If the Letter Carriers routes are changing, then it is time for the math to get corrected and made fair.
Letter Carriers of the Canada Post Corporation do not work by the hour but by a complex calculation of distance, volume, coverage, average walking speed and obstructions that total 7 hours. The total is brought to 8 when one includes the coffee breaks and a lunch break.
The detailed formula is outlined in a manual called the Letter Carrier Route Measurement System. It is long and hard to quickly decipher key-terms. It has been in existence for decades, if not more, for measuring a route.
The formula has had its strength and weaknesses. It generally equals to 8 hours, while other times it is below or above. Senior letter carriers usually take advantage of the weakness of the system and choose the routes that have been under-assessed while newcomers normally get the over-assessed routes.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because by the time senior letter carriers have the 20 years or so of service to do this, their knees, ankles, back or hips are close to being worn out. It enables them to extend their physical ability to complete their duties by a number of years. Although this is far from a right solution to the problem of aging and physical fatigue from the daily mechanical stress the job description entails, it has saved Canada Post millions every year in medical and disability issues.
Now that Canada Post is transforming and modernizing the Letter Carrier delivery system, important changes have happened to route measurement. First of all, it has introduced the two bundle delivery system, secondly less sorting due to the introduction of new machinery has subsequently added more delivery time to each delivery persons day.
It has also brought out the inherent flaws in this mathematical system. First of all it is a calculation based on the laws of averages. It is based on the premise that every day and every month carries the same volume. This is not the case. Volumes from October to the end of December are approximately double of what they are from June to August. This means that what is calculated to be an average 8 hour day should theoretically take 10 hours or so in high season, and approximately 6 hours in low season.
This flaw of averages is especially noticeable when a letter carrier’s actual amount of physical delivery time has increased by approximately 1.5 hours under the new plan. This 1.5 hours was taken from the manual sorting time letter carriers used to have, but now taken over by automation, the introduction of a company vehicle rather than taxis, public transit, or by foot. Time savings are also found in disputed revisions to the Letter Carrier Route Measurement System. This was previously 1.5 hours of work that was not physically stressful. This 1.5 hours more of added physical delivery time per day will, over time, increase the likelihood of injuries.
The system also needs to be more flexible to accommodate these shift in seasons. Not only are the weights heavier and the volumes higher in the peak season, but with the introduction of shifts starting at 10:00 am, those letter carriers will then be forced to deliver in the dark during the winter season. This is a serious flaw that needs to be corrected.
With the new technology available, it should be able to calculate weight and volume on a daily basis. Where the calculation exceeds the 8 hours, extra-staff should be called in to complete the work which would force the regular carrier in an overtime situation. In the summer where there is not enough mail for the average distance, the letter carrier should be required to do extra distance to make up the 8 hours.
Another problem that the route measurement system does not take into account is environment. Storms, rain, snow, dark and any other inclement condition can easily add one hour to the average daily walk. It is well known at least in Winnipeg that heavy packed snow increases the time of all walks by one hour each day. The use of gloves and the combination of a high amount of flyers also effects this variable.
If Canada Post wants to make the route measurement system fair, this environment variable needs to be added.
The two-bundle system adds more time to a route. It adds an average 2 extra seconds to each point of call — though some letter carriers in the earlier editions of this article have disputed this figure is too low. One has to look longer, stop, juggle mail and flyers around to confirm that the oversize and the sequenced mail belongs to the next house. This may seem trivial and petty to the casual observer, but the math concludes otherwise. This adds 2000 seconds to a typical modern 1000 point call which is approximately 33 minutes to a route everyday. This calculation was based on working in natural sunlight. If it is dark, the variable should be doubled.
The LCRMS calculated values are still based on delivering in a one bundle system. This has never changed. It should be updated to the two bundle system values.
Another problem of the route measurement system is new values added by management. The introduction of company vehicles has added a new dimension. However the variables and the math regarding this have not been clearly disclosed to the workers or the union. No one knows what they are. No one knows for example, how finding a parking spot on a busy street has been included in the mathematical formulation.
Canada Post needs to make the route measurement system more transparent to all its employees. It has to be certified or evaluated by those are recipients of the calculations.
Today there is an added problem — the Letter Carrier Route Measurement System has been changed into a database system. What was once a legal published document now resides as a software program in Canada Post’s database. This is not a bad thing, but access is a serious problem. At least one representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Winnipeg claims they they have been denied access, though he did admit management would allow them to look at the database views at a corporate office.
Another mathematical calculation is flyers. This was excluded in the collective agreement for the calculation of route delivery time – though the number of flyers can often double the average weight of delivery on given days. The collation of flyers is not calculated fairly either. To be fair, this also has to be calculated into the route measurement system.
This is controversial, as Canada Post letter carriers are not paid by the hour to deliver flyers, but by piece and many like it this way. This contradicts and breaks the spirit of the letter carrier route measurement system. The LCRMS is the only way to be accurately fair. The payment by the piece has to end.
The way the flyer system is enforced, it actually abrogates the math for typical coverage of a route. Not every home gets mail everyday, so the math has been calculated into this to build a typical 8 hour day. However, when one is forced to deliver flyers to 33% of all homes almost every day, with penalties of demonstrated firings if not doing so, whether the home has mail or not, it increases the daily coverage by up to 10%. This can add up to 30 minutes or more every day to a route.
This flaw has to be added to the Letter Carrier Route Measurement system as well.