Canada Post workers face record increase in the number of large packages at a time when downsizing due to physical remoteness makes it impossible to meet delivery dates, even if online shoppers are getting impatient for purchases.
Postal service told customers this week to prepare for delays for the foreseeable future as demand and distribution centers that weren’t designed to keep people two yards apart .
“We currently have higher volumes than Christmas with a reduced staff”, said Derek Richmond, who works at the York Distribution Center in Scarborough. “Because of the crisis, there have been a lot of special leaves for high-risk members and single parents, so we are having difficulties. “
Simply put, “We’re late,” said Richmond.
“Many of our members work overtime, six days a week, to help us catch up,” he added.
Parcel deliveries advanced at a record pace from April to May, reaching an all-time record high of 2.1 million parcels delivered on May 19. The numbers are about three times the norm for this time of year.
Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton said that while some priority mail items met delivery dates, others “could take a day or two longer.”
Orders placed online could be processed at different distribution centers, which could have an impact on delivery dates, he said.
“If you just order things online and regular service, not a priority, then it will take longer,” said Hamilton. “You could consider five days or more, depending on where it comes from.”
Richmond said increasing the volume is not the only challenge, as smaller staff handle household items such as mini-fridges, patio furniture, and barbecue grills, many of which require two people to transport , which creates additional security roadblocks at a time when physical removal is mandated.
Canada Post says it still cannot keep up, even with the help of thousands of temporary workers.
Even then, Richmond said: “Our list (of temporary agents) has been exhausted several times. We didn’t have enough staff for several nights, ”as many workers take time off to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
Richmond hopes the company will hire more permanent staff and be less dependent on temporary help.
Tanya Findlay, Mississauga courier for 26 years, is delighted with the overtime she receives. Findlay, like many of his colleagues, worked voluntary overtime, picking up several 12-hour shifts (versus typical 8-hour days) and even weekend shifts, each week.
“I feel like Santa Claus delivering on Sunday,” she said. “People are surprised to see us there.”
Findlay has also observed an increase in comforting empathic moments with handwritten cards and people making their own personalized envelopes with kindness messages.
“It’s nostalgic,” she said.
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Findlay, co-chair of the health and safety committee, said that flooded workers can refuse unsafe work or stop working when fatigue sets in. Temporary staff are often deployed to make up for the delay.
“We have staggered start times, so we can have social distance,” said Findlay. “If you feel like you can’t finish it or you’re tired, you bring it back.” “
Despite the increased workload, the Mississauga South Division of Findlay spent 57 days without wasting time due to injuries.
Findlay’s bane is the alarming increase since COVID-19 in the number of people allowing their dogs to detach. More than 1,000 postal workers said they were bitten by dogs last year.
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) National President Jan Simpson said there is already an “injury crisis” at Canada Post and is concerned that the unprecedented workload may worsen this situation.
A Canada Post report in 2018 showed it had “five times the injury rate of any other federal sector,” said Simpson. No injury statistics were provided for the coronavirus period. The crown corporation is currently working on a new four-year agreement with its members. They spent two years without a new contract, she said.
“Our members work tirelessly, risking injury,” she said.
The 63,000 employees were put under pressure to meet demand at a time when they face physical distancing through its network of distribution centers and post offices.
“These are Christmas volumes and we are seeing items that we do not normally see at the moment,” said Hamilton. “With physical remoteness and other measures in our facilities, it takes us longer to process and take out the packages. “
He said that at this time of year, they typically deliver between 700,000 and one million packages a day. In the past two months, the number of packages has increased by 31%. Peak periods such as Christmas and Black Friday generally record close to two million packages moved. Hamilton said he was not aware of a notable increase in workplace injuries.
At the same time, letter-post volumes have dropped significantly as marketing budgets are cut and declines are seen for direct mail and letter-post, some of which attribute to business closings.
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