Veteran postal worker LOUIS LANG, former president of the Ottawa Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, exposes what is behind the demagoguery of Canada Post about “falling revenues”: privatization, cut-backs in services and attacking the wages, benefits and working conditions of postal workers
[TML Daily] – CANADA POST recently announced that it was facing a $327 million operating loss and is considering cut backs in service like reducing home delivery from five to four or even three days per week. The spokesperson stated that “all options are on the table” including closing some of the 6,500 retail outlets across the country as well as consolidating its 21 sorting centres to “just major cities.”
This so-called crisis facing the corporation was attributed to the drastic reduction in mail volumes due to the increasing use of e-mail and the internet. This is not the first time that Canada Post has made such dire predictions about the viability of the Post Office. These same arguments were used during the last round of “negotiations” with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in 2011 and 2012 in order to justify attacking the wages, benefits and working conditions of postal workers and imposing severe roll-backs through federal legislation.
The claims then and now, range anywhere from a 25 per cent to 17 per cent drop in mail volumes which the Union maintains are greatly exaggerated. As in the past, no real facts were presented to support these estimates.
In fact, even the corporations own financial reports show that while there may be some fluctuation in mail volumes reflecting the level of economic activity, comparing mail volumes in similar quarters in 2011 and 2012 shows some decline in mail volumes amounting to approximately 4 per cent.
The most important point about the over-exaggerated claims of Canada Post about facing declining mail volumes and financial deficits is that this is a diversion being used by the corporation to hide from postal workers and all Canadians the actual situation of Canada Post within the overall economy and to stop people from having a say in the direction being taken by the corporation and the Harper government.
While the corporation claims to be concerned about the loss of revenues it continues to make cut-backs in services discouraging people from using first class mail. Over the years directory services have been almost completely eliminated; red street letter boxes have been reduced in major urban centres; door-to-door letter carrier delivery is being replaced by community mail boxes in new developments; and the hours of operation of retail outlets has been reduced forcing people to use postal franchises in drug stores and grocery stores. Furthermore, the corporation has not produced any report on the amount of mail volume and revenue that was lost due to the Harper government’s legislation deregulating international mail, taking it out of the exclusive privilege of Canada Post and handing it over to large international mailers.
It is clear that mail volumes and loss in revenues have nothing to do with the cut-backs that are being proposed now. In fact, these plans have been in place since Moya Greene was appointed President and CEO of Canada Post by the Liberal government in 2005.
Within months of her appointment, the union received written notice from the corporation that it would be reviewing the national network including all mechanized mail processing plants and that Quebec City would be the first plant reviewed. The closure of the Quebec City plant, with the loss of 302 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars lost to the local economy was part of an overall plan of the corporation to reduce the workforce by centralizing the processing of letter mail. New plants were built in Vancouver and Winnipeg and with the installation of the new generation Multi-Line Optical Character Reader machines (MLOCR) there as well as in Montreal and Toronto and the over $2 billion investment in Postal Transformation, the corporation has been implementing its plans to close more plants and concentrate mail processing in four main plants across the country. The most recent examples are Windsor and North Bay where letter mail will be trucked to London and Toronto respectively for processing. The Ottawa Mail Processing Plant is also facing the same threats. Some of the mail that used to be processed in Ottawa is already being diverted to Toronto and all local mail normally sorted over the weekend is being sent to Montreal.
Moya Greene, who was Assistant Deputy Minister of Transport at the time that CN Rail was privatized, clearly outlined these plans for Canada Post in her speech to the Empire Club in Toronto in October 2007. She explained the importance of “modernization and revitalization of Canada Post” in order to orient it to serve big business. She said, “In the past the Post Office was a personal link but now it plays an important role in economic communications…90 per cent of our revenues come from the business sector. We will reorganize to focus on our customers’ business.”
She also stated, “We are beginning the modernization process with $1.9 billion being invested in the next five years. One third of the workforce is retiring in the near future. This is an opportunity to synchronize modernization plans with the pace of retirements.”
She made it clear in her speech that the exclusive privilege and universal service obligation were “restrictions from the past” that needed to be eliminated through deregulation. She said, “In order for deregulation to succeed it has to happen gradually. In the places where it was successful, it gave postal administrations more freedom to compete and adjust to the economic environment.”
It is this “new orientation” and not eroding mail volumes and the internet which is behind Postal Transformation, the attacks on postal workers and the ongoing cut-backs of postal services.
If Canada Post was in such a disastrous situation and was on the verge of extinction, as the monopoly media claim on a daily basis, then why are the large corporations clamouring for the elimination of the exclusive privilege and directing the government to deregulate more areas of mail delivery. It is precisely because they want to get their hands on the most profitable parts of Canada Post’s business.
The fact of the matter is that Moya Greene and now the new CEO, Deepak Chopra, who was President of Pitney Bowes Canada, were appointed to oversee the chopping up of the universal postal service. It is this new direction for Canada Post which the corporation and the Harper government do not want to openly discuss.
In the past, as part of nation-building, Canada Post was needed for the circulation of necessary business information. A public postal monopoly owned by the government was the most effective way to pool enough capital to create a system of communications vast enough to connect business addresses throughout the country. So a universal postal system has been essential for the development of Canada right from the beginning. But it seems that the political parties and the corporations which they represent are no longer interested in nation-building. The free trade agreements and other international arrangements have resulted in Canada giving up its right to make decisions regarding its own economy.
The Harper government and the Liberals in the past, in adopting neo-liberal globalization, are selling public institutions like the Post Office to the highest bidder and they are trying to hide this truth from postal workers and all Canadians.
The squandering of postal assets and the dangerous path of privatization being taken by Canada Post under the direction of the Harper government must not be allowed to pass. Postal workers must continue to affirm that the global economy is not made up of just monopoly corporations who have given themselves the right to roam the world subjugating the economies of all nations. Postal workers and all Canadians are also part of this economy and we will not stand by while our rights are dismissed in favour of maximum profits for the monopolies.