Crown corporation as a model employer and Canadian job creator

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Wednesday September 21 2016

Canada Post is one of the country's largest employers, present in every community. In this age of increasingly precarious work, Canada Post as a Crown corporation can serve as an anchor for stability and can regain some of its brand value as a model employer, recognized for its highly skilled workers, high standards of employment and working conditions.

To this end, Canada Post could be doing more to invest in its people by offering decent jobs with sustainable wages, good working conditions, and stable hours consisting of full-time work with benefits and retirement security.

CUPW represents the vast majority of Canada Post's 64,000 employees. [1] As of 2015, in our urban members' workforce, the employment breakdown was as follows:

 

Full time

26,941

Part time

5,997

Temporary

9,022

 

Over the past decade, there has been an alarming shift towards more precarious work inside our sortation and delivery facilities. Full-time work for inside workers decreased by 37% from 2005 to 2015 while part-time work increased by 16%. The number of hours worked by temporary workers increased by 42%.[2]

Canada Post has also relied more on overtime hours, including forced overtime, to get the mail and parcels moved.[3] This is both wrong and unnecessary.

Canada Post can better plan its operations by using all the means at its disposal, including mail and parcel volumes analytics, to maximize full-time work. By combining part-time jobs to create more full-time positions, Canada Post can save money, if only for the reason that the benefit load for part-time employees is higher than that of full-time employees.

Many other post offices that had, in the past, moved towards a part-time employment model have now concluded that such a  model affects their quality of service and are backtracking with a commitment to a greater emphasis on full-time employment in the years to come.[4]

While most of Canada Post's outside work is full-time day shift work, delivering mail is not easy, and in some cases can be considered precarious.  In some parts of the country, particularly where the economy is growing and where postal transformation has increased the difficulty of the delivery routes, there is a high turnover rate of letter carriers and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs). The latter, a female-dominated workforce, are paid on average 28% less than their urban counterparts, the majority of whom are male, and do not have as good benefits and pension plans.

New hires at Canada Post are not given enough training and on-boarding and often quit within a few days. Without the support they need and at a newly lowered starting wage of slightly more than $19/hour, many new hires cannot manage the juggling of early morning starts with the special childcare arrangements required for their work.  [5]  With high turnover, delivery routes are left uncovered, leading to mail delays. [6]
Canada Post currently contracts out work in many areas of its operations:

  • Real estate management and maintenance
  • Group mailbox installation and maintenance
  • Delivery of parcels and letter carrier support in some areas 
  • Maintenance of forklifts and other equipment outside major sortation facilities
  • Parcel delivery in many cities and towns, including Fort McMurray
  • Some of the maintenance of delivery vehicles
  • Private retail postal outlets
  • Call centre support and customer service
  • Information Technology
  • Transportation of mail between cities

 

The problems of contracting out are well known: high (and costly) turnover, creeping contractor costs, service quality issues and erosion of the trusted brand[7]. By contracting in this work, Canada Post could maintain better control over all its operations. Contracting in also allows Canada Post to improve the diversity of its workforce and provide opportunities for advancement to existing staff – an attractive prospect and tool for staff retention.

 

The cost of contracting out: High turnover, uneven service and poor working conditions

Long-serving staff in public post offices know the inner workings of the postal system and they receive training and ongoing support to keep up with frequent changes to the service offerings. In addition to possessing detailed product and service knowledge, retail staff are required to learn over 60 complex transactions.

As mentioned in the section on retail services, workers in private postal outlets are often paid at unsustainable minimum wage and receive little training or ongoing support, which leads to a high turnover and service quality issues.

As discussed elsewhere in this submission, CUPW strongly believes in the possibilities of new services for Canada Post, such as postal banking. These services will create a high demand for skills and place value on qualities such as precision, timeliness and personalization. As foreign postal operators such as Post NL are finding, a model based on a part-time contractual model reaches its limits.[8] Ever-increasing parcel volumes and new services cannot be met through precarious temporary and part-time staffing.

 

The role of good jobs in a changing Canada

Full-time, stable employment also entails that state institutions are not forced to shoulder the costs (whether those be personal such as increased personal stress or environmental, such as higher emissions and more traffic congestion) of workers balancing multiple jobs and shuttling between them.

As an ever-greater concentration of new jobs with relatively better conditions become clustered in a select few major urban areas with higher housing costs, the rural and "have not" regions are seeing a hollowing-out of decent employment prospects for the future. This creates a Catch-22 situation, where prosperous regions continue to experience skyrocketing costs of living and people from have-not parts of the country are trapped in a downward spiral.

Canada Post, by contracting more of its work in and creating better conditions in rural and urban areas alike, could have a real impact in terms of offering decent employment opportunities more evenly throughout the country – especially for disadvantaged groups such as women and Indigenous workers.

 

Recommendations:

That Canada Post maximize stable, full-time employment, especially for women and Indigenous workers, by contracting in its work.

That Canada Post should use all the means at its disposal to maximize full-time, regular hours. For example, analytics and technology should be used to better predict volumes and staffing needs for Group 1. Mailers could be supplied with incentives to bring their mail in at certain times.

 

 

 


[2] CPC, Group 1 staffing reports, 20015-2015

[4] See p.7-8, "Should the postal sector change its social model to succeed in its transformation?" Bailly, Dominique and Margaux Meidinger. Presented at the 24th 24th Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics. 2016.

[5] See appendix A Jane Beach: Overload A study of the impact of Postal Transformation on the Work-life balance of CUPW members. 

[8] See p.7-8, "Should the postal sector change its social model to succeed in its transformation?" Bailly, Dominique and Margaux Meidinger. Presented at the 24th 24th Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics. 2016.