Postal union says it didn't know changes were coming
Delivery to 76 private mailboxes like these in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's is being suspended by Canada Post for safety reasons. The union representing postal workers said the decision was taken without consultation with its members. - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
The local branch of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) says Canada Post failed to consult it before deciding to stop service to 76 rural mailboxes in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's.
Mike McDonald, the recording secretary for CUPW Local 126 and vice-president of the District Labour Council, told The Telegram one of the town's carriers reported a safety issue with a single private mailbox, and that led to a review by the Crown corporation.
McDonald said Canada Post didn't give the union the results of the assessment, nor did it tell homeowners how their mailboxes could be fixed.
Instead, said McDonald, the corporation reviewed all of the 164 private mailboxes in the town and determined that 76 were not safe and that another 22 were questionable and might have to be relocated.
"If it is a safety issue, yes, we want to fix it right away," he said. "(But) you can't use the safety of one mailbox to go and eliminate 76 throughout the entire community."
McDonald said one of the community mailbox sites some people are now being sent to to get their mail is more dangerous than their private mailboxes were.
"Most of the problem areas that Canada Post is changing these boxes on are rural roads that have very low car volumes," McDonald said.
"At some point, they've got to bring us the information from that assessment so we can have a set of eyes on it as well," McDonald added.
He's concerned Canada Post is trying to scale back the service in the area so a few years down the road it can eliminate one of the three postal routes in the community and make a position redundant.
He's hoping people in the town will rally behind the union to save the delivery service to these mailboxes.
Canada Post denies most of McDonald's claims.
Spokeswoman Lori Lancaster said all three carriers in the town reported safety concerns, and it wasn't just a single mailbox.
"We're obligated to look into these safety concerns," she said. "Under the Canada Labour Code, we're not only morally responsible to look at it, but we're legally responsible to look at potential safety issues, especially when they are brought forward by employees."
Lancaster also said the review is part of a nationwide safety evaluation.
"We are assessing ... every single rural mailbox across the country," she said.
The corporation, said Lancaster, has criteria it uses to evaluate rural mailboxes, including traffic sightlines.
She said every person whose mailbox is a problem will be visited by a Canada Post employee to discuss how their mailboxes can be made more safe before there's any change in service.
"We do our best to see if there is anything we can do with their current mailbox to make it pass (inspection)," said Lancaster.
She said because none of the three carriers requested union representation on the safety issue, the corporation was not required to consult with the union.
She said changing people's service is a last resort, but when there is a safety issue the corporation has to act.
Lancaster said changes to one of the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's routes has been in place since the end of February, while changes to the remaining two routes will come into effect Monday.