Canada Post plans to open up a new outlet in Nelson which has unionized employees worried about the future of the Heritage City’s main post office.
It’s said the new franchise will be located at Highway 3A and Baker Street to serve the high retail density area with extended service hours.
Brenda Muscoby-Yanke, president of Canadian Union of Postal Employees local 790, says history shows when Canada Post is planning on closing down a 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.
“They bring in a franchise and the next thing you know, a year goes by and the corporate store isn’t making as much. Then they shut it down,” Muscoby-Yanke told the Star. “They would have a report saying ‘Look, your sales are down. We can’t afford to keep the corporate store open.’ … All they would have left is carriers and parcels.”
Canada Post claims declining mail volumes may lead to losses of close to $1 billion by 2020. President Deepak Chopra says letter mail has declined by about one billion pieces since 2006 with 30 per cent of that coming in 2012.
A “convenient retail network with the use of franchises” is part of “staying ahead of the curve to avoid financial crisis,” writes Chopra in a letter issued to employees.
In an interview with the Trail Times, Anick Losier, media relations for Canada Post, says the corporation is undergoing some significant changes because people are not using mail the same way they used to.
“I understand the union’s concerns, but our business has changed dramatically,” she says.
“We need to be mindful about cost factor in everything we do, which is why the franchise model enables us to offer more services, but not at the same cost.”
Muscoby-Yanke, who represents about 40 employees in Nelson and the greater area, admits letter mail is down but claims Chopra’s estimates are just that.
“It’s not down as much as they’re saying, and they’re only estimating,” she says. “First-class letters are down, but not a great deal. We do a lot of business here.”
The CUPW president says the Nelson post office is busy.
“I think it’s because we have a lot of government services and a lot of small businesses. Even though they sell online, there’s still a paper trail, and our parcels have gone up quite a bit. We’re still dealing with a lot of mail,” she says. “We have one of the highest volumes in BC. It’s just below Vancouver Main. That’s how much business we do here. We have three wickets open. Castlegar has one. Trail has one.”
Canada Post also plans to open more retail outlets in Grand Forks, Castlegar and Trail.
MP Alex Atamanenko is urging Canada Post to reconsider “this devastating policy of privatization” in the communities in his riding.
“Canada Post Corporate offices provide a very beneficial service to our rural communities. Workers are paid a decent living wage and as a result, contribute to the viability of our small businesses and economy in general,” says Atamanenko in a letter to Chopra. “The loss of full-time union jobs will have a major negative impact on our rural communities.”
Atamanenko suggests working with CUPW and communities to see how Canada Post can continue to provide a valuable service by maintaining its main corporate post office.
Muscoby-Yanke plans to appear at the Nelson City Council meeting on June 24 to argue that the current location of the post office is good for business on Baker Street. It’s been there since the mid-1950s and was next door in the Touchstones building for 50 years before that.
“I think Nelson will fight to keep us here because it is that kind of city,” she says.
Ultimately, Muscoby-Yanke is concerned for the future integrity of the postal system. Nelson already has one commercial outlet operated out of Shoppers Drug Mart at Chakho Mika Mall.
“This city alone will loose approximate a 100 years of experience,” she says. “When it’s not a corporate store, those people don’t get trained. They may be minimum wage employees. And they can charge what they want to a point. The corporate office has certain prices and that’s all we can charge. They work for Shopper’s. They have nothing to do with Canada Post.”
Within five years she predicts letter sorting could be discontinued in Nelson forcing letter carriers to travel to Castlegar to pick up their mail.
“The job of a letter carrier won’t be the same anymore,” she says.
The Nelson post office employs 10 full-time carriers, one part-time carrier, two relief carriers, six full-time clerks and two part-time clerks.