OTTAWA — Small businesses called for a speedy end to Monday’s rotating walkouts in four cities by Canada Post, concerned that a prolonged strike could bite into their profits ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business also urged the post office to rein in spending to reduce costs and warned postal workers that job action would ultimately hurt them and their employer.
“While a rotating strike may be less harmful than a general strike, it creates additional uncertainty for businesses at a critical time for many small firms,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said Monday in a statement.
“The bad news for Canada Post workers is that every time they even threaten a strike, more small business customers move to use alternatives, many never returning to Canada Post.”
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which represents 50,000 postal employees, launched rotating strikes in Victoria, Edmonton, Windsor, Ont., and in Halifax to pressure Canada Post into accepting contract changes.
The two sides have been bargaining separate contracts for rural and urban carriers, without success, over the past 10 months.
And there has been little progress of late in resolving issues critical to the union, said CUPW president Mike Palecek.
“Not on our health and safety issues, not on issues of equality for rural and suburban mail carriers, and not on precarious work,” Palecek said in an interview.
“In fact they’re proposing to increase precarious work with more temporary workers.”
The union is also asking for an end to forced overtime and gender equality language.
Canada Post said it remained committed to bargaining new collective agreements for its unionized employee, and that it had tabled “a significant offer” that included wage increases, job security and improved benefits.
The Crown agency added that its proposals contained no concession demands.
Small businesses reliant on the agency for deliveries of goods and invoices, and for receiving payments, have already been harmed by ever-increasing costs for Canada Post services, and should not be expected to pay more, Kelly said.
“It’s time for Canada Post to bring its spending under control instead of handing growing costs on to consumers and businesses who are already facing postal rate hikes in January,” he said.
“We’re looking to both sides to be reasonable and come to a quick compromise.”
While many Canadians have found other ways to deliver letters and pay bills, over half of small businesses still pay each other by paper cheques sent through the mail, the CFIB said, noting that almost two-thirds of firms reported sending more than 20 pieces of mail per month.
Many small companies also rely on Canada Post to deliver advertising flyers.
The CFIB recommended its members switch to using e-transfers to send and receive payments, and to consider using alternative shipping services to move their products.
While mail and parcels would not be picked up or delivered where 24-hour walkouts were taking place, regular service was still being offered at all other locations, said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.
Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said she was monitoring the situation but gave no indication that the Trudeau government would intervene to end the strikes, which were expected to continue Tuesday.
The minister encouraged both sides to remain at the bargaining table until a settlement is reached.
Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press