And that goes double for beleaguered mail carriers
A letter carrier for Canada Post, braves the snow on his route in this file photo. — Telegram file photo
As loyal readers know, at the beginning of every year, once I’ve had a chance to sit back and relax, I reflect on the year gone by and remember those people or organizations who have had the greatest positive influence on me in the past 12 months.
In 2012, scores of people went above and beyond to make my existence that much easier and happier.
First of all, I’d like to thank Claude and Ruby Rockwood of Heart’s Content who drove more than 20 kilometres out of their way — about 43 km return — to deliver two of my children and me to our cabin in Hants Harbour after our friend had a traffic accident in Heart’s Content that totalled his car. Claude and Ruby didn’t let on that they lived two minutes down the road from where they picked us up until we were well on our way. All the people who came to our friend’s aid are to be commended.
I would also like to thank Jason at Podiatry Associates who fixed me up with running shoes that allowed me to run 26.2 miles almost blister free.
And I can’t forget Dr. Maroon who, for decades, has been relieving the people of this province of debilitating pain. After my friend damaged a nerve in her neck, she was sent home from emergency at the Health Sciences four times with useless pain killers. She spent six weeks on her back in bed until her family doctor referred her to Dr. Maroon, who performed an immediate life-changing emergency operation.
“He’s one of the first people I think about when I wake up every morning because he was so good to me,” she says.
Dr. Maroon deserves to retire, but what would Newfoundlanders ever do without him?
Speaking of retirement, big thanks to Jim Fidler for coming out of early retirement to play and sing at my husband’s 50 birthday party this November. People keep coming up to me and telling me what a great party it was. I had nothing to do with it; it was all Jim Fidler. In my mind, there is no more talented musician in this province.
Now, this is a weird one. Thank you to Emily and Colin at Duke of Duckworth who let me hang 50 bras on their outdoor deck to celebrate my sister’s 50th birthday. I hope those bras continue to support her as she enters the second half of her life.
I’d also like to thank Surprise Baby’s soccer coaches — the whole crew of them who made Declan’s first soccer season one to remember. With enthusiasm, they coaxed wary kids on the field. They dealt with over-enthusiastic children with the patience that normally only comes with decades of parenting. They were goofy and silly and the children had the time of their lives. Thanks, as well, to Carla Squires who hires the coaches and works hard to make St. John’s youth soccer the wonderful organization it is.
I want to acknowledge the pleasant cleaners in the Lawtons parking lot at 11 Elizabeth Ave. It’s funny how a smiling stranger can brighten your day. Usually it’s someone you pass walking at their leisure, but one day my day brighteners were picking up garbage outside in a busy parking lot. Take a look the next time you’re there; that parking lot is always super clean. I since found out they work for Baine Johnston, so kudos to you. Your cleaners deserve a raise.
I’m almost getting to the end here, but there are two people who have really gone above and beyond, especially during the Christmas season. The first is my sanitation engineer (I hope that’s the politically correct name for garbage collector). He works so hard I’m surprised he doesn’t just keel over. But no, he slings hundreds of overweight bags every day with a smile. Just collecting the bags on our street alone would throw out most people’s backs. But he does it day in and day out. He and his coworkers (recycling truck operators included) deserve recognition from the city for the hard work they do.
Mail must get through
I saved the ultimate for last.
This Christmas season, my mail carrier has trudged along dark streets, sometimes on black ice, well after supper hour to make sure we get our snail mail. She is not alone. Have you noticed that mail now arrives on Saturdays and Sundays? We received two big packages on two consecutive Sundays. Have you also noticed that mail carriers in this city have been out until 8 p.m. to make sure you get your Christmas packages and cards?
In July of last year, Canada Post adopted a new nationwide system that requires mail carriers to stay on their routes until 8 p.m. or until all mail is delivered. If it’s dark and wet and drivers can’t see them, the carriers can sign out headlamps at the office to help them navigate.
If it’s too dark to see black ice, tough noogies. The mail must get through. Going back to the office before 8 p.m. is not an option. It is a “major misconduct.”
But what happened to our right to refuse unsafe work? Here’s what the WHSCC website has to say.
“When it comes to health and safety, every worker in Newfoundland and Labrador, regardless of age, has the following … basic rights in the workplace. … The right to refuse work that one reasonably believes can be dangerous to oneself or others. When it comes to safety at work, it’s everyone’s responsibility.
“Employees are responsible to protect … their own health and safety.”
Not so, it appears, at Canada Post in Newfoundland and Labrador. One poor mail carrier found out the hard way that exercising this right “may result in dismissal.”
One night, a mail carrier was out on his route when it became so icy he feared he would miss a patch of ice in the dark and take a fall that would result in an injury. So, he went back to the office and explained to his employer that he considered continuing work in those conditions unsafe and it would be better to deliver the remaining mail in the daylight.
Hoo-wee, did he get an earful. Or should I say, an eyeful: a lengthy letter signed by his supervisor explaining that he is required to be on the route until 8 p.m., or else. His counterparts in the rest of the country are forced to do the same. Why not him?
This mail carrier has a family to support and can’t afford to lose his job, so he did what lots of others have done when dealing with bullies. He sucked it up and risked his safety to perform his duties.
But what changed? Why is it that mail carriers are out so late? Why is it that I see mail carriers’ spouses driving by to say hello to their partner who no longer makes it home to supper?
It seems the pendulum has swung. The job some used to think was the greatest on Earth has gone the other way. The new two-wave system introduced in July requires the carriers to start later than normal in the morning. Basically there are two shifts or waves with the second shift using the same sorting frames as the first. That means the workers who start at the new second shift time of 9:30 often don’t make it to their neighbourhoods until after noon. They used to be on the road much earlier with the old system.
Alas, gone are the grey boxes at the end of streets that mail carriers would unlock to reveal already sorted mail to deliver. Now they have to go to the office and get it themselves. The machine sorts the standard sized envelopes, carriers hand-sort the oversized envelopes, pick up the parcels that have already been sorted and then drive to start their routes.
When all the mail is delivered, carriers then collect the mail that’s been dropped in local red mailboxes (this is called clearance mail). They then have to head back to the office to sign out, return scanners and clearance mail.
So, if your mail has been arriving later than normal, don’t bark at your mail carrier. Send a letter to Canada Post.
I wanted to stick to good news for my first column of 2013, but sometimes you have to go to the dark side. Pardon the pun.
Susan Flanagan is a freelance writer living in St. John’s. She can be reached at email@example.com.
For more information on SAFE Work or other health and safety questions, contact the WHSCC Prevention Information Line at
1-800-563-9000 or 709-778-1552. www.whscc.nl.ca.