Canada Post issued a 72-hour lockout notice to its unionized workforce Monday night, which means regular mail and parcel delivery could stop at midnight Friday.
“A changing business reality” is one reason Canada Post has given for the current labour dispute.
The way business is done these days has changed for most, many choosing to conduct matters at work and home via the Internet.
But there’s still plenty of people out there reliant upon Canada Post, and the Trail Times has to look no further than its own front door.
If the lockout does happen, 134 subscribers from Rossland to Invermere and 24 readers living on the coast, will be without their Trail Times newspaper. The company is exploring steps to help those readers. Others affected include local small businesses – many members of the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce (TCOC) avoid electronic banking fees by sending cheques, invoices and statements via Canada Post. “We get a lot of cheques in the mail from provincial things like Destination BC and from our members,” says TCOC Executive Director Audry Durham. “We can work around that (locally) with one-on-one visits, but another thing that affects the chamber is that all of our guides come through the mail.” She concedes that those matters can be worked out by using a courier, but says at the end of the day, the organization still requires paper documents delivered through the mail. “We also get a lot of bills in our mail, as do households,” she added. “We can register online, but our paper trail is the paper bill, and that has to go to the accountant every year.” So newspapers, small businesses and let’s not forget the 825 local seniors who rely on paper statements delivered to their door through Canada Post. (The group petitioned Kootenay Savings Credit Union to stop charging a $2 fee for mailed statements) And there’s another sector of people in the East and West Kootenay who currently rely on Canada Post to deliver very specific medications. “We service the BC Transplant Society,” says pharmacist Linda Seib, from Shoppers Drug Mart in Trail. “A lot of those people don’t live in Trail. For example, if someone lives in Kimberley and is not coming to Trail for a clinic at the hospital, we usually mail out their medications.” In place of Canada Post, the store would courier the medications or send them via Greyhound, she added. Mike Palacek, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), clarified the union is carrying on business as usual and it’s not certain CUPW will be locked out when the notice expires at midnight Friday. “We are well aware than a number of people and businesses really rely upon the postal service,” he told the Trail Times Tuesday. “With people shopping online and especially small businesses – we are acutely aware they are even more dependent upon the postal service now more than ever,” he added. “We are concerned about that and that is the reason we are doing everything we possibly can to avoid a disruption.” According to Canada Post, the union’s demands are not affordable. The Corporation must now respond to the rapidly deteriorating volumes and the financial impact to the business, using the means provided in the Canada Labour Code, the company said in a Tuesday news release. “As of Friday, July 8, 2016, the terms and conditions of the current collective agreements will no longer apply,” the corporation stated. “Under the new terms and conditions, employees will continue to receive their regular pay and some benefits such as applicable prescription drug coverage. Other items will be cancelled in line with the statutory minimum conditions established under the Canada Labour Code. The Corporation will also have the flexibility to adjust staffing according to the amount of work required.” Palacek says the union has been sounding the alarm for months that Canada Post was planning to provoke a labour dispute. They may or may not lock us out,” he said. “They may keep running on Friday but they can then start to change working conditions and try to provoke our members into walking out. So the message we are sending our members is to stay strong and don’t take the bait – our goal is to get a negotiated collective agreement without a labour dispute. And we are going to do everything in our power to continue service to the public.” Given the $44 million profit in the first quarter of this year, Canada Post is on track to do exceed 2016’s $100 million profit, he added. “We simply don’t see the justification in the cuts they are putting forward.” The Crown corporation and its union have agreed to keep delivering social benefits like old age security, Canada Pension Plan, the working income tax benefit, and the new Canada Child Benefit, which is set to be delivered for the first time this month. The payments will be delivered on the 20th of the month. The majority of those payments aren’t done through the mail. Employment and Social Development Canada said about 95 per cent of employment insurance payments, 96 per cent of CPP payments, and almost 98 per cent of old age security payments are done through direct deposit. Employment insurance recipients who haven’t or can’t sign up for direct deposit can contact Service Canada at 1.800.206.7218 to ask for a cheque that can be picked up at the nearest Service Canada location.