Canada Post will phase out home delivery of mail in urban areas over the next five years in a new bid to cut costs.
The Crown corporation cites declining use of postal mail – a billion fewer pieces were delivered last year compared to 2006 – as households shift to online bill payments and other digital communication.
Most newer suburban neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland already have community mailboxes, but the remaining one third of Canadian households that still get mail at home will switch by 2018.
Over the next five years, Canada Post will eliminate between 6,000 and 8,000 positions, but expects most will be shed by attrition, as nearly 15,000 workers are expected to retire or leave voluntarily during that span.
“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 press 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.
Starting March 31, the price of stamps will also go up from 63 to 85 cents each if bought in booklets, or $1 for individual stamps.
Canada Post was unable to provide a breakdown of how many households in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will be affected by the changes, nor does it have a timeline for implementation.
Older neighbourhoods south of the Abernethy Connecter in Maple Ridge still receive home delivery.
Wednesday’s announcement came as a surprise to the postal workers’ union, which learned of the changes from media.
Cindy McDonnell, a union representative for the Pacific region and who delivers mail in Pitt Meadows, received panicked phone calls from members as they heard the announcement.
“This is the busiest time of the year and now everyone doesn’t know what’s going to happen with their jobs,” she said.
“At this time of year, it seems like a ridiculous thing. Merry Christmas, but the Grinch keeps coming to mind.”
Reaction to the decision has been mixed, but one concern being raised is the security of community mailboxes, which are often broken into.
“They are putting more mail out there in unsafe places,” said McDonnell, who also laments the loss of customer service.
Three years ago, McDonnell was delivering mail to a senior in Pitt Meadows and noticed his front door open.
“By the third day, I knew something was seriously wrong,” she said.
McDonnell called police, waited until they arrived and determined the senior had been evicted by his landlord.
“Because we see these people all the time, we recognize these things,” said McDonnell.
“We are the last point of contact for some people and now it’s going to be gone.
That’s scary, she added, because there are a lot of people who are on their own.
McDonnell isn’t the only person concerned that seniors and the disabled will be most affected by the phasing out of home mail delivery.
SFU Gerontology professor Gloria Gutman worries about anyone with disabilities and people suffering from dementia picking up mail from a community box. She says these people will be the victims of this cost-cutting measure.
“Getting to a mailbox could be a real problem and there is no way a person with dementia could go get mail,” said Gutman.
“They could get lost on the way.”
– with files from Jeff Nagel
No charges yet in postie robbery
A man was arrested in connection with an assault on a postal worker in Maple Ridge last week, but released without charges.
Ridge Meadows RCMP confirmed they had “a person of interest” in custody, but are still gathering more evidence before investigators forward a report, seeking charges, to Crown.
The 67-year-old was delivering mail to a community box outside a gated housing complex on 116th Avenue at 239th Street around 1 p.m. Dec. 5, when he was approached by two men.
The suspects demanded mail and his keys. One of them then struck the postal worker in the head with a retractable baton.
After the assault and theft, the suspects fled off with a load of mail in a greyish green SUV.
The postal worker has since been released from hospital and the union reports he will be off for the next two weeks as the attack happened just before he was due to take his vacation.
“I can tell you the carriers in that office were pretty shaken up,” said Cindy McDonnell, a union representative for the Pacific region.
The assault on the postal worker was the second in two days.
On Dec. 4, another carrier was attacked by three dogs and had the window of his van smashed while delivering mail on 12th Street in New Westminster.
“People are nervous now,” McDonnell added.
Police have increased patrols near community mail boxes and McDonnell said carriers have been told to be extra cautious.
“If something feels wrong, don’t go there.”
• Investigators are asking for anyone who has any information about the assault on the postal worker to call police: 604-463-6251.
To remain anonymous, call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or leave a tip online at www.solvecrime.ca. CrimeStoppers will pay a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.