Update: Three weeks after striking postal workers were forced back to work, Canada Post says it’s caught up on most parcel delivery backlogs that had been created by rotating walkouts. The Crown corporation says its normal holiday delivery service guarantees have been restored across most of the country, except Vancouver. The federal government legislated an end to job action by postal workers on Nov. 27 after Canada Post complained that a backlog of parcels was reaching historic levels ahead of the crucial holiday shopping period. At the time, Canada Post warned the backlog could take until the end of January to clear up. Canada Post said it delivered about four million packages between last Friday and yesterday, and will likely be able to deliver items ordered online in time for Christmas. But it also depends on where the parcels are coming from as Canada Post expects some shipments from outside Canada might only be delivered in early January.
“Rotating” strikes from Canada Post — on since October 22 — have been ended by government legislation. Many retailers and customers were worried about whether packages will make it in time for the holidays.
Elections B.C. also saw a low turnout for a (primarily mail-in) referendum on electoral reform, blamed in part on the fact that thousands of ballots are reportedly stuck in Canada Post warehouses due to the strikes (the deadline to send in a voting package has also been extended until December 7). Freelance workers raised concerns about payment delays and others told the CBC they’re stuck waiting for the results of medical tests.
Here’s everything you need to know about why workers went on strike — and what it means for your mail.
When did Canada Post workers start their labour action?
When crown corporation Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) couldn’t reach an agreement regarding new contract demands after year-long negotiations, the union announced it would begin strikes across the country on October 22. In order to minimize the effect on customers, each strike was meant to last only 24 hours per city, with different strike locations on rotation.
Is there a way to keep track of where the rotating strikes happened?
You can keep up via both Canada Post’s website and the CUPW website. Canada Post wrote in a customer update that the strikes “have touched virtually every Canada Post facility and every Canadian address so far.”
Why were Canada Post workers on strike?
The union cites a range of concerns, but one big one is the disparity in pay for urban and rural postal workers. Urban carriers are paid by the hour, and rural carriers are paid based on the size of their route (which, in practice, means urban carriers are paid more). CUPW also points out that most urban carriers are men, and rural carriers tend to be women. It affects about 8,000 rural and suburban employees (compared to 42,000 urban Canada Post employees).
Critics of the strikes have pointed to the 2016 Canada Post Review that found that Canada Post workers have the “highest level of total wages and benefits compared to its competitors and its subsidiary, Purolator, as well as the highest productive hourly rate (i.e., labour cost per hour worked) vs competitors. (This holds true for both Canada Post’s “inside” sorting workforce and its “outside” delivery workforce.”)
What are Canada Post workers asking for?
The postal workers’ union is asking for Canada Post to address workplace injuries, which, according to CUPW statistics, have increased by 43 per cent over the last two years. They have also called for Canada Post to address pay equity, “job preservation” and for a national overtime ban that limits work weeks to 40 hours and eight-hour days (due to concerns of frequent overwork). Last weekend, they called for the federal government to appoint a mediator to help both sides reach an agreement.
What does this mean for my packages?
Although each city was only affected 24 hours at a time, strikes at distribution hubs and sorting centres have led to an estimated 30-day backlog, according to the CBC. Mail and parcels are shipped to these centres before distribution, and the CBC reported there were 600 unloaded tractor-trailers with around 2,500 parcels in each one. The situation is especially bad in southern and southwestern Ontario, because of a backlog of hundreds of transport trailers sitting idle at its main Toronto sorting facility.
Distribution centres in Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal are also experiencing severe backlogs, and packages are backing up at border points, despite a plea from Canada Post to its international partners to halt shipments. “International items will require screening by the Canada Border Services Agency and we are working in partnership with them to manage the significant existing backlog,” Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton told the Canadian Press.
Canada Post suspended delivery guarantees for parcels on November 13 “until further notice.” On Tuesday, Canada Post said that delays of parcel and mail delivery would continue into 2019. “Our focus across the country is to process and deliver as much as possible on a first-in, first-out basis,” Hamilton said. The union disputes these claims, emphasizing the purpose of rotating strikes.
In other words, you’ll still get your packages — eventually — but there is no guarantee as to when.
When will Canada Post deliver my mail?
Paper mail was still affected but the CUPW has confirmed that it will continue delivery for essential cheques, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and the Working Income Tax Benefit. Other benefit cheques may be delayed.
What about letters to Santa?
Canada Post’s popular annual program, which lets kids write letters to Santa — which are then answered by “elves” — is still on this year. However, a union spokesperson told Global that postal workers will still “be able to volunteer with the program, but with delays in some cases.” In other words, write that letter now.
When will the Canada Post strike end?
Postal service is considered an essential service, meaning that the government can legislate workers back on the job. (The federal Conservatives did this during the 2011 strike.)
Mail service will resume all across the country at noon Tuesday after the Senate passed legislation ordering an end to five weeks of rotating strikes by postal workers. Royal assent was granted late Monday shortly after senators approved Bill C-89 by a vote of 53-25. Four senators abstained. The government had deemed passage of the bill to be urgent due to the economic impact of continued mail disruptions during the busy holiday season. It rushed the bill through the House of Commons last week.
But senators, after holding a special sitting Saturday to debate the bill, insisted on taking a little more time to reflect on the constitutionality of stripping postal workers of their right to strike. They held another special sitting Monday and only put the bill to a vote after more than five hours of additional debate. “I thought the extra time we took was valuable and was a demonstration of how the Senate should be reviewing government bills,” said Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, leader of the independent senators’ group.
Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, urged senators earlier Monday not to delay any further.
“I’m gratified that after two days of intense debate the Senate did what, in my view, is the right thing and passed this legislation,” he said after the vote.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers issue a statement declaring that it is “exploring all options to fight the back-to-work legislation.”
“Postal workers are rightly dismayed and outraged, said CUPW national president Mike Palecek. “This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Do I have any other options to make sure my purchases get delivered by the holidays?
Andrea Stairs, general manager of eBay Canada, says some larger retailers may offer alternative shipping methods, like FedEx and UPS, although those alternatives will cost more. Small businesses which often cannot afford to offer courier services will be at a disadvantage.
With files from the Canadian Press