Rotating postal strike hits Nanaimo

Canada Post also issues three-day service to compensate for lower mail volumes

Wayde Heckford watches oncoming traffic on East Wellington Road

Wayde Heckford watches oncoming traffic on East Wellington Road

Rotating strikes held across the country by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers rolled through Nanaimo Monday, halting mail delivery in all urban areas for a day from Parksville to Ladysmith.

But Shane Lorenz, president of CUPW Local 786, said the rotating strikes are designed to affect mail customers far less than Canada Post Corporation’s mandated three-day delivery, which begins this week and is designed to compensate for reduced mail volume.

“We no longer have a collective agreement, so starting this week they’ve proposed three-day delivery, which we think will impact the public hugely, much more than our rotating strikes,” said Lorenz, who stayed on the picket line at the East Wellington postal facility from 10 p.m. Sunday to 10 p.m. Monday. “We believe they’re trying to encourage us into a full-blown strike which we don’t want to do because that would end postal service completely and that’s not what we want.”

Nanaimo residents will have mail delivered on Wednesday and Friday this week.

Until an agreement can be reached by the union and corporation, letter mail will not be delivered on Tuesdays or Thursdays (parcels will be delivered five days a week).

Negotiations to ratify a new collective agreement began in October while the current collective agreement covering about 50,000 postal workers expired Jan. 31. Key issues at the bargaining table include benefits, most notably sick leave, and the modernizing of mail processing machines, among others.

According to the national Association of Workers’ Compensation Board, postal workers have one of the highest rates of sick or injury leaves in the country.

“We’re not opposed to modernization. We realize technology is going to change but the corporation’s position is ‘we’re implementing it and we’re not going to talk about it’ and when we raise the issue of worker safety they’re just not willing to listen,” said Tom Jackson, a regional CUPW representative based on the Lower Mainland who was in Nanaimo Monday in support of the one-day strike. “The corporation is taking a hard stand. Anything we try to propose they just reject it outright.”

About 150 postal workers in Nanaimo were part of the one-day strike Monday. None of them received pay, regular or strike, for the day.

Lorenz said rural and suburban carriers, who still have an intact collective agreement, will continue full service.

“Those are the carriers who drive their own vehicles and deliver to community mailboxes,” he said. “Their agreement is still intact so we don’t mind them crossing the picket line.”

Unionized postal workers were also on strike in nine other Canadian cities Monday, mostly at smaller locals, as part of the rotating strike action.

The rotating strikes are now in their 11th day.