Rotating strike action by postal workers at selected cities has turned into a full lockout at all urban centres by Canada Post.
The corporation’s decision halts urban mail delivery and could push Parliament to consider back-to-work legislation as early as next week.
“A lockout is the best way to bring a timely resolution to this impasse and force the union to seriously consider the proposals that address the declining mail volumes and the $3.2-billion pension deficit,” Canada Post said in a press release Tuesday.
No new talks are scheduled so far, but the union has demanded a meeting with Canada Post’s CEO.
Shane Lorenz, president of Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 786 Nanaimo, said postal workers opted for rotating strikes to minimize the impact on the public and avoid a total mail delivery shutdown.
“We’re pretty disappointed that Canada Post is just shutting the doors altogether and maybe a better way would have been at least to have warned the public, maybe given them a couple of days’ notice to sort of clear the mail that’s stuck in the system,” Lorenz said.
That mail will not be delivered until Canada Post employees return to work and when that will be is uncertain.
“As far as a settlement goes, I see us quite far apart and I think locking the doors is kind of disrespectful, so I don’t think that’s going to entice us to go back to the table more eagerly,” Lorenz said.
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CTV News her staff will reassess the impact to the economy and public interest before contemplating legislating the 48,000 urban postal workers back to work.
By midday Wednesday, the Conservative government announced it intended to introduce back-to-work legislation
Michelle Terry, a letter carrier manning pickets at the Canada Post office on Terminal Avenue Wednesday, said there are workers who are seriously ill who need the extended benefits that have been cut off.
“It was a shot at people least able to bear it,” Terry said.
“Why aren’t they negotiating instead of intimidating?” she asked. “The union said they would stop all rotating strikes if they just reinstated the contract.”
Marcel Carrier, a retail clerk at the Canada Post office on Terminal Avenue has worked for the corporation for 32 years.
Carrier said postal workers are forced to soak up additional workloads left behind as co-workers are lost through attrition. The Terminal Avenue office is now operating with three full-time staff after one worker transferred and another retired.
“We’re locked out and nobody wants to be locked out and we want them to settle and negotiate fairly,” Carrier said. “Thirty two years in and we’re going to fight for what they want to take away.”
Canada Post said the corporation has lost more than $100 million in revenue since the rotating strikes began June 3.
Canada Post had already cut service to three days a week in response to shrinking demand as uncertainty from the strike led customers to use competing services or switch to online alternatives.
The union had asked for wage hikes of 3.3 per cent in the first year and 2.75 per cent in each of the next three years.
Canada Post offered a four-year contract lifting pay 1.9 per cent in each of the first three years and two per cent in the fourth.
Issues at the table include changing technology, job procedures and concessions on wages and benefits for new hires.
Canada Post says it must address labour costs as a result of a 17-per cent drop in letter-mail business since 2006 due to a rise in online bill payments and other electronic communications.