The Canada Post labour negotiations came to an abrupt halt as they were legislated back to work by the Conservative government. People across the country breathe a sigh of relief as mail returns, but anyone paying real attention is horribly concerned.
Unfortunately, most people don’t really seem to understand what legislating them back to work has actually done. I took the time to explain the situation to an elderly lady, worried that she wouldn’t get her ODSP cheque this Wednesday (both the union and Canada Post had agreed to deliver the cheques regardless of the strike/lock-out, but that’s beside the point.) It’s a pretty simplistic explanation:
Let’s say you’re in the market shopping for apples. You find the perfect apples and want to buy 8. The merchant only wants to let you buy 4 for some reason. While haggling, the government steps in and only lets you buy 2 apples.
It doesn’t nearly cover all the complexities of the legislation, but it gets the basic picture across. In the case of Canada Post, the workers will get a wage increase LESS than what Canada Post was offering, and then an arbiter will decide between the two other options and impose it on Canada Post and the Unionized workers. This means the workers and management of Canada Post not only were unable to come to an agreement before being forced back to work with each other, but that there will be a lot of front-line Canada Post workers upset with the decision. We can all look forward to even worse service, bigger frowns, and more lost mail than we already had to deal with while working with Canada Post.
Or will we? Throughout the lock-out, and the rotating strikes prior to the lock-out, many customers have been forced to experience a completely different kind of service at the hand of courier companies like Purolater, FedEx, UPS, Muskoka Deliveries, and even First Air (the airline of the north). People have had to pay more for these services, but they’ve actually been treated well while sending mail! Not only that, but they’ve discovered what it’s like to be able to know where your letter or package is, and even better, be able to get it there overnight.
I would also be very surprised if a lot of shipping companies don’t change courier services permanently, say to FedEx Ground, which is comparable in pricing to Canada Post, but a lot faster, has good customer service and is not unionized.
The Canadian Postal Service has been feeling the hurt of fewer and fewer letters since the invention of e-mail. Residential letters are being sent increasingly through e-mail. Bills are arriving digitally instead of in the mailbox. And instead of waiting for a cheque or money-order in the mail, we’ve seen a huge increase in e-mail money transfers, pay-pal, and direct deposit.
The largest “letter” users of Canada Post are the older Baby Boomers and their precursors. People thirty and under only use it when absolutely necessary. As the older people start dropping off, Canada Post revenue will continue to shrink.
But that’s not all. 3-D Printers are now available (or you can even build one yourself). These printers are used for printing from a design schematic and can now use numerous different materials. Titanium aircraft parts are starting to be printed off a computer this way, making them just as strong and far lighter than what has been used in the past (thereby reducing fuel consumption). It is even possible to get a design to print a 3-D printer from a 3-D printer. Why ship a part from China, when you can print it at work?
So what’s left to ship? Personalized object mostly. The sweater grandma knitted, the hand-carved statuette your uncle made you, a goodie package from Mom while you’re away at college, etc. Considering the package loss rate at Canada Post is nearly 1 in 10, I certainly wouldn’t trust them with something this precious.
Unfortunately, I feel Canada Post is a dying animal. The far-north, and many rural areas are the ones that will feel its death the most because they do not have local courier services, and some are even without access to the Internet. Access to the Internet is considered a human right by the United Nations. Considering that many of the duties formerly held by the postal service are now accomplished online, I think we’re more than overdue in getting the Canadian Internet Services up and running… Hey, it’s called an “electronic mailbox,” if Canada Post wants to remain relevant, maybe they should adapt to the new, electronic postal service. Something to look into going forward, maybe as a part of that digital economic action plan that no one knows anything about but everyone keeps mentioning will soon be announced…
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A few notes:
My Father’s roofing business depends upon Canada post to deliver cheques. And he made no preparations when he knew a strike was coming. I assume a lot of small businesses are the same. He’s older than a baby boomer. But I suspect most of his clients are Baby boomers or older, as you suggest.
Canada post has adopted an electronic postal service, called epost. I use it to get paystubs from Empire Stadium (at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, where I help keep the peace at soccer and football games.) My other employers email me password protected pdfs of the same, and my cheques are delivered via direct deposit. But most people’s bills are still delivered through the mail.
Canada Post has also purchased Purolator, which is how they delivered pension cheques during a lock-out. I believe the Management saw their growing irrelevance, and made that purchase as a result.
I feel that government interference in a labour dispute is bad news, but that Canada post should be made an essential service, until Internet access is ubiquitous.
You might appreciate this article: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/business-brains/has-the-time-come-for-digital-mail-delivery/16251