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Editorial: How times have changed

Supermailbox and snail, St. John’s. — SaltWire Network
Super mailbox and snail, St. John’s. — SaltWire Network

It used to be a national near-crisis — now, it’s an experiment in finding the best sort of workaround.

A decade or more ago, the threat of a postal strike was big news. Parliament was always on top of the issue, waiting in the wings with back-to-work legislation if it looked like postal workers were set to walk out.

Then, the economy hung in the balance — now, you have to wonder if we’re approaching a point where a postal strike ranks merely as an inconvenience. Provincial governments and municipalities are making alternate plans; some have sent out early the cheques they do send by mail to get ahead of any job action.

Utility, cable and phone providers are contacting their customers and setting up online payment systems, and the list goes on.

A decade or more ago, the threat of a postal strike was big news. Parliament was always on top of the issue, waiting in the wings with back-to-work legislation if it looked like postal workers were set to walk out.

The simple truth is that, when holdouts are forced to try paying bills and communicating electronically, they often don’t come back.

They don’t come back because electronic methods are cheaper, faster and easier.

You don’t get dinged for interest charges on your credit card when, inexplicably, it takes seven days — or more — for a first-class envelope with a cheque to get from St. John’s to Toronto. It’s not nicknamed “snail mail” for nothing.

Heck, post offices aren’t even the best places to pick up income tax forms you need any more; often, they simply don’t have them, and you can print forms from the Canada Revenue Agency website anyway if you don’t want to fill them out online.

There are certainly people who are going to be inconvenienced in this province. The provincial government is making alternate arrangements, saying, “If you receive benefit payments via cheque from the provincial government, please contact the applicable government department or agency to find out how you can continue to receive these payments without disruption.” (If you do fall into that group, by the way, people who receive income support payments via cheque can call the following numbers: on the Avalon, 1-877-729-7888; in central, 1-888-632-4555; in western Newfoundland, 1-866-417-4753; and in Labrador, 1-866-449-3144. Those receiving Employment and Training Programs payments via cheque can call 1-800-563-6600.)

The other part of the government’s message? “Payments normally issued via direct deposit will not be affected.”

And those who are getting direct deposit? Chances are, they won’t want the inconvenience of cashing a cheque again.

It’s almost as though the providers of your landline home phone were to suddenly announce they were going on strike; your response might well be, “I’ve got my cellphone, and I hardly ever pick up the landline anyway.”

It can’t be something that postal workers aren’t aware of: 95 per cent voted in favour of strike action. You can bet most of them hope that it doesn’t come to that.

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