I spent over 37 years with the Corporation (An article by Peter Finch)

I spent over 37 years with the Corporation. I have worked in some capacity or other in practically every department of the post office. By all accounts, I was a very capable employee who never failed to excel at anything I put my hand to. In my experience, there are many other equally excellent employees, dedicated to their jobs, to public service: people who value their customers and who are well regarded in turn.The majority however, are angry, frustrated and often scared. They put up with an incredibly toxic work environment in which everything that goes sideways is somehow an employee’s fault, where some one will have to be punished.

Some resort to drinking, drugs, aberrant behaviour–and suicide, something kept tidy and out of the media. Others are struck down by stress related diseases, which we often observe as they get more and more profound, and sometimes dangerous.

We have all seen under-qualified people rising way past their ability or aptitude. We have all watched family members and friends of managers promoted to supervisor, superintendent, director. The usual expression is “drink with, golf with or sleep with” to get to the top. Expertise is met with suspicion, experience pretty much disqualifies a person from promotion.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly fine people in management too, but the overwhelming majority allow the most hateful, narcissistic, often hopelessly incompetent bullies to set the tone of management style at Canada Post. Managers who are not like that are also intimidated and bullied, but they don’t have a union that can stand up for them, so they shut up and do what they are told.

The majority of managers today have not done the jobs they have authority over, and could not do them, either.

I used to train letter carriers. I recommended a fail for one of them, but he had connections, and last I heard, he had become a superintendent and acting director. I still maintain that he should never have been hired: he was a typical bully, an arrogant liar who hid behind the guise of being a good upright Christian family man.

Canada Post’s operations are all grounded in a complex time and motion system, mostly connected to the Letter Carrier Route Measurement System, or LCRMS for short. This system was developed in the 1960s, based on United Nations work standards. Every physical motion was timed, and every function factored by a volume driven, average driven equation, expressed in minutes. A work day consists of 480 minutes, including lunch, breaks and time to read instructions, announcements and do necessary paperwork.

LCRMS gave everybody what they wanted: the customer got good, reliable service. The employee got great working conditions, good pay and benefits. The Corporation reaped in the profits.

But all that wasn’t enough. “Efficiency experts” decided that LCRMS was a barrier to even greater Corporate profits, and have attacked the system relentlessly for the last 25 years. The weighted averages are now so heavily weighted that 60 minutes of structured time is actually far more than 60 minutes on the clock. Employees are paid by the hour, but they are not paid beyond their 8 hours if their duties exceed that time, nor are they allowed to stop work after their 8 hours are completed. The supervisor simply denies the overtime, and anyone who complains about it is liable to discipline, which often entails a few days off with no pay. This encourages unscrupulous employees to work faster, and take short cuts that endanger themselves and others. If they want to make more money, they run faster so they can take the overtime that is offered. Managers turn a blind eye to flagrant violation of safety considerations and delivery procedure, but deny any knowledge when some one is injured or mail is lost or damaged.

By systematically lying, cheating and stealing, LCRMS is now a mockery of what it was, with even volume counts corrupted always in favour of the Corporation. Canada Post cries poverty, yet invests in more and more mechanization which doesn’t really work. The message is clear: in the eyes of Canada Post, its employees are a liability.

Some plants and letter carrier depots are dirty, badly maintained and even unsafe. Noise levels in some cases approach that of an airport, and air quality, heating and air conditioning often poor or even non-existent.

I could go on, but I think you get my drift. I loved the job, I enjoyed my co-workers and my customers, and did the best I could under the circumstances, but I cannot adequately express the contempt I have for those who have hijacked Canada’s post office and have driven it down while profiting at the expense of others.

Peter Finch is a recently retired letter carrier out of Depot 74 in Vancouver.

One comment

  1. Danielle Desormeaux says:

    You have written a very interesting article Peter. You should post on postiebook.com more often. I am very grateful to Andrew for providing postal workers with such a forum for discussions.

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