Much of Canada's postal service could be disrupted at the end of the week as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. July 18 on contract negotiations with Canada Post.
The last CUPW strike in 1997 shut down postal service for 14 days. The union represents 48,000 members in rural and urban communities including full-time, part-time and temporary workers.
Deborah Bourque, CUPW national president, said that negotiators have worked in recent days to clear small issues but that a wide gap remained on more contentious issues such as workload and injury rates, benefits, severance pay, and wages and cost-of-living allowance.
“After seven months of negotiations [Canada Post] continues to demand major concessions,” she said. “Nonetheless, we are still working very hard at the bargaining table and hope we can reach a settlement in the next week.”
In the event of a strike, the union and Canada Post have agreed to deliver government pension and social assistance checks.
Canada Post said the union must make concessions to control rising labor costs.
“This clearly is an attempt by the CUPW to increase pressure on the corporation at the bargaining table to get further concessions at the expense of the business community and employees' peace of mind,” said Andre Ouellet, president/CEO of Canada Post. “The union has to realize we can no longer sustain the costs associated with the current collective agreement and continue to meet the needs of our customers.”
Canada Post said its benefits plans alone have risen more than $270 million since 2000 and are projected to reach $850 million this year.
“Additional costs associated with this collective agreement cannot be sustained without placing job security at risk,” Ouellet said. “If the CUPW cannot work with us to negotiate an appropriate solution to this situation, unfortunately, there will be a strike.”
The Canadian Marketing Association called on Canada Post and the union to reach a negotiated settlement and avoid the economic disruption of a national postal strike.
“The CMA considers this a very delicate time in postal negotiations and takes no position on the issues between the parties,” said John Gustavson, CMA president/CEO. “However, CMA feels both parties have an obligation to the Canadian public and to the business community to settle their differences without a labor disruption.”
If a strike occurs, Gustavson said, it might not have as much impact as the last strike because it may take place in the slower summer months, while the last strike happened in the fall.
He said that there also is the possibility of a rotating strike “where at the start they may shut down Vancouver, and then Montreal and then Halifax,” Gustavson said. “They may pick a city a day and apply pressure on Canada Post.”
Gustavson said that the union's eight days notice of a potential strike allows “major mailers to decide what they want to put into the mail system.”