A letter carrier's lament: We all lose if postal services are cut

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It is the week before Christmas and it is -20 degrees with a wind chill of -30. The sidewalks are crowded with snow. This Christmas will be the last time that a grandmother can receive a card from her grandchild at her door. Next year even if her grandchild is willing to pay more than one dollar to have it "delivered," the card will never reach grandma's doorstep. How will she ever get it?

All Canadians will lose as a result of the cuts to Canada Post, but it is seniors and the disabled who will be the big losers as they rely on this service to stay in touch. It should not be this way and it was not supposed to be this way. I know what this service means to people as I was a letter carrier for more than 35 years.

I have held union offices from Business Agent to National President in the Letter Carriers Union of Canada. As such I was involved in discussions with the government about Canada Post's move from a department of government to a Crown corporation. The mandate given the Corporation was to continue all present services, to expand these services, and to look into new services that would assist in its financial stability.

At the time, the unions saw a need to adapt post office services to changing times. We advocated that the post office get into new services like banking -- something that is still valid today. Back then, computers were just being introduced so we suggested the Corporation set up email stations with computers so people could send email from one community post office to another.

I served as a director of the Corporation from 1983 to 1986. During my time on the board, we dealt with the issue of home delivery being denied to new homes. After much pressure by the public, by MPs elected in the new areas, by the unions and a court injunction I launched against the plan, the Corporation modified its stand so that some of the new areas did get home delivery. But the Corporation did not want to live up to its agreement, so in 1987 there were again problems. This fight continues today.

When Canada Post became a Crown corporation there was supposed to be door-to-door service for any community with 5,000 points of call. Today, it isn't the service that should be cut. Instead we should examine the load of high-paid vice-presidents and the chairman with his million-dollar salary and benefit package, and all other management positions that don't provide any service. 

In 2011, this government legislated postal workers back to work at a wage that was less than what had been on the table when the strike began. Their reason then was that this was an essential service. Today they have announced that the essential service of home delivery will no longer exist. Then like cowards, the government left Ottawa for 6 weeks.

Workers will accept changes that are carried out fairly. I was on the committee that in 1967 discussed the hiring of the first female letter carrier. Management was concerned whether women could carry the load and not keen to pay them the same as men. The unions established pay equity and today approximately half the letter carriers are women and they are paid the same as men doing the job.

My father, my brothers and I have all worked for the post office. We were proud to have provided a good service to people. It is one that the Congress of Union Retirees will fight to maintain for seniors, the disabled and indeed all Canadians.

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Bob McGarry was President of the Letter Carriers Union of Canada. Following its merger with CUPW, he was Assistant to the Secretary-Treasurer of the CLC. In this role, he assisted in the formation of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC). Since his retirement, he has served as Secretary of CURC.

Retiree Matters is a monthly column written by members of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) that explores issues relevant to retirees, senior citizens, their families and their communities. CURC acts as an advocacy organization to ensure that the concerns of union retirees and senior citizens are heard throughout Canada.

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