The Mail Must Go On: This Time With Legislation

Canada-Post-Seems like I have not received my mail in months.  However that is going to change this week after the federal government legislated our postal workers back to work.  I must admit that I have not missed that much, but if it lasted much longer, I’m sure the bill collectors would be coming to me.  I still rely on the mail to pay selected bills.  Hardcopy is something I like when it comes to those particular payments.

Some of you might say that that makes me a bit of a dinosaur.  It has become the very cool thing to do everything digital.  I must admit that my life is extremely digital, having immersed myself in computer technology over the last 30 years.  Needless to say, that is a very great thing, but when it comes to opening an envelope and looking at a hardcopy bill, that has its virtues.

A hardcopy bill may be a very good thing for me but it certainly doesn’t have a lot resonance to younger Canadians.  In fact I am sure the postal strike has driven thousands of people to pay their bills online.  This is a huge drag in revenues to Canada Post, something that will probably continue.  Consumers with one click of the mouse can pay many other bills, if not all.  I pay most of my bills that way, but not all.  That is where the post office comes in.

Of course this is not your father’s post office.  At one time in my youth when there was a postal strike it was like the end of the world.  You lost connection with just about everything.  Over time, the post office lost a lot of business to Courier services and later to people paying those bills online.  This latest postal interruption may have made the move to online billing a stampede.

The Globe and Mail recently published an article wherein said ING Direct Bank had 350,000 customers switch to online banking in the past two weeks.  According to the same report, almost half of ING Direct Canadian customers now receive their banking statements exclusively online.  The same article goes on to say that Canada Post will lose at least $2,352,000 a year in revenue from ING Direct on stamps alone. That is business that they will never get back.  So who wins in that scenario?

As a rural Canadian, I realize the value of the Canadian Post Office.  In many cases we do not have the same type of alternative service in rural areas that they do in the bigger Canadian cities.  For instance I can usually depend on the Canada Post office in Dresden Ontario to do almost anything when it comes to posting a package.  However, when it comes to sending something privately, that is much more difficult.  That’s not to say that rural Canadians don’t do things online, in fact they are probably leading the pack into cyberspace.  Regardless, there is always a balance that needs to be struck between cyberspace and Canada Post.  As a rural Canadian, it is a continual challenge to find that.

Of course not every Canadian feels that way.  When I read the list of demands that postal workers had, it is so foreign to me.  Needless to say, there are a lot of foreign things to me and I don’t really have an appreciation for the wage scales and the benefit packages.  It is safe to say though, that many Canadians would not have sympathy for the postal workers in this economy.  The Harper government sure did not.  You can surely make an argument that Canada Post had the advantage with the government as a backdrop.  We will see how that plays out into the future.

Who knows what might happen?   Younger Canadians certainly might be checking out.  Ask anybody who is a twenty something about their digital lifestyle and they will say how being connected is so important.  They are much more apt to pay their bills on their smart phone and communicate through social media than using the mail.  That means that mail volume into the future will likely drop.

That is one thing; another may be the productivity that is lost among postal workers.  Being legislated back to work, at lower wages is a tough one.  Add the income that was lost during the strike and it just adds up negative.  Morale is certainly low.  Key will be the future.  What happens to Canada Post now and into the future as workers adjust?  There surely weren’t many winners in this latest postal strike and lockout.  As we go into the future, something tells me, it will never be the same again.