Ryan Knight likes to take his nephew to hockey practice.
But as a postal worker and president of the local Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), he’s been working so much overtime in the last three and a half months that he often just barely makes it or he is late and has to get someone else to take him to hockey.
Knight says the transition to community mailboxes in Campbell River has not been a smooth one.
On Sept. 21, the community mailboxes went live in Campbell River, and only about 50 of the roughly 300 boxes were actually active, which meant that two and a half of the letter carriers’ old routes were made into one route, which still included a lot of door-to-door delivery as part of the route, he said.
“So basically since Sept. 21, they’ve had to have two people do one route, and both people are working a lot of overtime,” said Knight. “Personally, I’ve worked between 140 and 150 hours of overtime since Sept. 21 and the only voluntary time I’ve done it is I volunteered to do it at Christmas just because it was such a disaster to make sure the customers got their Christmas parcels.”
Knight is responding to recent articles about the difficulties customers and letter carriers have been dealing with since the conversion to community mailboxes began.
Knight says there weren’t any relief workers brought in to help over the holidays.
“We do have temporary employees, but they always have worked at Canada Post because they have failed to fill positions for years, so they have filled them with temporary employees who work all the time,” he said. “They were already working all the time before we went live in September, so these people just worked more over the holidays. At one point, one temporary employee was coming to work before her kids were awake and coming home after they’d been put to bed. So there’s been a lot of things that have been going on that are not conducive to any sort of family life.”
In a letter to the editor, Monica Judd, CUPW alternate union representative and campaign co-ordinator, thanked MP Rachel Blaney for bringing to light the many issues faced by postal workers and customers who have been negatively affected by Canada Post’s controversial five-point plan, but she said the comments made by Canada Post spokesperson Anick Losier were “overwhelmingly untrue, which has been the standard response since the onset of this contentious program.
“We the public and the union do not have access to the complaints made to Canada Post, but Ms. Losier’s statement does not resemble the daily complaints that postal workers receive on the street,” wrote Judd. “What we have heard is the 1-866 number provided is a draining experience, you may be on hold for 20 minutes to get a ticket number and the operator may have generic information for you if you are lucky.”
Knight says he was surprised to hear Canada Post say there have been few complaints in Campbell River.
“We had lineups out the door for at least six weeks of people with problems with their keys,” he said. “We had neighbours getting their neighbours’ keys, we had keys opening the wrong boxes, we had people who hadn’t gotten keys but the box had been activated so we were delivering to the box but they had no key so they went without mail for three weeks. During the cold snap, we had boxes that were frozen solid and people couldn’t even get into their box to get their mail for multiple weeks.
“After we got snow just before Christmas, they didn’t shovel any of them, and then it froze solid for two weeks, so they just turned into a big block of ice all around the box, which is totally unsafe for the citizens of Campbell River. There were complaints of people falling, elderly people who are trying to get to the box, and they’re falling and hurting themselves before they even get their mail.”
Knight feels that Canada Post has ignored that there’s been a problem in Campbell River and hasn’t done anything to try to fix it.
“They’re losing thousands of dollars almost daily in overtime because nobody can get their routes done so all the big savings they were talking about having by having these new boxes have gone right out the window,” he said. “Instead of cutting half the staff, now we have more people working than ever at Canada Post, and really, all the workers at Canada Post just want to be able to deliver door-to-door to their customers. That’s the job satisfaction of seeing the public. I mean, we never asked for this.”
People who have complaints in Campbell River have been contacting the local Canada Post supervisors, whom Knight has said have been very helpful, but people are supposed to be calling Canada Post’s customer service line at 1-866-607-6301. Knight hears complaints that calling this number is not very helpful.
“Basically, we’ve carried Canada Post on our backs for the last four and a half months with absolutely no thank you, no nothing. This has been their mess that they’ve created, we limped it through Christmas, and now people are basically, we’re at a breaking point where you just can’t keep going like this all the time.”
Knight thanked the public on behalf of the letter carriers.
“They’ve been super supportive of us and very patient with a bad situation, knowing it’s not our idea and we’re doing our best to get the public their mail and their parcels,” he said. “It’s been a messy situation, and we just really appreciate the public’s support.”