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Postal union fuming

Franchise contracts prove to be thorny issue

Mike W. Bryant & Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 16/01) - The postal workers union president is angry that Canada Post is seeking franchising agreements with two local retailers instead of opening a new corporate office staffed with unionized workers.

NNSL Photo

Dale Bouchard: Postal Workers union president says post office should open its own new sub-station.

"Canada Post is not about to spend any more money on staff and computers to service the post office better," said Dale Bouchard, president of Postal Workers Union Local 858.

Yellowknife currently has three postal franchise operations, located at Weaver and Devore, the downtown Reddi Mart and Circle K Shell. Those stores did not renew their franchising contracts this summer, citing additional burdensome demands from Canada Post.

To fill the void, Shoppers Drug Mart has signed a franchising contract, with Yellowknife Direct Charge Co-op looking to do the same. If Yellowknife Co-op members approve the franchising agreement, both outlets will come online early next year.

Canada Post claims retail post offices are more convenient for consumers as they are typically located closer to residential areas and must be open at least 76 hours a week.

For the retail hosts, having a post office outlet translates into increased store traffic, which helps along sales. They also receive a small sales and service commission.

Nationwide, there are 4,143 corporate outlets and 22,827 private dealerships.

"The new sub-post offices are taking on our work," said Bouchard, who has worked at the Yellowknife post office for seven years. She fears retiring personnel will not be replaced.

"In effect, it's one full-time position out of our post office," she said.

For Bouchard, the post office should get out of the franchising business and build another corporate office, staffed by unionized workers.

Although that option is not being considered by Canada Post administration, Bouchard says it should be.

"If we had postal officers in there doing our own work, we know how to do our work and the happy customer is one who's going to come back," she said.

She is also concerned about pay. Since franchises are staffed by workers from the retail outlets, they will receive pay in line with scales at the host store.

"They're not going to be getting the same wage scale as we are and they're essentially doing the same work as we are," said Bouchard.

Staff at Yellowknife Co-op, however, are unionized. The approximately 90 employees at the store are members of the United Steelworkers of America.

David Craig, Canada Post area manager for the NWT and Nunavut, said pay issues "would have to be taken up with the stores."

Regardless, the co-op has yet to sign the franchising contract. Manager John Taylor said board members have yet to reach a decision.

"We certainly won't have one before Christmas," said Taylor. Over at Shoppers Drug Mart, owner Daryl Dolynny declined to wade into either the franchise or pay issue.

"I don't want this to become an issue," said Dolynny.

"I believe that what we're doing is a good thing for Yellowknife and I don't want it to become an issue of union or non-union activity. Currently, the sub-post offices that have been serving in Yellowknife to date haven't been union, so I don't understand why this would be an issue. The franchises improve the service and the number of outlets that we have," he said.