Mail could start moving again by the end of this week, but the end of job action might not be the happy ending postal workers hoped for.
The federal government issued back-to-work legislation, which, unless the two sides come to an agreement, will force Canada Post employees to return to their jobs Thursday (June 23).
Any agreement at this point appears unlikely.
Canada Post said in its most recent statement that the corporation and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were still far apart on the fundamental issues of wages, pension and sick leave.
Canada Post locked out its employees Friday after CUPW workers initiated a series of rotating strikes across Canada June 3.
Canada Post said CUPW has too many demands that would drive up costs, limit operational flexibility and restrict the corporation’s ability to deal with dwindling mail volumes, maintain cost competitiveness and deal with a $3.2 billion deficit in its pension plan.
Canada Post is running an advertising campaign in which it apologizes to customers affected by the job action, while simultaneously promoting its ePost online bill payment service.
“Although we’d like to see an end to the lockout, of course, that’s not how we imagined it happening,” said Shane Lorenz, president Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 786 Nanaimo. “The labour minister had proposed a week and a half ago or so, that we cease rotating strikes and the corporation reinstate the collective agreement and we’d all go back to work and we’d wait for negotiations to carry on. That’s what we had hoped for, but that never happened.”
Lorenz said postal workers never wanted to stop delivering mail and hoped to affect customers as little as possible, which was why the union opted for rotating strikes.
“A lockout was definitely not what anybody wanted,” he said.
Lorenz said the union has received letters of support from other unions, but there are no plans for rallies in Nanaimo, as have happened in other Canadian cities. Rallies are scheduled in Courtenay and Victoria this week.
Postal workers in Nanaimo will return to work under the legislation, he said. Refusal to do so carries a fine against the union of $100,000 for each day workers refuse to return to work. Postal workers will have their old contract reinstated.
“We’re all eager to get back to work,” Lorenz said. “This isn’t the way we hoped it would be done, but we want to deliver the mail. We do provide a service to the public and that’s what we want to do.”