Some rural post offices close following Canada Post vaccine mandate

·3 min read
Canada Post's two largest unions have challenged the vaccine mandate, arguing rapid-testing should be offered as an alternative.  (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada Post's two largest unions have challenged the vaccine mandate, arguing rapid-testing should be offered as an alternative. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Mayor Gary Rycroft has lived in Beaverlodge, Alta., for more than 60 years. He remembers only one time when the local post office closed. It shut down for half a day after it was robbed decades ago.

But when he went to the communal hub on Monday, nobody was there sorting or distributing the mail.

"There was no warning; there was no notice on the walls about what was going on," Rycroft said.

In the small northern community 40 kilometres west of Grande Prairie, residents worry about getting cheques and packages needed for small businesses.

Beaverlodge is one of several rural Albertan communities to see its post office close or go on reduced hours following Canada Post's vaccination deadline last week.

Workers across Canada unwilling to be vaccinated were set to be put on unpaid leave — as was the case with five employees at Beaverlodge, according to the Alberta president of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association.

"[Canada Post] has been working really hard to try and fill positions with other members, but all of our offices are running short-staffed for this time of year," Xan Moffatt-Toews in an email to CBC News.

Ten offices were closed across Alberta on Monday, Moffat-Toews said. That was down to seven Tuesday as far as she aware.

Most of the closures were in northern Alberta with a few in the central region, she said.

Hub of the community

"It was felt very quickly — you can imagine in any rural community, that's the hub of the community," said Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities Association and reeve of Ponoka County.

McLauchlin said for residents needing to travel some distance to the office, hitting on the right hour when it's open will be a challenge and likely source of stress.

"It just layers upon all the other things that are going on right now, and creates one more complexity in rural Alberta."

Reduced postal service is likely affecting regions across the country, he said.

"I would not be surprised if this is the same situation through small communities and all of rural Canada would likely be subjected to the same concerns we're seeing right now."

Vaccine compliance

Canada Post is not releasing how many employees are on leave but a spokesperson says the vast majority are in compliance with its vaccination mandate.

"We are not anticipating any major service disruptions," Valérie Chartrand said in an emailed statement.

"There may be a few isolated cases where a post office may see reduced hours or temporarily close due to staffing issues."

Canada Post first introduced its vaccine mandate at the end of October.

The CPAA and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which together represent some 60,000 employees, have challenged the mandate because it does not include rapid-testing as an option.

An application for a cease-and-desist order by CUPW was quashed by an arbitrator last week. Both unions have filed grievances against the corporation.

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