Postman to Keep Ringing in Canada as Monday Lockout Dropped

  • ‘Progress being made’ in negotiations, Mihychuk says
  • Canada Post seeks assurances unions won’t now strike

A nationwide shutdown of mail service was averted at least temporarily when Canada’s government-owned postal carrier dropped plans to lock out union workers in a dispute over pay and pensions.

Canada Post late Sunday withdrew its notice of a lockout effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday, saying it wanted to focus on “serious negotiations.” It said it expects its unions to not issue a strike notice “to provide the certainty that Canadians and our employees are looking for.”

The service made its move after Labor Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk reported progress was being made in negotiations on Sunday. Mihychuk said in a release that she encouraged the parties to continue discussions beyond the deadline. A lockout or strike would mark the first labor dispute at the service since 2011, when the federal government passed legislation requiring employees to go back to work after weeks of stoppages.

Canada Post had said it wouldn’t accept any new packages and parcels and that mail in the system won’t be delivered during a lockout. The federal government said “essential” benefit checks like Canada Pension Plan and disability payments would be delivered.

Declining Volume

Canada Post, like its global peers, is struggling to adjust to eroding mail volumes as customers turn to the internet for communicating and paying bills. Mail volumes have plunged by almost one-third since the start of 2015, the service said in May.

A tentative truce proposed by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to continue negotiations for 30 days without the threat of a work stoppage fell apart late Friday. Canada Post said it was only willing to extend its lockout notice if the union agreed to binding arbitration in the event a deal couldn’t be reached in that time. The union had rejected a request from the federal government to settle negotiations through arbitration earlier last week.

­“The only way for us to achieve fair collective agreements is through negotiations that are not restricted in any way,” union Chief Negotiators Sylvain Lapointe and George Floresco said in a release Sunday. “We cannot freely negotiate with legislation or interest arbitration. Arbitration will not allow us to achieve what we need during this round of bargaining.”

Ending Door-to-Door

The postal service said that its proposal would help eliminate uncertainty for both its employees and customers. "What Canada Post has put forward is a reasonable approach that will end the uncertainty immediately and allow for meaningful discussions at the bargaining tables," the company said in a statement Friday.

CUPW, which represents about 50,000 postal workers, is demanding a fair hourly wage for rural, mostly female mail carriers and opposes proposed pension changes. Canada Post has said the union’s demands aren’t affordable and would add nearly C$1 billion in costs.

Canada Post announced plans to gradually stop door-to-door delivery three years ago and replace it with community mailboxes, sparking opposition from citizens and politicians such as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. After his election win in October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a panel to review Canada Post’s business lines.

Pretax profit from postal operations almost doubled to C$44 million ($34.1 million) in the first quarter due to increases in the parcels business, Canada Post said May 27.

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