NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Worker shortage slows mail deliveries
Old Town business says frequent mail delivery disruptions are impacting business

Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 28 2014

Canada Post has hired part-time help after snail mail service for some slowed to a crawl over the past two weeks.

NNSL photo/graphic

A shortage of relief postal workers in Yellowknife is causing some routes to go undelivered. - Elaine Anselmi/NNSL photo illustration

Lisa Seagrave, owner of the Gallery of the Midnight Sun, said slower Canada Post service is especially problematic this time of year as the holiday season heats up. When she inquired why her mail service has been spotty this month, she said she was told the regular delivery driver is on vacation.

"I called the sorting plant and was told they are waiting for criminal record checks to come back on the people they've hired to replace the delivery person that is on holidays," said Seagrave.

"In the meantime, there is nothing we can do. We just have to wait. He wouldn't let me come pick up my mail at the sorting plant."

With one mail carrier off with an injury and another on vacation, Canada Post spokesperson John Caines, who was speaking from Ottawa, said they had hoped to have a relief worker in place to cover the Old Town route on Monday, but required background checks can take time to complete.

"We do our best to deliver every day but in an instance like this, we just didn't have anybody to cover the route," said Caines.

"The supervisor and superintendent were delivering other routes, which isn't their job, but we just don't have enough people up there right now to get the job done."

The route through Old Town has just more than 800 stops in total - an average number for routes within Yellowknife - stretching from Niven Lake and parts of downtown through to Latham Island and Ndilo.

Staff shortages were a problem last November and December as well, which Canada Post attributed to high staff turnover.

Service resumed along the Old Town route on Thursday and Seagrave said she was relieved to receive her mail, but noted this is not the first disruption of service along the route.

"I've experienced this, so I don't just trust that it could be a few days," said Seagrave.

"It can be a week or two weeks or become very sporadic, you'll get mail and then not get it for another four days."

For the past seven or eight years, Seagrave estimated that mail delivery has been a problem and said it poses serious challenges for her business.

"I will say, parcel delivery is fabulous. I've never had an issue with parcel delivery and I'm generally pretty happy with Canada Post. I choose to use Canada Post as a Northern resident, as opposed to the way a lot of the south is going with UPS or FedEx, but my business is dependent on the letter post as well, and it's very frustrating to have this come up again and again," said Seagrave.

Anick Losier, another Canada Post spokesperson based in Ottawa, said Canada Post doesn't have a policy prohibiting employees from taking vacation during peak times or when the office is understaffed.

"I think everybody is entitled to take a vacation," she said.

"They work really hard all year and it's really difficult to recruit and keep staff."

She added complaints that mail delivery in Yellowknife has been spotty "surprises her."

"Local management has been working some nights until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. to compensate for the lack of staff," she said.

"If they can't do a route one day, then they will try to hit it the next day."

- with files from Randi Beers

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.