Defend the public post office. LOUIS LANG*
In a news release on Monday, October 26, 2015 Canada Post announced that the elimination of door-to-door delivery and conversion to community mailboxes was being suspended. The corporation stated that they wanted to work “collaboratively” with the government to face the challenges of the postal system.
This decision affects 460,000 addresses across the country where home delivery was being phased out in the next two months. Also affected are thousands of letter carriers whose delivery routes were either being lengthened or completely eliminated due to the elimination of door-to-door delivery.
Postal workers are justifiably proud of this victory which came with the defeat of the Harper Conservatives. They and Canadians from all walks of life worked non-stop to save door-to-door delivery.
The Canadian Union of Postal (CUPW) workers, which waged a vigorous campaign against the elimination of home delivery and succeeded in making it a major election issue, was very happy with the announcement. It said that the union would continue fighting to restore delivery to the over one million addresses that had been converted to mailbox service since the program began more than a year ago. CUPW National President Mike Palecek called on Canada Post to expand services such as banking and financial services in post offices.
During the election campaign Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to save home delivery and proposed to undertake a “new review of Canada Post to make sure that it provides high quality service at a reasonable price to Canadians no matter where they live.”
While the suspension of the Harper government plans to cut postal services and eliminate jobs at Canada Post is a great relief to postal workers and all Canadians, the fight to defend the public post office is far from over.
The promise to undertake a new review of Canada Post by the Liberal government is of no great comfort to postal workers who remember the last mandate review of Canada Post in 1996. At that time Prime Minister Chrétien appointed one of his ex-speech writers, George Radwanski, to head a one-man review of Canada Post.
The end result of the mandate review and Radwanski’s report were inconclusive and led to another private study commissioned by Chrétien being conducted by TD Securities, which resulted in Canada Post losing a large part of its unaddressed ad-mail business. Although the Chrétien government announced that Canada Post would not be privatized, cost-cutting measures were introduced and workers’ wages were for all intents and purposes frozen and working conditions and benefits were under severe attack. Negotiations with Canada Post broke down in 1997 and after two weeks on strike the Chrétien government forced the workers back on the job with back-to-work legislation which included a wage settlement that was lower than the one Canada Post had already offered. In 2011 Harper learned from Chrétien and enacted the same type of legislation to force workers back to work.
The situation did not improve for postal workers when Paul Martin took over as Prime Minister in 2003. The attack on the public post office was high on Martin’s agenda: in 2005 he appointed Moya Greene as CEO of Canada Post. Greene had been Assistant Deputy Minister of Transport at the time of the privatization of CN rail and other parts of the transportation sector.
Greene openly declared that her main goal was the privatization of Canada Post and she began a program to close post offices, for instance in Quebec City with the goal of consolidating mail processing in a few major cities across the country. She also accelerated the closure of retail outlets by selling franchises to Shoppers Drug Mart and other private stores. This program continued and accelerated under the Stephen Harper conservatives especially after Deepak Chopra was appointed President and CEO of Canada Post. 
As is well known, Moya Greene went on to be appointed head of the Royal Mail in Britain, where she continued her role to privatize and to destroy public assets and serve the global monopolies who want to dominate the mail industry.
Postal workers will not soon forget their bitter experience in defending their interests and the public post office against the attacks of governments of all stripes and will not be lulled to sleep. They know that they must use the coming period to mobilize all Canadians to continue fighting to defend the public post office and their rights to universal postal service.
Negotiations for a new contract between CUPW and Canada Post will begin within the coming days. That is when postal workers and all Canadians will get a good picture of the campaign that will be directed against them by the Trudeau government.
1. Deepak Chopra was President of the Canadian division of Pitney Bowes, which is a multinational corporation based in the US and one of the largest companies in the world involved in the mail industry.
* Louis Lang was twice elected president of the Ottawa local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers