Canada Proposes Novel Solution to Post Office Woes

THE Canadian government wants to sell the post office to its workers, but they don't want it. ``Privatization is no good for the workers or the postal service, no matter who buys it,'' a spokesman for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Ottawa said.

The union has 47,000 members, out of the total Canada Post work force of about 60,000. It is one of the most militant unions in Canada. Pay for a mail sorter starts at $13.38 an hour (Canadian, US $11.37), almost triple the minimum wage. Letter carriers are paid even more.

One of the biggest problems at the post office in Canada has been strikes. Eight national strikes have shut down postal service for 155 days over the past 14 years. There have been local walkouts and rotating strikes as well.

The government appears to reason that if the post office were owned by its workers, they wouldn't strike against themselves. Harvie Andre, the Cabinet minister in charge of Canada Post, flew the trial balloon last week at committee hearing on the future of the Post Office. The government is considering the idea, although the postal union promptly rejected it. 'Terrible internal atmosphere'

Selling the post office, Mr. Andre said, ``doesn't mean you are going to do away with unions. It doesn't mean people are going to work for half wages. But it does have the possibility of changing what has been a terrible internal atmosphere in the post office.''

Last year the post office made $96 million (US $82 million), its first profit in 30 years. It is now a ``Crown corporation'', still owned by the government, but operated as a separate entity with less political interference.

The union thinks the post office should not operate for profit and that income above expenses should be used to upgrade services.

``It would cost $34 million [US $29 million] to extend mail service so that more people would get local delivery instead of using community mailboxes,'' the union spokesman said. It would also mean more jobs for the mail carriers and the union favors that, too.

Postal workers face competition from technology such as fax machines, electronic data transfer, and courier services.

While the Postal Workers play down the competition, they are circumventing the mails themselves. The Toronto phone book lists 465-7112 as a number for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. But dial it and it's hooked to a fax machine. So the people who deliver the mail fax letters to each other when they're in a hurry.

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