Canada Post service could come to a screeching halt in July as ongoing contract negotiations make little headway.
Around 50,000 Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) members could be locked out or strike if an agreement is not reached by the end of June.
A widespread labour disruption would shut down postal service, save for a few exceptions. There is an agreement in place to ensure the delivery of “federal socioeconomic cheques: welfare cheques, pension cheques, things like that,” will continue, said Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton.
Canada Post has been warning of a work disruption since the beginning of April. Updates to the situation are posted online, including guidelines for dates to send packages and mail to make sure it doesn’t get caught in the system should a work stoppage occur.
Governments have been putting plans in place to deal with the worst-case scenario. The Manitoba government — which mails approximately 50,000 cheques every month — has made arrangements for government cheques and other essential mail to be available for pickup at designated locations.
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The British Columbia government has been encouraging people to sign up for direct deposit payments, as has New Brunswick’s government.
“The government is working diligently on contingency plans in the event of a disruption of mail services to ensure that the impact to essential mail is minimized,” Minister of Service Ed Doherty said in a release.
Hamilton says online retailers have also been putting contingency plans in place, as Canada Post ships two of every three parcels that Canadians order online.
“We’re still at the table, we’re hopeful we can avoid a work disruption, but we don’t have a deal yet,” said Hamilton.
“We’re still committed to trying to get a deal that’s affordable to the corporation, fair to our employees, and doesn’t place a huge burden on our customers.”
Eight-thousand rural postal workers have been without a contract since the end of December; 42,000 urban workers have been without a contract since the end of January.
“Canada Post is demanding major concessions at a time when…they just recorded a $44 million profit for the first quarter of the year, which puts them on track to do far better than their $100 million profit last year,” says Mike Palecek, national president of CUPW.
“Yet at the same time they’re demanding major cuts to benefits and pensions as well as job security.”
A “glaring pay equity issue” is also on the bargaining table, Palecek says, between the rural and urban operations unit. The rural mail carriers — a predominantly female workforce — makes 28 per cent less than their urban counterparts. The union wants one collective agreement for all workers.
The two parties are still “very far apart,” says Palecek, adding the situation is “very frustrating.”
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