March 6, 1951 (21st Parliament, 4th Session)


Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)


Hon. Edouard Rinfret (Postmaster General):

Mr. Speaker, there already have been several references in discussion in the house to the curtailment in letter carrier delivery on residential walks now being applied throughout the country.
From the nature of these references, and also the many inquiries I have received from others outside the house, it would appear to me desirable that I make a statement clarifying what is being done, and the effect on patron and employee alike.
First, however, may I emphasize that, as I have already stated, the reduction in service from two deliveries a day to one is an economy measure, which with other adjustments being made throughout the department and service as a whole will mean an over-all saving of approximately $3,500,000. I am sure it will be agreed that this will be a substantial contribution on the part of the post office to the objective we all have in mind, namely, the reduction of the ordinary costs of government to the minimum.
In discussing this question, I will deal with it first from the standpoint of service to the public, and second from the standpoint of its effect on our employees, particularly the letter carriers.
There are three classes of walks in letter carrier delivery. The first is the residential walk, where there is less than twenty-five per cent of business calls. It is this type of walk that is primarily affected by the cut in service. It will in future receive one delivery a day, where for the past several years it has had two.
Unfortunately, as you will already have noted, some business firms are located on

these walks. These will now get only one delivery which will be as early in the day as can be arranged. In the smaller cities, where the business sections have not in the past been segregated into mixed or business walks, which I shall presently describe, a complete resurvey is being made to have this done as far as it is practicable to do so.
Where this condition applies in the larger cities, it has not been possible to make this resurvey in the time available before the change becomes effective, March 31. Further, it can only be done gradually, because of the tremendous task involved and the effect of the necessary innumerable changes on internal operations.
It will, of course, be understood that there will be business calls in residential areas where the number of calls does not meet the minimum departmental requirements and where restriction to one delivery a day cannot be avoided. For these, every effort will be made to provide necessary service where the volume of mail warrants, either through post office lock boxes or through general delivery at the post office.
I must again emphasize that up to the moment I have been dealing with residential walks, which have been reduced from two deliveries a day to one.
The second class of walk is the mixed walk. These have from twenty-five to fifty per cent of business calls, and under the new arrangement they will be carefully resurveyed. In cases where a third delivery is given at present, there will be a reduction to two deliveries wherever it can reasonably be done and a saving of manpower realized.
The third class of walk is the business walk, where over fifty per cent of the calls are recognized as business calls. These will have two deliveries a day or more, the number above two depending on the results of surveys which will be made to determine the actual need.
Obviously a drastic change of this kind cannot be made without serious repercussions upon our letter carrier staff from two points of view, the first being the work week of the reorganized staff, and the second the situation of surplus personnel, which is expected to total about 1,200 letter carriers.
Letter carrier walks have, heretofore, been organized on a forty-four hour week-five days of eight hours and four hours on Saturday. In attempting to arrive at a new work week, the question of Saturday presented a particular difficulty, because it was obvious there would have to be work done in the afternoon if the longer walks were to be covered. Various suggestions were made, and studied,
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as to ways in which this situation might be met. A plan was finally evolved which was favourably received by the letter carriers generally.
This arrangement provides the equivalent of a forty-four hour week, arrived at as follows: The men will work an eight-hour day, six days a week, with a week off after every eleven weeks of duty. One of the benefits of this plan is that it gives a number of men time off during the preferred seasons of the year, which they ordinarily would not be entitled to from an annual leave standpoint because of their length of service. It also means that the relief required every eleven weeks would be performed by regular letter carriers.
Reorganization of the walks has therefore proceeded on this basis. It was felt it would not be unreasonable, with the extension of the work week, to require a letter carrier to serve one complete walk and half of another walk once per day instead of covering one walk twice per day. This naturally would realize a saving of one in every three letter carriers on walks classified as residential. It would also mean a ratio reduction in the relief staffs maintained to protect casual, sick and annual leave.
I think it can be taken for granted that it is not the intention of the department heartlessly to throw these men into the street. Every effort is being made to take care of the surplus employees within the postal service so as to keep the number to be released to the lowest possible minimum.
In the first place, the filling of vacancies occasioned by men going on pension in the postal clerk and mail porter classes from outside the service has been stopped to permit the absorption of letter carriers where possible.
Second, there will be an acceleration of our normal practice of releasing unsatisfactory and unqualified employees.
Third, lists of surplus letter carriers are being submitted to the civil service commission for consideration in assignment to other government departments where possible.
Despite our efforts to find positions for surplus letter carriers, it must be realized that while it is most regrettable, some letter carriers will have to be released, starting with the most junior men. When vacancies occur on the letter carrier staff in the future, these released employees will be given the first opportunity to return to the postal service.
There is a further possible temporary effect of the change-over to which I have not yet referred, and which I would like to discuss briefly in closing. Letter carrier delivery

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in its country-wide ramifications is a very complex operation, particularly in the distribution system behind it. A change of the magnitude of the present one cannot be made almost overnight without a certain amount of dislocation, as regards both service to the patron, and the work of the employees. In both respects we ask patience and understanding co-operation. Our officials are doing their utmost to effect the transition smoothly and to foresee difficulties. They cannot be miracle-workers and please everybody at once. But given a little time, the new arrangements should soon be working smoothly and in the meantime every effort will be made to keep dislocation at a minimum. The full co-operation of our workers and the public will be a great help in achieving this.

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