By Eric Bourque
Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers continue to express a different view regarding the rural mailbox review Canada Post has been conducting.
As many people likely have seen from flyers left in their mailbox, Canada Post says the review is about safety, while the union says it’s about reducing service and saving money.
The review, Canada Post says, “was a direct result of the increasing number of health and safety concerns being raised by our employees and subsequent rulings by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.”
Canada Post says it is “obliged by law to assess rural mailboxes to ensure they meet the delivery safety criteria developed by internationally renowned traffic safety experts.”
The review, it says, is not about cutting costs and that Canada Post’s “primary goal is to provide the best service possible in a manner that also ensures the health and safety of our employees.”
In its own literature, however, the union urges customers to fight to maintain rural mail service and asks them to consider a few questions.
For example, the union says, what about those cases where a mailbox was deemed unsafe, say, several years ago and yet mail delivery has continued to that mailbox without a problem?
The union also asks why, in other cases, community mailboxes are allowed to be set up in places where rural mailboxes had been deemed unsafe.
“The rural mail service is under attack,” the union says, “and if we don’t fight back, we will lose this important rural service that we all deserve. Canada Post is using safety as an excuse to reduce service and save money.”
Saying “rural Canadians are not second-class citizens and demand to be treated fairly,” the union encourages rural mail customers who may have concerns about mail delivery to contact their elected officials.
Representatives of CUPW’s Yarmouth local already have met with Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill and were slated to meet with West Nova MP Greg Kerr this week.
“I know Zach was getting enough calls that he called us from Halifax to set up the meeting,” said Jeff Cook, a rural mail driver and vice-president of the postal union’s Yarmouth local.
While Canada Post says the mailbox review stems, at least in part, from health and safety concerns raised by its employees, Cook says he knows of no complaints being made by anyone in this area. Some local mailboxes may be unsafe, he admits, but he says it’s only a tiny percentage. Using his own delivery route as an example, he says there may be two out of about 500 mailboxes that he would consider unsafe, but not enough to keep him from delivering to them.
Canada Post says traffic volume is among the factors considered when rural mailboxes are assessed, but Cook says he has seen some community mailbox sites that are far less safe than the rural mailboxes that were in those areas before.
Then there are those rural mail customers who perhaps don’t drive and who may have a hard time getting to a community mailbox or to the post office to get their mail, another point the union asks customers to consider.
Canada Post says it will change a customer’s mode of mail delivery “only as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.”
A spokesperson for Canada Post acknowledges that there may not have been any safety-related complaints from mail drivers in this area, but she says Canada Post had a directive from the federal government to carry out the review of rural mailboxes.
“It doesn’t have to be a complaint from the local area,” said Anick Losier. “We have to do it across the country to ensure the safety of all of our employees.”
With regard to rural mailboxes perhaps deemed unsafe but still in use – a point raised by the union – Losier says in some cases Canada Post may still be trying to determine the best option for the affected customers. In communities where Canada Post faces a backlog, this too can make the process longer, she says.
In areas where new community mailboxes are to be set up, she says the main reason why this can take so long is the difficulty in finding a safe location. (However, the union, as noted, says community mailboxes are going in places deemed unsafe for rural boxes.)
Canada Post says it has been able to preserve delivery to 90 per cent of the rural mailboxes it has reviewed nationally since 2007. As for those customers whose mailboxes have been in the other 10 per cent, Losier said, “Yes, it’s unfortunate for those people, but I think in the end, when you explain the rationale behind it, they understand that what we’re trying to do is the right thing.”