canada Post has been struggling for several years to adapt to the new online environment.
It has reduced management by 25 percent, bought more efficient sorting equipment, and replaced dedicated post offices with counters in pharmacies or convenience stores that sell a variety of products such as writing paper, envelopes, and packing materials. In addition, some of the losses in letter mail have been offset by an increase in parcel delivery, as more people do their shopping online.
The reforms already in place have helped cut costs and maintain revenues, says Canada Post spokesperson John Caines. But he says the post office will have to find more savings as modern communication evolves. A proposal to cut labor costs by setting up a two-tier wage system, which would cut pay for new hires by about 25 percent and force them to work five years longer before retirement, is at the heart of the dispute with letter carriers.
“It is clear people are using our system differently and we have to change the way business is done,” Caines says.
George Floresco, a CUPW vice president, argues that instead of cutting wages, Canada Post should try to become more relevant to Canadians by expanding its service.
“We know there’s a move to online services but we also know a lot of people don’t want to go there,” he says.
He says Canada Post should improve its parcel delivery service, especially to Canada’s vast rural areas, that post office counters should be open outside business hours and that a new post office banking service could appeal to people who still do not trust the Internet enough to do their banking online.
Meanwhile, others say the Canadian parliament should pass back-to-work legislation as soon as possible.
“I do all my communication through the Internet so I don’t miss the mail,” says Eddy Banakar, a manager of a high-tech company. “But the postal job is an uncomplicated job, and at the same time they get good salaries. So I don’t think people have much sympathy for them.”