More than 50 thousand postal workers in Canada are unhappy as a deadline draws near for a nationwide lockout of mail services.
Canada Post turned down a last minute request by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Tuesday to extend a two-week “cooling off” period set to expire Saturday. If the lockout goes through, mail and parcels sent through the postal system this week may not get delivered, excluding pension and federal assistance cheques.
President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) in Prince George, Tami Brushey, says workers have been without a contract since late 2015 and need more time to finalize a collective agreement with Canada Post. “As of July 2nd, they’ve told us that we no longer have any benefits at all. We have members taking various treatments, cancer treatments and that’s a pretty big blow to the membership,” she said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now for the public and the workers. We’re determined to get a collective agreement and we want to keep working, nobody wants to strike.”
Canada Post is calling for a less expensive pension plan for new employees, while keeping the old plan for existing members. The Union says that’s unfair and that there’s plenty of money to go around. “On an ongoing basis, our pension is completely sustainable, I think it’s like 2.7 Billion dollar surplus or something in that fund right now,” Brushey said.
In fact, the actual pension surplus according to the 2015 Canada Post Pension Plan was $2.7 Billion. However, Canada Post says it’s concerned about a longer term solvency deficit of $6.1 Billion. In early April, Canada Post filed for conciliation, saying there had been no key progress made on new contract negotiations. The CUPW viewed the file for conciliation as provocation for a labour dispute in a release this week.
“We should ask why did CPC wait to present its first global offer only one week prior to the parties obtaining the right to strike and lock-out? In fact, after they prepared their offer, they waited to present it to the Union while they prepared all of their communications material including videos and pamphlets. Waiting so long to propose a global offer is unprecedented in the history of negotiations.”
Negotiations aside, if a strike were to take place, an unprepared small business could face big struggles, says President of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, Cindi Pohl. “They send all of their invoices via mail and they receive their cheques via mail, so obviously that could pose a big problem when they’re not bringing in their money that they need to,” said Pohl. “Their customers then move to paying by credit card transactions that could potentially increase costs for the business as higher transaction fees for their credit cards.”
The Union said Wednesday it would not file a 72 hour notice of strike, but it is working to prepare a counter proposal to the Canada Post. This means the earliest workers could walk off the job would be Monday, July 4th.