03/09/2012 05:03 EST | Updated 05/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Apartment stairs blamed for mail service disruption

A group of residents in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is looking for answers after their mail delivery was abruptly stopped without warning.

Many of the residents on Cuvillier Street said they didn’t even realize that their mail service had stopped until several weeks went by without a letter.

Julie Bouchard enquired at the local post office and, when she didn’t get an answer, called the police, fearing someone was stealing her mail.

When the group finally called Canada Post’s main offices, they were told their mail delivery stopped because their staircases didn’t conform to regulations, and they had to pick it up at a location three blocks away.

“They’re typical Montreal staircases and they’re perhaps not built to the specifications they would build today," said Richard Methot, a landlord who owns one of the affected buildings.

"However, they’ve been in use for 100 years without any problems. Based on that, I would challenge them that they shouldn’t be a problem.”

The postal workers’ union says it’s a matter of safety and workers have the right to not deliver mail if stairs are deemed too dangerous.

“In this area, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, people have maybe 250 [staircases] to climb every day with the mail on their shoulders and [in their] arms,” said Alain Duguay of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

“There’s pressure to finish their walks in the eight hour [shift], so that’s why sometimes we don’t have the choice to stop the mail because it’s dangerous.”

Duguay said he hasn’t seen the stairs in question, but someone from the workplace safety division of Canada Post was sent to assess it and made the call to stop delivery.

“If the depth of the stair is not large enough, it’s very dangerous because the letter carrier doesn’t see where he’s walking,” Duguay said. “That’s why the norms have to be respected.”

After being contacted by CBC Montreal, Canada Post said it negotiated a temporary agreement with the union to remedy the situation.

Mail will be delivered to a main first-floor location close to all affected tenants, until a permanent solution is struck an agreement.