Planning for a postal services disruption

With an undeliverable mail storm on the horizon, your business continuity strategy should include a postal disruption plan to offer protection in the event of a strike or lockdown. Because, despite our reliance on technology, most businesses still have land mail requirements.

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In April, the Toronto Star reported that the union representing postal workers is accusing Canada Post of trying to provoke a labour dispute.

“That’s because Canada Post filed notices of dispute with the minister of labour, requesting conciliation help for negotiations — a move which essentially starts a countdown to a strike or lockout,” says the article.

This sounds like we’re headed for an undeliverable mail storm.

The contract for rural carriers expired on Dec. 31, 2015, while the contract for urban carriers expired on Jan. 31. Negotiations between Canada Post and the workers’ union began earlier this year, and Canada Post called for a conciliator in early April.

Strike votes are taking place this month. If the conciliation goes the full 60 days without settlement, a strike or lockout could happen as early as July 2. If this happens, there will be a 21-day cooling-off period before a strike or lockout. But the outcome is the same: a complete shutdown of postal services.

I’m asked many times from business leaders about the risk of postal disruptions. They’ve happened before, and when they do, they can have a lasting impact — unless proactively planned for. Regardless of our reliance on technology these days, most businesses still have some level of land mail requirement.

Developing a postal disruption plan (PDP) as part of your crisis/emergency management plan can provide your organization with protection in the event of a postal strike.

Key business risks of a strike by Canada Post workers (or a lockout by management) include the interruption of customer payments and the inability of vendors or suppliers to pay invoices or to deliver products and services to customers.

Waiting for payment until the strike is over is not a viable option. This needs to be communicated at the first sign of a postal disruption. Based on the 2011 Canada Post labour disruption, no mail was delivered during rotating strikes, and Canada Post will not attempt to deliver (or accept) mail during a formal strike or lockout.

PDP objectives include planning for the continuity of key operations and maintaining a positive customer experience when a postal disruption occurs, which in turn can ensure the integrity of revenue during adverse conditions.

To mitigate the risks of inbound customer payments, account managers can email bills to customers or promote the use of online portals, offer electronic payment options, or even arrange to pick up payments. For outbound payments, payment pick-up locations can be created in strategic locations for vendors and suppliers or payment can be couriered to key accounts.

With PDP planning, consider vendors located outside of Canada. Should a payment need to be sent to a vendor in the United States, for example, payees may choose to use a broker to assist in mail delivery to the vendor’s U.S. office.

As with any incident response plan, PDP should have an incident owner at the director or VP level acting in a strategic leadership role. This position would work in conjunction with the incident manager to provide authorization in proceeding with any required mitigation activities initiated.

A PDP planning team should include various key stakeholders from across the company who are directly affected by a postal disruption, as well as others whose functions may provide a supporting role to affected groups. The team will need to set direction on late payment charges (if applicable), customer reminders and service disconnect notices, as well as customer bill notices.

You can’t predict a disaster or emergency to your business, but you can proactively prepare to mitigate or eliminate the risk of one.

Photo courtesy of Canada Post

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