Canada Post warns of delays as Omicron leads to staff shortages

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Omicron surge worsens labour shortages
WATCH: Omicron surge worsens labour shortages – Dec 29, 2021

Canadians may experience delays in deliveries over the next few weeks as Canada Post deals with staff issues related to the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

In a statement sent to Global News Tuesday, the Crown corporation said the “rapidly changing situation regarding COVID-19 and the Omicron variant” is impacting staffing levels and reliability.

“We’re responding by implementing contingency plans where necessary and adjusting our operations to serve Canadians. This situation is fluid across the country and customers may experience delays over the next few weeks,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“As a national service provider, our people live and work in communities across the country. Therefore, what we’re seeing reported by public health officials is generally reflected in our workplace.”

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The company said in a statement Friday that it may impose temporary measures, like reducing hours or closing some post offices for a short period of time.

In the meantime, the company said it is continuing to “prioritize the health and safety of our people and the communities we serve.”

“In addition to our mandatory vaccination practice, we’re continuing to follow COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace,” Canada Post said.

It did not specify how many workers have been impacted recently and which operations are most affected but advised Canadians to consult its website and mobile tracking site for delivery information.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: WestJet cancels flights because of Omicron-infected staff'
COVID-19: WestJet cancels flights because of Omicron-infected staff

Another courier, Purolator, said it is also experiencing staff shortages.

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A spokesperson for the company told Global News it began to see an increase in employees calling in sick at the end of December 2021. Less than five per cent of its employees have been impacted, they said.

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“We are experiencing some service impacts in areas of Quebec, including one-day shipment delays and earlier cut-off times for shipment pickups. We are taking a number of actions to process volume as quickly as possible to mitigate the impact on customers,” the spokesperson said.

“These include prioritizing critical healthcare and express shipments, extending shift times and working with customers to manage volume flow. Customers can view service updates and track shipments on”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for UPS told Global News the company doesn’t share information on how many employees are calling in sick, but it “has not affected our ability to serve our customers.”

“Our network is running smoothly and employees are delivering with industry-leading on-time delivery performance that all of our customers can depend on,” the spokesperson said.

“We continue to monitor the COVID-19 Omicron variant and communicate with our employees about the recommended behaviors to manage health risks.”

Many Canadian companies have been joining the growing list of operations experiencing staffing issues related to the Omicron variant.

Airlines, hospitals and transit services are just a few of the sectors that have had to reduce operations across Canada in recent weeks. The number of people unable to work due to COVID-19 is only expected to continue to rise, a Canadian economist previously told Global News.

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Vancouver-based clothing retailer Lululemon Athletica said Monday that its full-year earnings would be on the lower end of expectations thanks to a series of pandemic-related concerns, including “limited staff availability.”

Metro Inc., the parent company of drugstore chain Jean Coutu, said in a recent statement that it’s adjusting staffing levels at the retailer to minimize the impact of “absenteeism” on its operations.

While Canada added more than 55,000 net new jobs in December, total hours worked in Canada saw “little change” from November to December, Statistics Canada reported.

That figure, which accounts for lost hours due to sickness as well as extra hours taken for overtime, will be key to measuring Omicron’s impact on the workforce, said Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.

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Current infections in Canada would indicate perhaps 0.5 per cent of workers are sidelined with an active COVID-19 infection, Brown told Global News.

But given how Omicron has overwhelmed testing capacity in provinces such as Ontario, he believes the rate of “absenteeism” among Canadian workers on any given week is closer to 1.5 per cent.

Brown also expects January’s employment figures will show a reduction in total hours worked and maybe net jobs as well.

— with files from Craig Lord

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