So, the strike is officially underway, with a bit of a twist…it’ll be rotating strikes across the country, not all at once…
Postal workers will go on strike in Hamilton over the weekend as part of a rotating work stoppage designed to prevent Canada Post from bringing in changes that the union says will undermine health and safety protections.
Canada Post has said it needs to address labour costs, noting the letter-mail business has fallen by more than 17 per cent since 2006 due to digital communications.
The union’s chief negotiator would give no indication Friday when the rotating work stoppages that began late Thursday would end.
“We will continue to strike… the goal is still the same, it is a achieving a good collective agreement,” Denis Lemelin told reporters Friday morning in Ottawa.
“We have a dangerous workplace that needs to be fixed but Canada Post won’t listen to us. We cannot accept unsafe and unfair work conditions.”
Lemelin said postal workers have among the highest number of lost days due to injury of any industry, more than four days a year.
Workers inside Canada Post sorting plants have to stand for eight hours on a machine daily, while outside workers walk on average 15 kilometres a day with heavy mail bags — sometimes facing bad weather and slippery footing.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said rotating postal strikes will have less impact on businesses than a system-wide strike.
But a steady stream of such strikes will become problematic, said Dan Kelly, the federation’s senior vice-president.
“It inevitably is going to throw some wrenches into the system and cause delays at the very least and a lot of stress and anxiety with small businesses,” Kelly said from Ottawa.
While there are electronic payment methods, Kelly said a lot of small business owners don’t use them to pay their suppliers.
“I am most concerned about business-to-business transactions because a lot of that still takes place by cheque.”
Lemelin called on Canadians to exert pressure on Canada Post to negotiate in what he called a fair manner.
“It’s important that the population who really care about the postal service really push Canada Post, phone Canada Post, in some ways we really need the help of the public,” he said.
About 150 Canada Post workers hit the bricks in Winnipeg at 10:59 p.m., Central time on Thursday. Winnipeg was chosen as the first city to strike because it was the first city to be impacted by Canada Post’s modernization program.
Postal workers in Hamilton will go on strike starting at 11:45 p.m. EDT Friday, and remain off the job for 48 hours.
The Crown Corporation said it is committed to continuing negotiations but its last-ditch contract offer tabled Thursday afternoon didn’t satisfy the union.
In its latest offer, Canada Post said it would be willing to put a controversial short-term disability program on hold, to be reviewed by a joint union-management committee.
Proposed changes to sick leave have been among the key sticking points for the union.
As well, the employer said it was willing to raise the starting wage of new hires to $19 an hour.
But Lemelin said the offers were not enough.
The last time the Canada Post workers went on strike was the fall of 1997. The workers were off the job for two weeks before being forced back to work by federal legislation.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt urged the parties on Friday to keep talking, saying the best solution will be one that negotiators work out themselves.
In a statement, Raitt said the parties have pledged to continue delivering government mail such as Canada Pension Plan, Canada Child Tax Benefit, Old Age Security, and regular veterans’ benefits will still be delivered.
The government issued a phone number for Canadians to call for information, 1-800-OCANADA for more information.
How are you going to deal with the postal strike, if it’s for an extended length of time? Are you worried? Do you support the striking workers?