Winnipegs Canada Post employees back on the picket line

Winnipeg\s Canada Post employees back on the picket line
Canada Post issues new offer to employees as eBay calls on Ottawa to end strikes
Canada Post workers in the Halifax area walked off the job Monday but were expected to return to the job Thursday morning. 

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers began rotating strikes in late October, with each strike lasting 24 hours in each local.

But in a statement on its website last night, the union says while the post office moved to address some of its concerns, there is a still a "long way to go'' to reach a negotiated agreement.       It adds the offer did not address a few key issues, including pay for all hours worked.       Canada Post is hoping its offer to 50,000 postal workers will be enough to end more than three weeks of disruptive rotating strikes.       It wants the offer to be accepted by Saturday to ensure the unprecedented package backlog is cleared in time for next week's start of the busy online holiday shopping season.

But the latest, extended rotating strike is indicative of how talks are going with Canada Post, said the union.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers Nova Local 1st Vice President Mike Keefe issued a release Thursday morning saying the strike action ended as of 8 p.m. Wednesday night. 

"Based on the fact that negotiations have not been going well with Canada Post, the national union felt we needed to put more pressure on Canada Post to negotiate," said Mike Keefe, a retail postal clerk and first vice-president of Nova Local, which represents 600 members.

Rotating strikes resumed on Monday at 8 p.m. for members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville and Lake Charlotte to Hubbards.

Other areas, such as Moncton, Toronto and Vancouver, have also had rotating strikes in the last a number of days.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says its executive is studying the contract offer by Canada Post to determine next steps. 

The Canadian Press reported the Crown corporation's four-year offer includes an annual two per cent wage hike, plus a signing bonus of up to $1,000 per employee. Unionized workers have until Saturday to accept the deal.

In a media release CUPW said, “Canada Post has made some movements towards addressing our key priorities, however, we have a long way to go to achieve a negotiated collective agreement.”

"The strike action is still rotating strikes so it is possible we could be back on the job [Thursday], but we wanted to let everybody know that until further notice there would no mail processed and no mail delivered in HRM," Keefe said.

Keefe, who has worked for Canada Post for 34 years, said the union wants supporters of postal workers to contact the prime minister and their member of Parliament to pressure the Crown corporation to negotiate.

"The union feels that the only action for the government left to take is to introduce back-to-work legislation and that sort of rewards Canada Post for not bargaining seriously for the last 12 months," said Keefe.

The major issue for unionized workers, Keefe said, has to do with health, safety, and wage and benefit equality.

Keefe said workers in Halifax have been getting a lot of support from the public, with people honking their horns and bringing food and coffee.

"It used to be when you'd go on the picket line and somebody blew the horn, usually they were giving you the one-fingered salute while they were doing it," Keefe said.

"And this time it's much more thumbs up, it's much more positive. And that's why morale is pretty good on the picket line."

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OTTAWA — Canada Post has issued what it calls a "time-limited" contract offer to its employees in hopes of ending rotating strikes that have created a historic backlog of undelivered parcels.

The offer Wednesday to members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers came just hours after online sales and auctioning giant eBay called on the federal government to legislate an end to the contract dispute.

The Crown corporations four-year offer includes annual two per cent wage hikes, plus signing bonuses of up to $1,000 per employee.

The proposal, which the agency said was worth roughly $650 million, also contains new job-security provisions, including for rural and suburban carriers who have complained about precarious employment, and a $10-million health-and-safety fund.

But Canada Post said the offer was only viable if it can be agreed to before the holiday shopping rush. It has imposed a deadline of Nov. 17 for Canadian Union of Postal Workers members to accept the deal.

"This measure is to ensure we can reach a just-in-time resolution and deliver for Canadians ahead of the holiday rush," the Crown corporation said in an email.

"The time limit is necessary as this offer is only affordable if we can clear the backlogs caused by the unions strike activity and effectively deliver the quickly arriving massive Black Friday and Cyber Monday volumes."

CUPW said on its website late Wednesday that Canada Post "has made some movements towards addressing our key priorities, however, we have a long way to go to achieve a negotiated collective agreement."

Key issues missing from the offer include job security, pay for all hours worked and guaranteed minimum hours, the union said, adding that its national executive board would be meeting to discuss the next steps.

Earlier in the day, the head of eBay Canada sent a letter to the prime minister late Tuesday, urging him to force an end to the labour dispute. Andrea Stairs, eBays general manager for Canada, also warned that quick action was needed to ensure retailers dont lose out on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

"I encourage the government to explore all available legislative solutions to alleviate the current situation," Stairs wrote in the letter, which was also sent to Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough.

Continued rotating strikes at Canada Post will result in significant losses for small and medium-sized businesses across the country, Stairs warned, noting that smaller firms are unable to negotiate lower shipping fees with other delivery services.

While many businesses have adapted as best they can since the strikes began on Oct. 22, Stairs said adjustments online sellers have made so far to avoid delivery disruptions are unsustainable.

"Black Friday and Cyber Monday are critical sales opportunities for Canadian small and micro retailers, particularly those that sell into the U.S. — the largest consumer market in the world," she wrote.

"Should the Canada Post service disruptions continue through this key retail moment, these (smaller businesses) will be seriously disadvantaged in competing for U.S. demand."

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are annual shopping days known for their deep discounts, fall this year on Nov. 23 and 26.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned last week that his government would look at "all options" to bring the Canada Post labour dispute to an end if there was no significant progress in contract talks. Trudeau did not elaborate on what actions could be taken, although the previous Conservative government passed legislation to end a two-week lockout of postal employees in 2011.

A spokeswoman for Hajdu said Wednesday the government recognizes Canadians and small businesses rely on the postal service, and encouraged corporate and union negotiators to keep talking.

"We urge both parties to reach a deal soon to reduce the impacts to Canadians, businesses, Canada Post and their workers," Veronique Simard wrote in an email.

Canada Post said Wednesday it was facing an unprecedented backlog of shipments and warned the situation could escalate quickly.

Postal union members picketed in Toronto on Tuesday for the third time in the past two weeks. The latest job action in Toronto was over by Wednesday morning, but the shutdown added to the backlog of items already waiting to be sorted and shipped, said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.

"We have now surpassed 260 trailers of parcels and packets waiting to be unloaded," Hamilton wrote in an email, referring to the Gateway parcel processing plant in Toronto.

"The union just took down their pickets but we are backed up beyond anything weve ever seen in our history. With Toronto out on strike, we also missed two days of customer pickups, which will likely push that trailer total over 300 today."

The previous peak for backlogged trailers reached 220 during last years Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period, he said.

The union is negotiating contracts for 50,000 of its members in two divisions — urban carriers and rural and suburban workers. It said Tuesday that Canada Post had failed to address key issues, including health and safety, staffing levels and job security.

The two sides have been negotiating for almost a full year, with little success despite the assistance of government-appointed mediators.