Canadians who still rely on mail delivered through Canada Post could feel the effects later this month if postal workers follow through on a strike authorization.
On Monday, postal workers across the country voted to be able to strike starting Sept. 26 if their union cannot reach a new contract with the Crown corporation.
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Roughly 94 per cent of letter carriers working in urban areas voted in favour of job action on Sunday while 96 per cent of rural letter carriers did the same.
If a strike happens, Canadians who rely on the postal service could find themselves either forced to turn to other options or stuck waiting for a resolution in order to get things like parcels, business documents or paper bills delivered.
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Here’s what you need to know about a possible strike.
What is this all about?
The heart of the dispute has to do with how postal workers in urban and rural areas are paid.
Urban letter carriers are paid by the hour while their rural counterparts are paid based on the size of their route, which clocks in at less than the carriers make being paid hourly.
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Given that most rural letter carriers are women and most urban letter carriers are men, that difference in pay structure led an arbitrator to review the matter and order the union for the postal workers and Canada Post to come up with a new collective agreement to fix the pay inequity by the end of August 2018.
The sides did not meet that deadline.
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A settlement is also expected to be imposed on Canada Post to remedy the pay gap.
Also part of the dispute are concerns over working conditions and expectations for how workers deliver the growing number of parcels being shipped through the service, while the number of actual letters continues to decline.
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The union representing postal workers also wants to see the return of postal banking, which would see more paper documents shipped by mail.
The collective agreements for both the urban and rural letter carriers expired in December 2017.
What happens next?
For now, both sides are still talking and Employment Minister Patty Hajdu has urged them to keep it that way.
“The minister has appointed federal mediators to assist the parties in their negotiations and encourages both parties to continue their discussions in an effort to reach an agreement and renew their collective agreements,” Hajdu’s press secretary, Veronique Simard, said in an emailed statement to the Canadian Press.
“Our government believes in a fair and balanced approach to labour relations.”
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The strike vote does not mean a strike will happen, only that it could as of the date approved by the union members.
And if it does, there is an agreement in place to ensure things like federal welfare and pension cheques get delivered.
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Generally speaking, a strike means that anything in the mail system as of the date workers go on strike will remain there until the strike is over.
Not all online orders use Canada Post and many provide an option for other delivery options, although that may mean having to pay more for the alternative.
Provincial governments will put contingency plans in place, such as encouraging people to sign up for direct deposit to get provincial cheques or allowing cheques to be picked up in person at designated locations.
Canada Post is considered an essential service, meaning the federal government can table legislation to force workers back on the job in the event of a strike.
That last happened in 2011, when the former Conservative government passed back-to-work legislation.
The move came after 12 days of strikes by postal workers followed by a two-week lock-out by Canada Post management.