Canada Post’s day-long, rotating strikes came to Whitehorse yesterday.
At 3 p.m., a group of about 15 postal workers stood at the top of Two Mile Hill, blowing noise makers, shaking flags and waving at passing motorists.
“The reason we’re only striking for one day is that we don’t want to interrupt the mail. It’s slowing down, but we’re keeping it going,” said Ron Rousseau, the Whitehorse president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
“We’re just letting people know what we’re out for and trying to make people aware of what’s going on.”
Contract talks between Canada Post and its urban workers have stalled, although both sides claim to be eager to negotiate.
The union’s collective agreement came to an end January 30, and negotiations began 60 days before that.
The union claims that it was having trouble getting Canada Post to the table and made good on its threat to walk out last week.
There have been rotating strikes across the country every day since, with 13 small communities, including Whitehorse, picketing yesterday.
As many as 36 people were on strike in Whitehorse yesterday, but that didn’t completely shut down the territory’s mail.
In total, there are about 80 postal workers in the Yukon and many of them are rural carriers who work under a different collective agreement.
There are a number of major issues that have forced the strike, said Rousseau, who works as a clerk at the Whitehorse sorting plant.
The first is a proposed two-tiered benefit system, which would see new workers starting at $19 an hour, rising to $26 an hour over seven years.
“New employees would be starting at a wage 22 per cent less than what current employees are making, as well as receiving less benefits,” said Rousseau.
“We feel that if we do the same work, we want the same pay and benefits.”
Canada Post claims that these changes will help the corporation manage labour costs.
But the union points out that Canada Post has been earning a profit for the past 16 years, including the past two when the rest of the world economy was suffering.
Another issue is short-term disability and sick time, which the union feels is too short.
And the union would like to see Canada Post expand its services inside of small rural communities.
“In Whitehorse, you’re always able to swing down to the Walmart to pick up supplies,” said Rousseau.
“But in Destruction Bay or Old Crow things aren’t as accessible and the mail really is a necessary service.”
Rousseau doesn’t worry about the corporation’s claims that the strike is eroding public confidence in Canada Post, he said.
And he also isn’t worried that the relatively small impact of the postal strike on ordinary citizens will raise questions about the need for a national postal service.
“There’s nowhere else that you can send a letter across Canada for 59 cents,” he said.
“Our parcel rates are quite competitive. And our express post is probably the best service that’s out there.”
And in case you thought that snail mail was dead, Canada Post has seen its parcel service continue to rise because of online shopping sites like eBay and Amazon, said Rousseau.
And for good or ill, ad mail is continuing to grow. That means more money for the corporation and more flyers in your mailbox.
Canada Post has cut staffing levels and reduced mail delivery to just three days a week in urban centres to adjust to lower volumes since the strikes began.
The rotating strikes have moved on to Quebec City and Kitchener today.
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