The rural postal workers’ union in B.C. is sounding the alarm about reduced staffing hours, stressed-out employees and possible service issues at the often-busy Whistler Post Office.
A notice was delivered to Whistler mailboxes last week from the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA) about Canada Post’s plans to reduce staffing levels in Whistler, which the notice says “will once again decrease the level of customer service available” at the local post office.
Barbara Lincoln, president of the B.C. branch of the CPAA, said on Monday (Aug. 23) that the Whistler Post Office has been operating short a full-time position for several months after the postmaster, or supervisor, retired. Another employee was promoted to the postmaster’s position internally, but that vacant position was never filled.
Now, Lincoln said she’s heard that a part-time, 26-hour-a-week position is under consideration to be axed from the Whistler Post Office altogether. There are rumblings of cuts in other regional post offices as well — Lincoln said the Sechelt office where she works is looking at losing 20 staff hours a week.
Lincoln said she’s talked to the Whistler Post Office employees and they’re “very stressed” after months of being short staffed and with regular lineups.
“I know how lined up they are there,” Lincoln said. “They’re the busiest office, I think, in Canada.”
She said she’s also heard about plans to change the opening time at the Whistler office from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
“It’s going to be a reduction of service,” Lincoln said.
But Colleen Frick, Canada Post spokesperson, said on Tuesday (Aug. 24) that any adjustments that might be made to staffing hours internally won’t “affect the customer.”
Frick said a review is underway to look at “peak and valley” customer times at the Whistler Post Office and other locations. Staffing hours may be adjusted internally to “optimize counter service,” she said.
“What we are considering right now is internally adjusting some of the staffing hours within the office,” Frick said. “Nothing has been changed to date.”
Frick said she couldn’t speak to the issue of an unfilled position at the Whistler office after the postmaster’s retirement.
No changes are planned in the total amount of hours the post office is currently open, she added, and no job losses are anticipated. If the office hours would be adjusted, both employees and customers would be notified, she said.
“At this point we feel we’re meeting the needs well of our customers,” she said.
Frick said Canada Post is using information from the point-of-sale equipment to monitor how busy the Whistler Post Office is at different times of the day. When asked how that data keep track of how many customers might be waiting in line at any given time, Frick said long lineups are a thing of the past.
“We’re not seeing those lineups anymore,” she said. “Customer volumes are down considerably.”
Mail volumes are “drastically” down on a national basis, but Frick said she has no Whistler-specific numbers.
The Whistler Post Office is known for often having long lineups. On Tuesday at about 1 p.m., two employees were serving customers, and there were four people waiting in line. Three other people were in the post office, filling out labels and addressing mail.
Lincoln, who became CPAA B.C. president in May, also took issue with the change a couple of year ago for all mail posted in Whistler to be shipped to Vancouver for date stamping and redistribution. That means a letter mailed in Whistler and addressed to Pemberton is first shipped to Vancouver for processing and then back up the Sea to Sky Highway to Pemberton for delivery.
That work should be done locally, Lincoln said.
Frick said sending mail to a major centre for processing and redistribution is common within Canada Post’s system. Seventy per cent of outgoing mail in Whistler is destined for Vancouver or points further, she said, and it’s quicker and more efficient to send all the mail to the Vancouver processing plant, where it’s sorted mechanically.
With mail coming and going from Whistler all the time, the system doesn’t lead to delivery delays, Frick said.
Lincoln urged people who are tired of standing in line or are concerned about possible changes at the Whistler Post Office to send a letter to Canada Post.