A spokesperson for Canada Post denied on Monday that Canada Post was considering staffing or business hour cuts at their Whistler branch, as suggested by an advisory recently distributed by the union representing postal workers.
"What I can tell you off the top is that the Whistler Post Office is currently open to the public 49 hours a week, and there's not going to be any change to that," said Colleen Frick, director of communications for Canada Post, Western Canada. "Whistler customers will continue to have that amount of access to postal services, although what we might do is internally adjust our staffing hours in the future. But nothing has changed to date."
According to Frick, Canada Post is reviewing front desk transactions at the Whistler Post Office with the goal of being more efficient - something that could result in additional staff at the desk during peak times and fewer staff during slow periods. She will not know if staff hours or staff positions will be reduced until that review is complete, despite the union suggestion that it was already happening.
Frick says Canada Post regularly reviews its locations to see if they can be more efficient, which she called the "responsible" thing to do.
"There are peaks and there are valleys, and we want to make sure the counters are manned when it's busiest. And if that means making adjustments to staffing coverage to be successful, that's what we do."
She would not comment on allegations by the union that it is the Canada Post Corporation's mandate to reduce staffing hours and save money, but said she was sure that the union would agree that "the most important thing we can do is make sure our customers come to Canada Post and conduct business with us, and that we don't want anything to jeopardize that."
Barbara Lincoln, the president of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association - the union that represents Canada Post employees in rural areas - said the cuts are already happening and decisions are being made based entirely on revenues.
"(The Whistler postmaster) is allocated 304 hours per week, but since April when the previous postmaster retired she's only allowed to use 264," said Lincoln. She said a staff position has yet to be hired to fill out those hours. The union says it has heard that when the staff move up to new positions it will leave a 24 hour part-time position at the bottom.
"When they're at 264, if another employee wants a vacation or gets sick or has an appointment, they're short-staffed," said Lincoln. "The Post Master has had a hard time letting her employees go because she can't backfill those hours, and the staff at that office are pretty darn stressed because of the situation. Right now they can't have two people on vacation at the same time because they're already strapped."
Lincoln says staff is spread more thinly, which she says translates into longer lines during peak hours. She says there is only one employee at the front desk during the day, and the manager for the area expects that person to help sort mail while on duty.
"If you've ever been to that office you know that's not going to work," said Lincoln.
The post office serves the population of 10,000, plus seasonal workers and visitors to Whistler. Lincoln says it's one of the biggest and busiest offices in Canada.
As for business hours, Lincoln says they have been told that the office may open half an hour later in the future, at 8:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., as the early mornings are traditionally slower times at the front desk. However, no changes have been made and Lincoln hopes that management is reconsidering.
The advisory also refers to changes at the Whistler Post Office that were made in 2007. Back then a decision was made to get rid of a full time position that would help to redirect mail to other locations in Sea to Sky, sending all of that mail to the Vancouver centre for sorting. Whistler mail is still sorted locally, but a letter to Pemberton would have to go through Vancouver.
"We had 344 hours in 2007, then they took out 40. Now they've taken another 40 and are only planning to replace those hours with a part-time position," said Lincoln.
Lincoln and the CPAA are urging members of the public to write Canada Post and MP John Weston to complain about the changes. As well, Lincoln is reviewing post offices similar to Whistler in terms of size and volume, such as the one in Canmore, to find out how many hours they are allotted.