Canada Post is denying that at least seven of its employees in the Montreal region have taken their own lives in the past two-and-a-half years.
Reports of suicides in the postal service have raised questions about workplace stress and the impact of a modernization plan on workers at the crown corporation.
Quebec’s French-language network TVA News recently revealed the suicides of two postal employees in Montreal due to workplace stress, which prompted an outpouring of commentary from current and former workers who complained about long shifts, late evenings schedules, and harassment by management, CJAD reports.
But The Huffington Post Quebec has since learned that at least seven employees have killed themselves since November 2010, including:
- Two employees of the Longueuil post office committed suicide before the merger of their branch with another at St-Hubert Airport. One of the employees who committed suicide reportedly said he was “very afraid” of the new workflow caused by the merger.
- An employee of the Saint-Léonard post office committed suicide in the summer of 2012. In August of that year, a former employee of a post office in the city of St-Hubert also killed himself.
- There were two more deaths, one involving an employee from the Monterey office in Laval and another employee from the Leo Blanchette sorting plant in Saint-Laurent. In the first case, it seems the motive was personal. In the second, the cause of death is uncertain: some say it was a suicide; others say it was natural causes. "What I know is that he [the Leo Blanchette employee] was freaked out by the introduction of a timing system that evaluates efficiency, ranking the number of letters to employees," said Alain Duguay, president of the Montreal chapter of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
- In March 2013, an employee of the Saint-Hubert airport branch took his life during working hours after being notified of a change in his duties. An investigating was opened in this case.
During this period, two other employees in Montreal had to be supported after suffering suicidal thoughts, HuffPost Quebec has learned.
"We can not say that all cases are work-related,” Duguay said in a French-language in an interview. “But I can confirm that our workers are under a lot of pressure. People are no longer able to cope."
UPDATE: Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton told The Huffington Post the report of seven self-inflicted deaths in the Montreal area is "not true," but did not provide any alternate numbers or data on suicides in the organization.
"The information put forward by this union representative is not true. It is unfortunate and Canada Post will continue to respect anybody that goes through this situation and not comment on this further because we believe that it is inappropriate," he said.
Hamilton said in an email the postal service would refrain from saying any more on the issue "out of respect for the families and anyone who has experienced the suicide of a loved one."
Since 2007, Canada Post employees and their union have raised concerns about a $2-billion reorganization called “Modern Post,” which is meant to modernize how mail is sorted and delivered by the crown corporation. The changes include mechanized sorting of letters in major plants so carriers can spend more time delivering, and a change in the bundles of addressed mail that carriers handle while on the street. CUPW has warned Modern Post will result in longer hours, more night shifts and fewer jobs.
As well, many post offices have been closed or merged as Canada Post looks to cut costs in the face of declining revenues (Maclean’s reports the company is on track to report another annual loss for 2012, with a 6.4 per cent decline in letter mail, which contributes to more than half of its revenue.)
"The employees work between 10 and 12 hours per day, and there is pressure to work additional hours,” said Duguay. “When you're exhausted, it can push you to make decisions you would not otherwise make. "
Canada Post refused to confirm the number of deaths by suicide or provide more information on the cases above.
"It would be inappropriate for us to comment out of respect for the families,” said spokeswoman Anick Losier. “It is very sad.”
Asked for the number of suicides among Canada Post employees, Losier replied in French: "We do not want to share those numbers. There are always more factors that may explain (suicide). I think we need to be careful."
Losier suggested Huffington Post Quebec request the data through access to information.