When mail delivery resumes, will anyone notice?Post office and union need to work together if they hope to survive
By Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal
June 28, 2011 6:37 AM
Today, all things being equal, the mail will arrive.
How many of us will notice?
Oh sure, I'll be happy to get my Economist and my New Yorker. I haven't "migrated" my life to an iPad, and I'm old-fashioned enough that I still like to hold a glossy magazine in my hands while I eat my porridge or take my bath.
But long gone all the days when I waited by my mailbox for letters from friends and relatives, or even bills and official notices.
These days, even my 88-year-old Auntie Sarah writes to me via e-mail. My Uncle Hal, 82, just "friended" me on Facebook. Seniors are ranked among the fastest growing Facebooking demographic. Indeed, thanks to Facebook and Twitter and e-mail, I'm more in touch with my extended family, my old university pals and my high school friends than ever before.
My regular bills? Mostly, I pay them by direct withdrawal. My paycheque comes to me via direct deposit. What still comes in the mail? A notice from my vet that my dog is due for a rabies shot. A notice from my dentist that I'm due for a cleaning. A notice from a spa we visited once three years ago that they're having a sale on pedicures. Bank statements and more bank statements.
Some it is useful. Much of it I could live with out. And most of it could likely be delivered just as well electronically. And in a few years, when I do read my magazines on a waterproof, tub-friendly iPad, I'm not sure what will be in my mailbox.
As for all the packages I order online? All the rush parcels I need to send? Once Canada Post had a monopoly there, too. Today, private courier companies offer stiff competition, with convenient, reliable service.
I'm not delighted about this development. There is something humane and civilized about the personal hand delivery of mail to your door, something that connects you in time to the more leisurely eras of Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope, when the post didn't come just once a day, but several times.
But mail carriers don't just deliver the mail. They connect the community. A good mail carrier is like a neighbourhood guardian -making daily visits to your house, the first to notice if something has gone terribly wrong. We rely on postal workers as everything from unofficial block parents to gardening judges. The frigid winter that I was home with my new baby, the letter carrier was sometimes the only adult I saw all day -my human link to the outside world.
But with more and more people relying on electronic communications, the role of the mail carrier, as neighbourhood icon, is breaking down. Which is undoubtedly why this month's postal strike ended with a whimper, not a bang.
Once upon a time, a postal strike paralyzed the nation. The union had a powerful bargaining position, the ability to hold the country's economy and social network hostage.
This time, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers had no such leverage. But neither, of course, did Canada Post. There was little groundswell of public support for either the union or the corporation.
The Conservative government and the New Democrat opposition put on a grand parliamentary show over the past few days, fighting over backto-work legislation. For a democracy wonk like me, it was premium entertainment -a 24-hour three ring circus to watch on CPAC or follow on Twitter. (How awful a parent am I? I actually made my family watch part of the debate at the dinner table, where TV is usually banned.) But our household was, I'm guessing, one of the few to be paying attention. The debate was a lot of theatrical sound and fury about very little.
The Conservatives may have wanted to look tough to the public by legislating a dramatic end to the strike. But I doubt it earned them many opinion poll points -not because people were so sympathetic to the union, but because no one much cared if the strike lasted another week.
This was no national emergency. It was, at best, an inconvenience. Similarly, the NDP's impassioned defence of the rights of organized labour went largely unnoticed because no one was paying much attention to the strike in the first place. The New Democrats and the Conservative played to their core ideological supporters while most other Canadians simply tuned out. The true irony? The post office and the union need to be on the same page here.
If they have any hope of surviving as an industry, of keeping union jobs for the future, the last thing either side needs to be doing is reminding Canadians of how irrelevant they are. Like the newspaper industry, like the record industry, like every information industry, Canada Post needs to figure out if and how it can survive and reinvent itself for the digital era, before it ends up like Blockbuster or HMV, a business in search of a purpose, overtaken by technology and a social and cultural revolution.
ref. - http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business ... story.html