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Canada Post warns of long parcel delivery delays in wake of government action to end rotating strikes

Back to Work (Photo:Shutterstock)

Canada Post Corp. warned late yesterday of lengthy delays in parcel deliveries as it reduces “unprecedented backlogs” after the Canadian Parliament passed back-to-work legislation ending five weeks of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers that crippled the Crown corporation’s delivery network.

In a communique posted last night on its website, Canada Post said that businesses and consumers within Canada should expect delivery delays through the peak holiday shipping season and into January. Existing parcel backlogs due to the employee job actions have been amplified by heavy volumes from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Canada Post said.

Delays ing international parcel deliveries will stretch into March, in large part because international items require screening by the Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Post said. The company is working with the agency to shrink the backlogs as quickly as possible, it added.

Parcels and mail are being processed on a first-in, first-out basis, according to the communique.The corporation told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that it delivered only 30,000 parcels in the prior 2 days, well below the 500,000 deliveries normally made over a late-November weekend.

Canada Post employees began returning to work as early as Tuesday afternoon following the Senate’s vote Monday evening to end the rotating stoppages which took place while both sides tried fruitlessly to seal a new collective bargaining agreement. The legislation gives a government-appointed mediator 90 days to reach a contract settlement between the corporation and the union. If that fails, settlement could be imposed either by the arbitrator or by selecting one of the final proposals by Canada Post or the union. 

Senators emphasized that their intervention was a last resort taken to safeguard Canada’s economy and provide some hope to citizens that holiday letters, parcels and other forms of mail are delivered in a timely fashion.

The union did not take the Senate’s action well. “Postal workers are rightly dismayed and outraged,” CUPW National President Mike Palecek said in a statement. Palecek added that the legislation will not end the dispute, and that postal workers will “continue to defend our right to negotiate a settlement.”

The union wants better pay and job security for workers, and wants Canada Post to adopt rules to reduce workplace injuries which, according to published reports, the union said is now at a crisis level. Postal carriers are delivering more parcels than ever because of the growth of e-commerce, and the union said employees are walking up to 18 miles per day lugging more packages, Palacek was quoted by the CBC as saying.

The work stoppages threatens to interrupt what has so far been a solid year for Canada Post’s parcel business. Third-quarter parcels revenue rose to CAN$597 million, up 21.2 percent from the same period in 2017, while revenue for the first 9 months rose to CAN$1.8 billion, a 21.8 percent increase year-over-year. Parcel volumes rose 23.3 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively, during the quarter and through the first 9 months. 

The gains were due to strong demand from commercial customers, increases in the business-to-consumer e-commerce market, and a “solid delivery performance,” Canada Post said.

Like its counterpart to the south, the U.S. Postal Servce, Canada Post is seeing strong gains in its parcel business along with persistent weakness in its core product, known as “Transaction Mail.” Like the USPS, Canada Post’s traditional mail business is in decline due to the migration of paper letter traffic to digitalization.

If nothing else, the end of the rotating strikes should ease the strain on Purolator, Canada’s largest private intra-company parcel delivery firm. Last week, the company said its network was under pressure from a combination of seasonal volume increases and business migrating from Canada Post. The company did not respond to a request for comment by press time today.

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Mark Solomon, Managing Editor

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.
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