Whitehorse postal workers were out in force again this week, informing residents that it wasn’t their fault that the mail wasn’t being delivered.
Most of their placards had green tape covering up the words “on strike,” with “locked out” or “I want to work” written on top.
A large sign hung outside of Canada Post’s Whitehorse sorting plant, at the top of Two Mile Hill, saying that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been locked out.
Canada Post has been in negotiations with the union since late last year.
When talks failed, the union went on day-long, rotating strikes, which hit Whitehorse last Wednesday.
In response, the corporation cut mail services to just three days a week.
And on June 15, 48,000 postal workers across the country tried to go to work in the morning and found the doors locked.
Ron Rousseau, the local union president, worries that this may have been part of the corporation’s plan from the start.
“All the way along we’ve wanted to negotiate and it’s just been stalled and stalled – we don’t know if this was part of the plan or what,” he said on Thursday.
“Last time we were legislated we saw major cutbacks.”
The last major postal strike was back in 1997. The government ended up ordering the union back to work.
This forced Canada Post and the CUPW to each take their case to an arbitrator. And this led to cuts for the union.
“With the arbitrator, we both present our cases and then it’s in their hands,” said Rousseau.
“It’s somebody looking at it from the outside who doesn’t know the issues.”
It looks like the same thing will happen this time around.
Contract talks between Canada Post and the union are expected to continue through the weekend.
But if no agreement can be reached, the Conservative government is planning to introduce back-to-work legislation next Tuesday.
Labour groups have accused the Conservatives of launching an “assault on workers” for moving so quickly to propose back-to-work legislation to resolve the dispute at Canada Post, and at Air Canada as well.
The lockout has had a huge effect on many Yukoners, said Rousseau.
“We’ve had business people stop by saying that they’ve got bills to pay and they’re waiting for money. There’s many repercussions for people in general.”
Midway through the interview, a van pulled up and a young woman asked Rousseau when the mail would be delivered.
She was waiting for her baby bonus cheque.
Rousseau assured her that special exceptions had been made for federal cheques like the baby bonus.
Those cheques arrived today and are currently being sorted.
Canada Post is paying carriers $50 per person to deliver these cheques on Monday.
The union is planning on donating this money.
The quickest that the postal workers can be legislated back to work is 48 hours, said Rousseau. He expects to be back at work by the middle of next week.
Until then, the workers will continue to “man the gates and make sure the mail is secure,” said Rousseau.
“We want to make sure that there’s no one coming in and doing our work, because in the past we’ve had … I’m trying to think of a better word than ‘scab.’”
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