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You've got mail!

Well - sort of.

Mail service in Canada started early this week after the Government passed back to work legislation. I got mail on Wednesday - one letter, one flyer. Nothing the next day. I must say I didn't really miss my mail the past few weeks, as all my bills are paid online, I do get some statements in the mail but they're not that time-critical. I've no magazine subscriptions, and don't even look at the various flyers that appear. Might be nice if we could opt out of mail delivery completely and get some sort of credit. Not likely to happen though, Canada Post needs that income from all the junk mail they stuff in my mailbox. Maybe this latest strike will renew discussion about privatization. 

A friend assured me that privatization would mean higher costs to subscribers, I'm not convinced. There's a Privatization section in the Wiki entry for Canada Post that is generally pro-privatization - citing better service without higher costs in most places where it was tried. This is one of several articles it references. The same person also defended the union's wage demands by saying it was reported Canada Post made $180 million in 2010. The 2010 Annual Report is not out yet, so not sure where this came from. This sounds like a big number compared to normal amounts I deal with as a retired person, so it needs some context. Is this revenue or profit, what subsidies/tax breaks are included, what is this number's relation to the total budget, how much are other costs like wages and pension, how quickly are revenues dropping?

Speaking of which, there was an interesting article in the G&M recently by Emily Jackson about the reactions to this postal strike by consumers. Many already pay bills and get statements and invoices online, many more have recently changed to this solution. ING Direct reports that 350,000 customers switched from mail in the strike, now almost half of it's 1.8 million customers get statements only online. These 350,000 customers, each now not getting a monthly statement, represent a loss of over two million a year in stamps. Shaw Communications reported 70,000 recently signed up for online billing. As more change, at some point the business model will need to change. There are still many that need Canada Post to the door, or at least to the community box  - charities, seniors, rural customers - but maybe the solution is to privatize and allow competition, with subsidies paying for less profitable areas. 

A real issue for Canada Post workers - and many others - is their retirement pension. Years back a generous and fully indexed pension was common. Companies were growing, most workers still young, and pension funds were making good returns on their investments. Now we have companies shrinking, if not collapsing entirely, more workers retiring, and living longer once they do so, and pension funds, along with the volatile markets, shrinking. Some retirees are seeing pensions disappear, many are seeing cutbacks to them, and new workers are being offered very reduced packages - less pension, more contributions required by them, no health benefits. Not sure what the solutions are - the Globe & Mail had an interesting column on this recently - check it out. 




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