by Kyra Hoggan on Friday May 14 2010
Canada Post is standing by a decision to ship local Castlegar mail over 1,200 kilometres (round-trip) for sorting in Vancouver, even if it's only being mailed a couple of blocks. This, despite the condemnation of union representatives and political leaders.
Colleen Frick, director of communications for Canada Post, explained the move won't impact customers or jobs in the area.
“It's not just Castlegar,” she said. “It's quite a few B.C. Interior communities. In those communities, we have twin boxes.”
Twin boxes simply means that when you drop an envelope in a mailbox in Castlegar, you choose between two slots – one for local mail, and one for out-of-area mail. 'Local' refers to all mail in the trading area (Kelowna, Nelson, Trail, etc.).
“From Monday to Thursday, the mail will still be sorted locally, just as it is now,” she said. “But starting late this summer, on Fridays local mail will be sent to a mechanized sorting plant in Vancouver for processing.”
Because out-of-town mail is already sent to Vancouver for processing, the local mail can be sent with it without any added trucking or transportation fees. The mail will then be sorted by the mechanized system, which is not currently used to its full capacity, and which staff are already being paid to oversee. Then the mail will be shipped back to Castlegar with the incoming out-of-town mail – once again, at no additional cost to Canada Post.
“We're just going to piggyback on what's already there,” Frick said.
The advantage of this sytem, she said, is that it allows them to optimize use of the mechanical system in Vancouver as well as the shift being paid to work it, while eliminating the expense of paying an extra shift to sort the same mail locally.
She said this won't cost Castlegar any jobs.
“(The weekend sorting shift) is overtime hours or extended part-time hours – there will be no job losses or cuts.”
Furthermore, she said, the majority of mail sent in Castlegar is out-of-town, and will be sent to Vancouver for sorting regardless.
“It's a pretty good system – customers shouldn't notice any change,” she said. “The change should be invisible (to Castlegar residents).”
Not everyone, however, agrees with the merit of the new system.
“Yes, it sounds benign,” said John Bail, national director for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. “But they're going to risk any weather conditions or any backlog in Vancouver – in which case, your mail will go to the back of the line and there'll be delays.
“We've already done some tests, and it (mail) takes an extra day to process and be returned to the Kootenays, when it comes from the Kootenays."
Furthermore, he says he has “serious” doubts to whether the new plan is going to remain a one-day-a-week-only proposition, as currently touted, but rather suspects it will become a six-days-a-week occurrence.
“How long will it take before they decide to ship it every day – like they've already done in Victoria, which cost 68 jobs?," he said.
“We're not opposed to modernization, we're opposed to bad service. Our jobs depend on providing good service," he added.
The union locals in Nelson, Castlegar and Trail have a petition they're asking the public to sign to call on the public corporation that is Canada Post to consult with the public before making any of these changes. To sign or get more more information, contact 604-525-0194 or email email@example.com
"It just doesn't make sense to me," said Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff.
"If you're talking about corporate efficiencies, it probably applies Monday through Thursday, too. The machine is there all week, so what's to stop them from sending all mail there, and kiss those jobs good bye here? Is their priority service or efficiency, that's my question"