Nelson letter carriers established an information picket line outside the post office Tuesday morning after being told not to finish delivering Monday’s mail.
Canada Post announced last week that letter mail delivery would be cut to three days a week in urban centres due to reduced volumes in the wake of rotating strike action.
However, local Canadian Union of Postal Workers president Bruce Northcott says Nelson has not seen that sort of decrease.
“We came in Monday and there was so much mail they told us to leave some of it behind for the next delivery,” he says. “Knowing a lot of these people left 300 to 500 letters behind, they wanted to come in [Tuesday] to try and move it along.”
But when they showed up at the post office Tuesday, only Northcott was allowed in. He was assigned to deliver priority courier items, which continue to move five days a week, while the other carriers stood outside the building with placards and drums.
“They’d like to deliver the mail, but they’re not being allowed to,” Northcott says.
When carriers go back to work Wednesday, he says they will have two days worth of mail to deliver plus what was left over from Monday.
“Their instructions are if they can’t finish two days of mail in the time allotted to do one day, they’re to stop delivery, leaving 50 to 100 addresses still undelivered. Thursday we’ll get no mail, so those addresses will wait until Friday.”
Northcott expects the picket line will go back up Thursday, but says they aren’t discouraging people from entering the post office or using the mail.
Company spokeswoman Anick Losier says going to three day per week delivery and cancelling overtime “is meant to be a cost-cutting measure. It’s not meant to be a lockout. These rotating strikes are having a devastating effect on our business.”
She says so far the price tag is $70 million in lost revenue.
“We need to find a way to keep costs in check so we don’t go into a huge deficit. If we do, taxpayers will have to bail us out. For us, that’s not an option.”
Canada-wide, Losier says mail volumes have been cut in half compared to the same time last year: “It’s not everywhere that volumes are declining 50 per cent, but when you do the average nationally, it comes down to that or more.”
She says many people are probably holding off on sending things because they are unsure how long they will take to arrive. “This uncertainty is causing the biggest damage to our business,” she says.
Not delivering mail on Tuesdays and Thursdays is an “extreme measure” that won’t be popular with employees, she agrees, but “certainly it’s not meant to penalize them. If we don’t do that, we run huge deficits we may never recover from.”