Rolling Canada Post strike could go national as packages pile higher

Photo: Canada Post

Photo: Canada Post

A series of strikes that have rolled through various provinces in the past week may come to a full-blown nationwide strike sometime after midnight tonight.

According to various press reports, the offer put in front of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been rejected by the union's negotiating team. It has not been put to a rank-and-file vote and the union has said there are no plans to do so.

The current contract expires at midnight Saturday. Negotiations have been ongoing for a year with Canada Post, a government-owned but independently-governed corporation that is known as a Crown Corporation. (Canadian Broadcasting and VIA Rail are other examples of Crown Corporations.)

Piles of parcels have been building throughout the country during the rolling walkouts. Among other areas, strikes have hit the cities of Edmonton, Victoria, Saint John and parts of the province of Manitoba.

E-commerce is part of the dispute, because Canada's postal workers are delivering a greater quantity of parcels than historically because of the shift in consumer buying patterns. The CBC quoted union president Mike Palecek as saying that employees are overworked and walking up to 30 km—18+ miles—per day making deliveries.

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Canada Post reported that the walkouts this week have left more than 600 trailers sitting outside of various facilities through the country, which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called a record. Each trailer contains approximately 2,500 parcels, according to a Canada Post spokesman quoted by CBC. News reports said Canada Post had dropped its delivery-time guarantees earlier in the week, and said the backlog was 30 days.

Reports say the offer put forth by Canada Post is worth $650-million for a four-year contract, annual 2% wage increases, signing bonuses of as much as $1,000, undefined "greater job security" and a $10 million health and safety fund. But Canada Post also has said it is only affordable if it captures this Christmas season, presumably because of projected lost revenue opportunities if there is a strike.

The so-far mostly silent player in the dispute is the Canadian government. It can step in and take some sort of action to negate a strike, but has kept its hand mostly secret.

"Obviously we are preoccupied with the situation at Canada Post," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said November 8. A spokesman for the government told the media that there is nothing to add beyond that statement.