Ministers keep out of conflict as Canada Post strikes worsen
The Canadian Government has said it is keeping out of the current row between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, as the largest postal strikes yet arrived in Toronto and Montreal today. The union said workers “locked out” of postal facilities, with Canada Post reducing services in many areas to three days a week to respond to a dramatic fall in mail volumes during the industrial action, will also join the picket lines.
It was expecting around 15,000 workers to demonstrate today, the largest walkout yet since strike action began on June 3.
Canada Post said today’s action, in areas where 60% of the nation’s mail volumes are found, would “cripple” the network.
“If rotating strikes continue to impact the business at this pace, Canada Post will not be in a position to sustain its operations across the country,” Canada Post warned this morning.
Yesterday in Canada’s House of Commons, parliamentary secretary for labour Kellie Leitch said the government was disappointed the two parties could not come together to agree a new wage deal.
Speaking on behalf of labour minister Lisa Raitt, Leitch said she was “concerned” about the impact of the strikes on the Canadian economy, but said the matter was for the Corporation and the union to resolve.
“The best solution is one that the parties come up with together, by themselves,” said Leitch. “The minister is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to provide the parties with the support and assistance required through the mediator from Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.”
Yesterday, the Canada Post chief operating officer Jacques Côté wrote to his employees to explain why the Corporation had refused the CUPW’s offer to suspend strike action in return for reinstating the previous collective bargaining agreement while negotiations continue.
As soon as strike action began, Canada Post terminated its extension of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement for CUPW’s 48,000 urban workers, which ran out at the end of January. The move left workers with the standard terms of Canada’s national labour standards, under the Canada Labour Code.
Explaining to staff
Côté said yesterday that Canada Post could not now re-instate the agreement because it did not provide enough flexibility for the Corporation to respond to the reduction in mail volumes currently being seen.
He also said the offer to suspend strike action would not counter customers’ loss of confidence in the mail.
“Many of our customers have told us that they will not come back until they are confident the postal system will again be functional and reliable—now and into the future,” said Côté.
With competitors advertising in newspapers and broadcast media urging Canadians to switch to alternative shipping channels, Canada Post has already lost more than $70m in revenues during the strike action, including $35m in lost contracts with major mailers.
Côté said: “As the impact on our business grows worse, it is critically important for the union to accept the generous offer that is on the table and stop the strike actions that are jeopardizing all of our futures.”
“Division and confusion”
The CUPW claimed yesterday that Canada Post had been causing “division and confusion” in telling some workers not to report to work, but not others in certain areas. As a result, the union said it had instructed all members who have been locked out to join the strike.
The union has also asked workers who have not been locked out to refuse to carry out work in place of workers told not to report to work.
“Under the Canada Labour Code, an employee has the right to refuse to perform work which is the subject of a strike or lockout,” said CUPW national president Denis Lemelin.