Vanessa Lu | Business Reporter
Robert Kheir, chief financial officer of ASL Distribution Services, in one of his two Oakville warehouses. ASL recently switched to an online pay system rather than using Canada Post.
Canada Post says it’s slowly clearing out the backlog from the lockout and the new items that have flooded the postal service since unionized workers were legislated back to work late last month.
More than 70 million items were sorted at plants in Mississauga, Toronto and Montreal over the weekend, with extra shifts planned again this weekend. After denying overtime for letter carriers in the first week, it’s now permitted up to two hours a day where needed.
“I think we’ve turned a corner,” said Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier, who credits employees for pulling together, making deliveries a day or two behind schedule. “The majority of the country is back to normal.
“In Toronto, we are experiencing very high volumes. It’s mainly because it’s the end of the (second) quarter so lots of financial institutions are putting out mailings.”
Last Thursday, the postal service took the unusual step of refusing large volume letter mail customers from adding items to the system in Toronto.
Irwin Nanda, Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ national director for Metro Toronto, said Canada Post should have immediately permitted overtime to allow carriers to finish their routes when they got back to work.
Instead, he said carriers were returning to depots at the end of their eight-hour shifts with undelivered mail.
“Our members are frustrated. They want to deliver the mail,” said Nanda, adding overtime remains at the discretion of managers.
He disputed the argument that workers, who lost pay during the lockout, are eager to get overtime hours.
“No one wants to be out there in this summer heat longer than they have to,” Nanda said.
Canada Post, focused on clearing the backlog, doesn’t expect to have figures on the impact of the labour dispute until August, including how many people migrated to digital alternatives, Losier said.
Orangeville resident Tom Samworth, who sells vintage hockey cards through eBay, says he was surprised by how long it has taken some deliveries to get through. Certain items mailed on June 28, after the lockout ended, still haven’t arrived at the destinations yet.
“Some come within a day or two. Some seems to go through. Some of it seems to sit in the corner,” Samworth said. “There’s no rhyme or reason.”
The uncertainty of the postal delivery has forced many businesses to find alternatives, especially those that depend on the system for invoices and payments.
VersaPay, a small Canadian firm that trades on the venture exchange, has benefited, signing up 260 new businesses in June — that’s four times the usual number.
The credit card payments company offers technology that permits business to business payments, where companies can make same day cash transfers. It charges a $1.50 per transaction.
“Our platform takes care of obtaining supplier and vendor bank information and securely storing it,” said Ryan Wilson, VersaPay’s director of technology, adding bank account details are not shown among the businesses.
ASL Distribution Services, a trucking and warehousing firm in Oakville, switched to the online payment system in May, for both its suppliers and customers.
“We did not forecast the Canada Post strike,” said Robert Kheir, chief financial officer. “We looked like geniuses. We were just lucky.”
Kheir said processing accounts payable and receivable is very labour intensive, whether it’s preparing cheques with two signatures to mail or waiting for cheques to come in the mail, processing them and going to the bank.
“It’s improved our cash flow. Now we’re not waiting for the cheque to arrive,” he said, adding he used to sign as many as 500 cheques a month, often for amounts less than $500.
The labour dispute prompted some clients and suppliers, who originally didn’t want to sign up, to join the service, Kheir said.
Story is on the front of the Business section today.