Postal workers' union fears cuts will hurt seniors, disabled

Canada Post announced Wednesday it plans to phase out home delivery, cut up to 8.000 jobs over the next five years.

The president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Winnipeg says he's disappointed but not surprised with Canada Post's announcementthat it will phase out home delivery in urban areas and cut thousands of jobs.

The Crown corporation said Wednesday that it will cut up to 8,000 jobs over the next five years and phase out door-to-door delivery of regular mail to urban residents, as well as raise the price of stamps.

Ben Zorn, who represents 1,500 postal clerks and letter carriers in Winnipeg and southwestern Manitoba, said there have been rumblings from Canada Post for some time about changes to service.

"Not very surprised, a little disheartened that senior management isn't really interested in pursuing other opportunities for growth, rather they're taking a 'shrink the business' mentality," he said.

Zorn said the cuts will come out of a total of about 50,000 workers.

In Winnipeg, the union estimates that 200 to 300 jobs will be eliminated over the next five years.

He said he's most concerned about service to seniors and disabled customers in urban areas.

"We have a lot of customers who rely on door-to-door delivery, senior citizens, people living with disabilities, so we certainly have that concern for those fellow citizens directly," he said, adding it's unclear exactly how the cuts will affect service in Manitoba.

Janice Lorback, a senior who lives on Nassau Street in Winnipeg said the move by Canada Post will force many people outside on dangerously cold days like Wednesday.

"Having to make your way to a postal box in –29 C weather with snow on the ground is incredibly difficult even to fully-abled people. Look outside today. There's nobody walking," she said.

Some postal workers in Winnipeg told CBC News they learned of the news on Wednesday from the media, not from their employer.

Arlyn Doran, a third-generation postal worker, says he and his co-workers will fight for their jobs and the future of Canada Post as a public service.

"I feel like I'm in for the fight of my life," said Doran, who has been a letter carrier for eight years.

"It's something I'm not willing to give up, so I'm going to do everything I can to fight this and to rally my community around me and see if we can beat it back."

Doran said instead of cutting back, Canada Post should be looking at new ways to survive and thrive.

"This isn't over yet. They've announced this, but it's not too late for the public to stand up, for the workers to stand up and say, 'This isn't acceptable for a public service to be shrinking. We value this public service,'" he said.

"You could be expanding into grocery delivery, prescription delivery, a whole bunch of things. You go to every household every day, the possibilities are endless," he added.

"And with an aging population and rising transportation costs in all areas of transportation, I think having a delivery service that's public could be key in the future and something that we should protect."

It is too early to talk about the union taking action against the corporation, Zorn said, but added that it doesn't prevent Canadians from asking their local politicians what their response is.

"Certainly at this point we're not in a position to take labour action. It's definitely a question of what are the politicians doing," he said.

Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, who represents Winnipeg's Charleswood St. James-Assiniboia Headingley riding, was minister of state responsible for Canada Post until earlier this year.

He said Wednesday's announcement is not shocking as postal services around the world are all suffering from a drop in business.

"They're in an impossible situation. The industry has completely changed," he said. "Technology has forced Canada Post to change its business model."

The Crown corporation has to change with the times, Fletcher said.