Union fears closure of Salmon Arm Post Office

Expansion: Canada Post looking at new downtown outlet.

Change of procedure: Local businessman Gary Osborne sorts letters destined for out-of-town delivery from those to be taken inside the government post office to be sorted and mailed locally.

Change of procedure: Local businessman Gary Osborne sorts letters destined for out-of-town delivery from those to be taken inside the government post office to be sorted and mailed locally.

Changes to how Canada Post serves Salmon Arm, and the province, are creating uncertainty as to how long the city will be served by a government postal outlet.

Canada Post says the Salmon Arm government post office on Hudson Street is doing very well, but its hours do not cater to those who need to use the service after hours and on weekends. So the Crown corporation has begun a process, in consultation with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), of looking at setting up another private outlet in the vicinity of the downtown postal outlet.

“Because it’s doing well, we see there’s possibly a need…, “ says Canada Post spokesperson Anick Losier. “We’re considering possibly adding a dealership, and the starting point of about 0.5 kilometres away, because there’s more like a retail area, there’s a Rexall there… so there’s a few possible businesses which we could potentially look at.”

Losier says a private outlet will allow Canada Post to provide improved access and convenience, and is more cost-effective than expanding hours at the corporate post office.

But post office employee and CUPW local 823 (Salmon Arm) president Dale Wereschuk is not entirely comforted by the information he’s received to date from Canada Post.

“All we know is that Canada Post has applied to put a sub-post office on the corner of Sixth Street and Hudson Avenue NE, which puts it on that corner, but they’re not actually saying which facility it’s going in,” says Wereschuk, adding union officials suspect the long-term goal for Canada Post is to do away with Salmon Arm’s corporate office.

“Traditionally, that’s what happens. They open the franchise close to a corporate outlet and then they shut down the corporate outlet.”

But Losier stresses this is “just a starting point” in the consultation process, and “there’s actually no guarantees there will be a dealership there.”

“It’s not to threaten the corporate post office – it’s doing quite well. It’s just to complement it,” says Losier.

While Salmon Arm’s government outlet may be doing well, Losier says Canada Post last year experienced its first financial loss in 16 years, and that it’s seeing two million letters less a day compared to last year.

This, says Losier, has a lot to do with technology and changes in the way people communicate. Subsequently, Canada Post is changing how its letters are handled, moving mail sorting away from small community outlets to centralized locations. Salmon Arm residents may have noticed the impact of this locally with the removal of the “Local” destination mailboxes from the community this past weekend. Now, says Losier, if a letter addressed to Salmon Arm is dropped off in a Salmon Arm mailbox, or at a private outlet, it will be sent to Vancouver, where it will be sorted and returned to Salmon Arm for delivery. However, if the same letter is delivered to the corporate post office, it will stay in Salmon Arm for delivery.

Wereschuk is encouraging residents to bring their local mail to the post office counter, stating it will have an impact on jobs.

“We lost a position effective today, a full-time position, which happens to be a wicket position,” Wereschuk said Monday. “It’s really important, that’s the message we want to get out. If you bring the letters over the counter to Salmon Arm, those will stay in town and be sorted.”

Losier says the position Wereschuk referred to was a retirement, and that no one lost their job. However, she adds the position will not be replaced.

“Quite frankly, we would rather stay status quo, but the status quo is not viable for us,” says Losier.

Wereschuk says the union and Canada Post will be monitoring mail sorted in Vancouver, to ensure it comes back for delivery in two day’s time, as per corporation standards. And while this system is now underway, he says the union still plans to fight it.

“We’re going to be getting petitions and we’re asking city council to send letters to their  MPs and send a letter to Canada Post opposing these changes,” he says.