New Westminster mail delivery slow without overtime

Royal City Record, 12 July 2011 By Brent Richter

Two weeks after the end of the strike and lockout of Canada Post workers, mail is getting out but only at a trickle, postal workers say.

According to New Westminster letter carrier Leanne Alstad, postal workers are seeing a growing backlog of mail that has been delivered to local depots but, Canada Post has been unwilling to pay for overtime to get the mail delivered.

"They're trying to sort and process all the mail and it's all being dumped in our facilities but the letter carriers can't deliver more than eight hours," Alstad said.

Asked how much of a backlog was built up at New Westminster's depot, Alstad said, "It's like Christmas."

"We have HST rebate cheques that aren't going out. We have HST referendum ballots that were guaranteed delivery by last Friday. They extended the deadline and they blamed us for that. It's Canada Post. It's not (Canadian Union of Postal Workers)," she said.

Alstad said she would like to see Canada Post either bring in more letter carriers to bring the backlog down or allow workers to do it themselves and pay overtime accordingly.

"They're not giving us the opportunity. A lot of people lost 10 days of wages," she said. "People want the overtime to try and make up what they lost and it's not an option right now."

New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly spent Tuesday morning touring the New Westminster mail delivery facility.

He said the situation highlights why the New Democrats staged a filibuster in Parliament to delay the Conservatives from passing back-to-work legislation forcing, postal workers back on the job without further negotiations.

"I think, obviously, this has been a longstanding problem and partly why the two sides couldn't negotiate a settlement in terms of the benefits and working conditions," he said. "Unfortunately, the majority Conservative government has the ability to legislate people like postal workers back to work. That is the situation we find ourselves in. So as the official opposition, my job is to highlight where that's totally inadequate and not effective in terms of a way to run a postal service or run a country."

John Caines, spokesman for Canada Post, confirmed postal workers have been allowed to work overtime in sorting across Canada, but said starting this week, some areas with severe backlogs have been given the green light for delivery overtime.

"This week we are offering on-route overtime as well, as required, but this is at the discretion of the local management. If they see a need for it, they will offer it. It is voluntary for the employees," he said. "It's a local decision and all overtime is pre-approved."

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