Canada Post cuts could hurt seniors, say union representatives

The Okanagan's large population of seniors will be put in a vulnerable position if the cuts to door-to-door service announced by Canada Post Wednesday go through, says the union that represents postal workers.

"For a lot of seniors, the only daily contact they have is with us," said Pam Durham, vice president of Kelowna's branch of the Canadian Union Of Postal Workers Wednesday, shortly after cuts to door-to-door service  and rate hikes were announced.

"So, if something happens, a lot of time it's their postie who finds them," she said.

Durham, while on her route, has come across an elderly customer who had fallen and injured themselves. She called 911 and they ended up getting the help they needed.

If she hadn't been there, she's not sure what would have happened.

And, on a more regular basis, Durham points out that all mail carriers keep an eye on things, watching to see if mail builds up in the letterbox for any duration.

If it does, then further investigation is required.

Beyond being a watchful eye, however, postal workers also say taking away door-to-door service, and sending seniors to community mail boxes down the street to get their correspondence puts them in physical peril.

"When your grandparents retire to Kelowna, you want them to be safe," said Dawn  Klappe, president of the local branch of the union.

"So many of our seniors have mobility issues, and you don't want them walking in (weather) like we have now to find their mail in some box that may or may not have been robbed."

The Okanagan, in particular, is an area where community mailboxes have proven to be less than secure.

"I can't tell you how many cases where (community mail boxes) have been broken into in this valley," Klappe said.

"We have a lot that are in the dark, and when that happens you get identity theft."

Many Okanagan neighbourhoods already have community mailboxes. But the Crown corporation says the remaining one third of Canadian households that still get home delivery will be switched to community mailboxes or grouped or lobby mailboxes over the next five years.

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 news 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.


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