By James Clancey
April 29, 2011
Back in the day, post offices were the heart of communities. People would go there to receive mail from afar, settle bills and accounts and, most likely, catch up on the on-goings in the neighbourhood.
Our postal service has been a central part of our country since it was first introduced by the federal government in 1867. It has been a shining example of a valuable public service - one that is often overlooked and, certainly, underappreciated.
Designed to serve the common good, it connects Canadians to each other as well as the global community.
It’s affordable. No matter where you live in this vast landscape, the cost to mail a letter is the same for everyone. Do you really think the costs are the same from Iqaluet to Edmonton than from Ottawa to Kingston? But when we pool our resources, it works.
It’s accessible. Despite more recent service delivery cutbacks, every community has access to postal service. Mailboxes are the furniture of our city streets. Post offices can be found in every town.
And it’s accountable. Since the establishment of the postal service, it’s transformed into a crown corporation of the federal government. The CEO of Canada Post is appointed by the Minister responsible for Canada Post. As citizens, and voters, we have the ability to contribute to the vision and direction of this service.
For these reasons and many more, I am urging all Canadians to pay attention to what is happening in the current round of bargaining between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
It’s not just about wages and working conditions, although both are important, it’s about the future of this public service, one that benefits each of us, our families and our businesses.
There are some important choices being made during these negotiations. Canada Post has the choice to continue on its old path, with a singular focus on postal delivery as though the world and the way of doing business hasn’t changed dramatically over the last decade or more. Or it can look to the future, to see the opportunities and get back in the game.
To be able to compete in this recovering economic climate, we need to see that the leadership of Canada Post are up to the task. For sure, Canada Post needs to modernize. And, thankfully, it is looking to update its operations; years of under-investment in equipment and facilities require this to happen.
But what we are hearing about is the company’s strategy to use modernization as a Trojan horse to gut the workforce. Canada Post plans to invest $2 billion in new machines and work methods but eliminate 7000 jobs.
This doesn’t make any good sense. One of the best assets of a national public service is the investment in a well trained workforce. If we’re going to see any innovation, we’re going to need these people more than ever!
The real question now is whether or not Canada Post is up to the job to be the innovator the country needs. There is a massive opportunity for CEO Deepak Chopra to make a transformative shift in our postal system. Now is the perfect time for Canada Post to open itself to the future, to invest and expand.
All we have to do is take a look at what is happening around the globe to see how other countries are dealing with similar problems. They are expanding and reinvesting. Expansion of services will allow Canada Post to share the benefits of its modernization with the public by preserving and improving postal services and employment opportunities. Service expansion will help generate the much-needed revenue to keep enriching and enhancing products and the level of service for all Canadians.
Banking, expansion of parcel delivery, using current retail outlets to offer more services, as well as reinstating more door-to-door delivery so that every Canadian is provided with the same level of service are other well-founded and time-tested examples that Canada Post can adopt.
And these ideas are exactly what CUPW is proposing in negotiations. The union is not bargaining for the status quo. It is bargaining to create a solid and profitable corporation - a modern post, powered by the people - to serve the best interests of Canadians for decades to come. (You can find out more about their proposals here.)
It’s this kind of forward-thinking that, our postal system, and our country needs.
We need to support CUPW in its efforts and make sure Canada Post is listening.