When it comes to the Canada Postal workers strike, one question is likely to be asked a lot.
Something like this, perhaps: “Who will notice?”
But the same factors that make regular ‘snail’ mail less relevant are also likely to make whatever action the postal workers’ union takes this week into a long one, perhaps rivalling the epic postal strikes of the ’70s and early ’80s.
The difference this time is that the union is in a far weaker bargaining position.
Courier services and e-mail have cut deeply into Canada Post’s core business – even having bills arrive by e-mail is no longer uncommon, and paying bills electronically is nearing universality – so a postal strike no longer has the possibility of bringing commerce to a standstill.
That’s not to say that Canada Post is unnecessary.
Social assistance cheques of various kinds still arrive via mail and, except for hand delivery, the mail is the most effective way of getting original copies of documents across the country.
But what a lengthy strike will do is encourage people to make even more use of direct deposit, electronic communications and courier services as a substitute, hastening the transformation of Canada Post into just another commercial courier service, moving farther away from its prime position of being Canada’s official carrier.
Both sides in this dispute have a lot to lose if a protracted strike occurs.
Both sides in this issue need to take a step back and consider how the public will react to the strike.
They then need to sit down at the table and keep at the negotiations until they find an acceptable compromise.