Canada Post makes 11th-hour offer to head off postal strikes

(Updated 4.35pm EDT) Canada Post issued a fresh offer to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers this afternoon, in a last-minute attempt to avert postal strikes that are to begin tonight in the city of Winnipeg. Following meetings held yesterday between the two sides, in the presence of labour minister Lisa Raitt, the union said a 24-hour work stoppage in Winnipeg would take place from a minute to midnight (EDT) tonight. Strikes in other areas would then follow.

But this afternoon, Canada Post made a number of concessions, including a promise to hold off its reforms to sick leave entitlement in favour of a management-union review of the matter.

The Crown Corporation also made amendments to conditions for new workers, with starting wages upped to $19 per hour, and offering the same job security for future employees as current regular workers.

In a statement, Canada Post said this afternoon that it believed the “significant concessions” addressed the “main issues of concern” raised by the union in yesterday’s meetings.

The Corporation added: “Canada Post believes that a disruption to postal service is completely unnecessary and is disappointed that the union is planning to begin rotating strikes in Winnipeg, Manitoba at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). The focus of the company and union should be on negotiating a new labour agreement and serving Canadians.”

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers gave its legally-required 72 hours’ notice to strike on Monday, as negotiations that stretch back to October have failed to secure a collective bargaining agreement acceptable to the union.

Yesterday, the union said it had chosen Winnipeg as the location for the start of postal strikes because the city was the first area to be affected by Canada Post’s modernisation programme, Postal Transformation. The union is objecting to some of the work practice changes introduced through the multi-billion dollar effort to upgrade the postal processing network.

Earlier today, the CUPW said: “The purpose of this strike activity is to encourage Canada Post Corporation to abandon their proposals for significant concessions and instead negotiate solutions to the very real problems that are being experienced by 48,000 postal workers.”

Negotiations

Throughout the negotiations for a four-year contract, Canada Post has been seeking to cut its costs in the face of a continuing decline in mail volumes, while the CUPW has sought to protect members and reward them for 16 consecutive years of profitability at the Corporation.

Key differences between the two sides include employee wages, working conditions for carriers, conditions for new workers and Canada Post’s proposed reform of sick leave entitlement, although this latter point has now been shelved pending its review.

Yesterday, Canada Post said in a statement that the 17% decline in lettermail “is not a trend that will reverse itself”.

It said: “Canada Post must address labour costs in this round of contract negotiations with CUPW. Wages and benefits account for close to two-thirds of Canada Post’s revenue and the company’s pension liability has reached $14 Billion with a solvency deficit of $3.2 Billion.”

Braced for strikes

The rest of Canada has been preparing for the worst while warning Canada Post and the CUPW that strike action could cause long-term damage to the mail industry if customers find suitable electronic alternatives to the physical mail.

Municipal authorities, such as the City of Ottawa, have put in place contingency plans for customers to make payments online or via drop boxes in municipal buildings, and send in invoices and other mailings via email.

Canada’s charities have expressed concern at the loss of funding, with much reliance on the mail for receiving donations. Toronto-based poverty action group Yonge Street mission said today that the strike could hit some of the most vulnerable members of society, and that it could lose around $56,000 per week during a postal strike.

“Seventy percent of our funding comes through the mail, without those donations we may have to cut back services and stop others completely,” said Ann Barnard Ball, mission development officer. “We hope that Canada Post and CUPW will be able to find common ground. Our community members are depending on them.”

Foreign postal operators are monitoring the situation in Canada closely with regard to advising their customers how to respond to possible strike action.

US Postal Service vice president for global business, Giselle Valera, said the USPS had been holding daily conference calls to keep up to date on the situation and ensure the right information goes out to customers.

She told Post&Parcel yesterday: “As I understand it there may strikes in certain plants or processing locations, it may not necessarily be a nationwide strike. We’re prepared to communicate immediately with our customers what would be the impact of the strike and what would be the challenges we may have about accepting their mail.”

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3 Comments

  1. steve wells

    Let them go on strike. Bring the demise of Post offices as we know them forward. The Unions are just to stupid to see what is clearly in front of them.

  2. Tibor Steinberger

    Canada Post should forget the cutbacks to the employees because that is always a contentious issue and just concentrate in bringing in more services for the government post office.

    The government post office has been around since the pioneer days and way before competition from other companies and became a crown corporation so it could become profitable and not a taxpayer expense, which according to Canada Post happened many years ago.

    Canada Post has learned from private companies that branding existing services brings in a greater financial return and partnering with other private companies that have a positive image brings more trust from the public.

    Canada Post has partnered with different companies over the years like FedEx for a speedier international priority mailing choice and various different manufacturers for merchandise sales.

    Canada Post has recently partnered with a financial institution to offer fully secured reloading Visa credit card services for customers that have bad credit ratings that can’t get a Visa credit card by traditional means.

    It’s time for Canada Post to offer more services to the Canadian public and partner with more companies so they can increase their bottom line.

    Selling products and services to the government has always been a lucrative venture for private institutions.

    Canada Post has the access to all Canadian households and businesses, to make any legal venture a positive one.

  3. steve wells

    Canadian Post is a Government Department. It should die with its niche.

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