Canada Post is in the news again. The crown corporation is facing the potential of another labour disruption by its postal workers. Over the past 50 years, Canada Post has experienced approximately 20 work stoppages (strike or lockout) with the last action ending in arbitrated back-to-work legislation in 2011. Due to this troubled labour history and the impact of the disruption of services to Canadians, the corporation has been declared an essential service. This means that the federal government can, once again, enact legislation that forces postal workers back to their jobs if there is a strike.
Global News provides us with a summary of the issues facing Canada Post and its workers at the bargaining table.
Forcing unionized employees back to work when they are exercising their reasonable and legitimate rights, is not something that governments implement lightly. Declaring Canada Post an essential service came as a result of the significant and direct financial impact on Canadians when the mail was not being delivered. In the not too distant past, thousands of Canadians were reliant on supplemental or basic incomes in the form of paper cheques which were issued by the federal government. When the mail was not being delivered, low-income and senior Canadians did not receive these cheques or the funds they needed in order to survive. While current technology has allowed for direct deposits and online banking, not all Canadians have access to these resources. In the event of a strike by postal workers, some Canadians may continue to be at risk, which may result in a repeat of back-to-work legislation in order to protect vulnerable Canadians.
Having said all of this, the impact of technology has also changed how Canadians use the services of Canada Post. Most Canadians do use electronic options such as e-mail and social media to order to communicate and share information. The days of buying stamps in order to post a letter writing are dwindling quickly. Further, there are numerous delivery services available to Canadian consumers as alternatives to Canada Post, such as Fedex, Purolator, or UPS.
Why then would postal workers choose to go on strike in the face of legislative restrictions and an ever-decreasing amount of consumer demand? As noted in the article, a strike vote does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. A strike vote does send a clear message to the employer that the workers are serious about their demands and that they are willing to take the risks that come from the potential of strike action. Hopefully, both parties will see the benefit of continuing their discussions at the bargaining table rather than fighting it out through the picket line.
Time will tell how this particular set of negotiations works its way through to a successful conclusion.
In the meantime, it may be a good idea to check the mail, just in case.
- How would a strike by Canada Post impact you as a customer?
- If you were negotiating for the union, what leverage do you have at the bargaining table and how would you use it?
- If you were negotiating for the employer, how far would you go to avoid strike action? What items would you offer to the Union in order to settle this contract?