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Canadian Postal Workers Union Begins Strike

A 24-hour rotating strike kicked off in Winnipeg, traveling to other cities throughout the week.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers began a 24-hour strike at midnight Thursday. Talks with Canada Post are at an impasse, although both groups have indicated an interest in continued negotiations.

The strike was initiated in Winnipeg. The location was selected, says the CUPW, because it was the first place where the Canada Post introduced new equipment and work rules.

This is the first strike in 13 years and has come after about 7 months of negotiations.

According to Canada Post, strike activity is concentrated in Winnipeg. "With the exception of picketing activity at the Winnipeg Mail Processing Plant and Winnipeg Hub (266 Graham Avenue), Canada Post’s network is operating normally as of 6:30 a.m. EDT. Some mail delivery may be affected in the Winnipeg area," says a post on the Post's web site.

The 48,000-member CUPW has since announced its intention to begin a 48-hour strike in Hamilton at midnight tonight. A general strike, if called, will cause mail delivery to stop.

The CUPW is seeking wage increases and solutions to health and safety issues.

A last-minute compromise put on the table by Canada Post was rejected by the union late Thursday. It included offers to:

-put a short-term disability program on hold until a joint union-management committee review.
-bump starting wages to $19 per hour, which will rise to $26 per hour maximum
-offer the same job security provisions to future hires as current employees
-offer up to six weeks of vacation to future hires
-conduct a feasibility study on retail business growth ideas in urban areas

In the meantime, the USPS has said it will continue to accept, process and deliver mail to Canada "until further notice." The Winnipeg strike, it says, is expected to have minimal impact on service and only represents two percent of Canada's population.

If a general strike is called, the USPS says it will provide customers letter and package service through its Global Express Guaranteed service.

Update, 6/6: The rotating strike is currently underway in Montreal. 'Montreal is another place where Canada Post has already begun its $2 billion postal transformation,' said Denis Lemelin, National President and Chief Negotiator. 'As we saw in Winnipeg, Montreal postal workers are being forced to work with new machines and methods without proper safety studies beforehand.'

Update, 6/7: The strike is now in Calgary and Edmonton for the next 24-hour action. Canada Post has been keeping customers updated on it site and is noting that, as strikes move from one region to the next, operations have been resuming, but at slightly "lower than normal volumes." 

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