Hidden ice and high windrows make it a bad winter for mail carriers, with many suffering injuries from slips and falls.
Rose Johnson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Red Deer Local 818, said some mail delivery in the Red Deer region is being delayed because of carrier vacancies on certain routes.
“There’s trouble with staffing because there are so many injuries.”
While the injured carriers are off recuperating, Canada Post management is not always replacing them, said Johnson. She isn’t sure why, but said it becomes an issue when letters don’t go out on the same day.
The remaining letter carriers are wearing cleats on their boots and doing their best to carry on, despite the snowy and icy conditions. Johnson knows of some who are working overtime to fill in on other routes.
“Yes, mail delivery has suffered,” added Johnson, who mentioned windrows and icy sidewalks as being particular hazards.
Canada Post carriers have the right not to deliver mail to addresses with unsafe walkways, but this sometimes creates hardship, especially for older residents.
Patricia Cargill, 61, of Glendale, said she uses a cane and can’t shovel the walk. Her husband usually does the job, but he recently had surgery and can’t manage it either.
This week, the local letter carrier told Patricia that their mail would not be delivered until her walkway was clear.
The Cargills feel caught in a dilemma. Patricia said some of her neighbours are away and can’t help out, while her husband is unwilling to pay someone to do the job on principle. “He said all the streets are a mess.”
The Golden Circle matches seniors with people willing to shovel their walks for $15 an hour. But the organization often itself gets caught between residents and the city on the issue of snow clearing.
According to City of Red Deer bylaws, it’s the residents’ responsibility to clear sidewalks in front of their homes, but many seniors balk at this. They believe sidewalks are public property, so clearing them is a city obligation, said the Golden Circle’s executive director Monica Morrison. “Sometimes we feel stuck in the middle.”
While the Golden Circle has linked some 300 seniors to people willing to shovel their walks for a fee (subsidies are available for those who can’t afford it), Morrison said few volunteers are on hand do this service for free.
In preparation for next winter, she plans to contact local groups, such as the Scouts, to see if more youths will sign on as volunteer shovellers.
Ideally, people should be looking out for their neighbours and offering to help older people clear sidewalks and walkways, said Barb Lilly, vice-president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Red Deer Local 818,
While she has some sympathy for those who are unable to keep their properties clear of snow, she said, “We can’t be sending workers into unsafe conditions.”
Community mail boxes are another matter: Johnson said Canada Post hires contractors to clean snow from around these boxes to make access easier for residents and mail carriers, but it’s been “a very slow process.”
A Canada Post spokesperson was unavailable to comment on Thursday.