Senior executives from Canada Post have been holding closed door consultations with business groups in cities across the country. Meetings were held in Calgary on September 11, 2013 and in Ottawa on September 12th. According to the corporation fifty such consultations are planned and each meeting is followed by a media blitz in each city. Instead of media relations representatives, senior vice-presidents of the corporation have been appearing on news programs and radio talk shows in one of the most aggressive campaigns undertaken by the corporation to promote the dismantling of the public post office and further attack the working conditions, wages and benefits (including pensions) of postal workers.
This nation-wide media campaign is the latest attempt of the corporation to convince Canadians of the “serious financial crisis facing Canada Post”, and the need to “transform the postal service”.
The information being presented is based on the report of the Conference Board of Canada, commissioned by the corporation. The report predicted that the corporation would be facing $1 billion deficits per year by 2020 if it did not make changes to its operations. The recommendation of the report to eliminate door-to-door delivery to be replaced by community mail boxes; to reduce mail delivery to alternate days; to increase the use of franchises to replace retail postal stations and to relax service standards is intended to “reduce labour costs” which according to the report is the “transformation required to save the Post Office”.
An important part of the disinformation being presented by the corporation representatives to support the claim that there is no choice but to cut services and jobs is the latest quarterly report which claims a $104 million loss during the second quarter of this year.
To create maximum panic the quarterly report states the following: “Based on current financial forecasts, the Canada Post segment believes it has sufficient liquidity to support its operations until at least the end of the first quarter of 2014”. We are supposed to believe that after spending more than $2 billion to modernize postal operations, with a network of more than 6000 postal installations across the country with more than 70,000 employees, Canada Post is claiming that it will be bankrupt by the spring of 2014. The absurdity of the financial report doesn’t end there. The report also wants people to believe that this financial crisis is due to lower mail volumes. All of these outrageous claims are made by the senior vice-presidents of the corporation without providing an objective view of the state of the Post Office based on facts.
For instance, a review of the corporation’s yearly financial reports shows that although there is some decline in transaction mail (bills, invoices and statements), the claims being made now are greatly exaggerated. While there may be a decline of about 5% in this type of mail, there has also been an increase in parcels and other services. The following table shows the revenue from operations in billions of dollars since 2003 which have increased or remained stable each year. It seems that the Conference Board predictions of billion dollar deficits, presented by the V-P’s, is based more on wishful thinking than objective analysis.
|2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
6.3 6.7 6.9 7.3 7.5 7.7 7.3 7.5 7.5 7.5
Instead of speculation about the financial situation facing Canada Post, what is needed is a discussion of the facts which are available. For example, the corporation has never explained how much revenue was lost when the Harper government passed legislation to deregulate international mail. With Bill C-9, a federal budget bill in 2010, the Harper government succeeded in taking international letters out of the exclusive privilege of Canada Post. With this bill the government legalized the already existing illegal operations of businesses known as “remailers” that were handling letters bound for international destinations. By sneaking deregulation into a budget bill to avoid debate, Harper enabled large private mailers to take millions of dollars of revenue from Canada Post each year. When is the corporation going to reveal the amount of revenue lost to international “remailers”?
That is not the only example of privatization and deregulation that has already undermined the revenue of the corporation. The corporation has never explained the amount of revenue lost due to the numerous closures of retail post offices across the country.
The method being followed in the ongoing privatization of the retail sector of the post office is another clear indication of the intention of the Harper government and the managers of the corporation to dismantle the public post office.
The corporation has been systematically selling postal franchises to Shopper’s Drug Mart and other retailers located near retail Postal Stations. Once franchises are established, many times within a city block of the retail Post Office, the corporation then reduces the hours of operation of its own retail outlets making it more convenient for customers to use the franchises. Then to finally destroy its own retail office, the corporation establishes rules to ensure that all “call-for items” like special delivery, registration and parcels which could not be delivered, can only be picked up at the franchises and no longer at the postal Stations. It is an undeniable fact that people are not going to franchises out of preference but because of the policies of the corporation.
As a result of those policies the revenue of the retail Post Office declines and the office is closed, many times in spite of the complaints and petitions of thousands of people and small businesses who depend on the services they receive.
An examination of the facts clearly shows that the drive of the Harper government for privatization and deregulation is not because of the financial crisis or any failure of the Post Office but on the contrary because of the profitability of certain sectors of the postal service which they want to hand over to the monopoly corporations. Most of the problems of the Post Office are self-inflicted by those appointed to manage Canada Post who are on a reckless path to destroy the public post office.
The demands now to cut more services is not to save the Post Office, as some Vice-Presidents claim, but to further undermine and weaken the ability of Canada Post to provide universal postal service to which all Canadians are entitled. According to Mary Traversy, Senior Vice-President of Operations, Canada Post could save over $500 million by replacing door-to-door delivery with community mail boxes and delivering mail on alternate days. But this “solution”, instead of saving the Post Office will lead to its destruction. It is based on the false assumption that workers are a cost of production. Postal workers, through the services they provide, produce the value which the Post Office requires to maintain and develop its resources and to provide universal service, which is its mandate.
If services are cut and thousands of positions are eliminated, this will seriously reduce revenues and also reduce contributions to the pension plan, putting that in jeopardy as well. Instead of saving the Post Office, this would make it impossible for the Canada Post to fulfill its universal postal service obligations and make further privatization inevitable. This can only benefit the large monopoly corporations like UPS, FEDEX and Pitney Bowes, just to name a few, who will swallow up all the value which would have been created by postal workers to maintain and support a public post office.
Harper’s plan must not be allowed to pass!
*Louis Lang is a former CUPW local union president, a long time trade-union and political activist and a retired postal worker.