Canada Post's decision to lock out its 48,000 urban postal workers across the country is being felt in the North, as mail service has ground to a halt in all three territories.
The Crown corporation suspended mail delivery and locked out Canadian Union of Postal Workers members on Tuesday night, after 12 days of rotating strikes.
CUPW workers in Yellowknife and Whitehorse walked picket lines on Wednesday, while postal boxes in the city were taped shut.
In Whitehorse, about 15 of Yukon's 40 unionized workers picketed outside Canada Post's main terminal on Two Mile Hill.
Whitehorse CUPW local president Ron Rousseau said rural and suburban mail carriers who are not represented by CUPW are being allowed to deliver mail to super boxes both in and outside of Whitehorse.
"The social assistance cheques, which are Government of Yukon, will not be going out," he said. "The ones, such as the baby bonus and the senior cheques, we've said that we'll continue to deliver those as they come in."
Back-to-work bill coming
In the meantime, contractors are cleaning out the post offices downtown and bringing in the mail to be secured, Rousseau said.
Rousseau said he is hoping for a quick resolution to the labour dispute, citing a back-to-work bill that the federal government is poised to introduce soon.
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday she plans to introduce back-to-work legislation to end contract disputes at both Canada Post and Air Canada.
Raitt said the government would serve the required 48-hour notice in the House of Commons on Wednesday night. But since the House is not sitting on Friday, the earliest the legislation can be debated is Monday.
Iqaluit post office still open
There was no picket line in Nunavut, since postal workers in that territory are represented by another union, the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA), which is not involved in the labour dispute.
Elder benefit cheques
With the Canada Post lockout disrupting mail delivery, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says it will deliver elder benefit cheques using an air cargo flight.
Liaison officials in each community will distribute the cheques to recipients, the territorial Inuit organization said on Wednesday.
But while the Iqaluit post office was open on Wednesday, staff there were not accepting any outgoing mail or receiving any incoming mail. The only mail inside the post office is whatever had arrived before Wednesday.
While the Canada Post lockout has meant no mail service in urban areas across the country, it has also meant there is very little mail to circulate through rural and northern post offices.
"The unfortunate situation is we cannot receive any mail. So we cannot even induct local mail for local delivery," CPAA president Leslie Schous told CBC News.
Schous said the directive comes from Canada Post, so her association's members — who are still working — are in a difficult position.
"It causes a concern when we can't deliver mail to our customers," she said. "We're on site, at work … we feel strongly about serving our customers and we're not being able to do that."
The CPAA, which mainly represents rural postal workers, has members in Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Rankin Inlet in Nunavut.
The association says it also represents postal workers in Tulita, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith and Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories, and the rural Yukon communities of Teslin, Watson Lake, Beaver Creek, Carcross, Dawson City, Destruction Bay, Faro, Haines Junction, Mayo and Tagish.
N.W.T. community fears higher costs
Meanwhile, people living in the remote community of Trout Lake, N.W.T., say they fear the mail suspension will increase their costs of living.
Since there is no regular mail flight coming into Trout Lake, costly charter flights will be the only way residents and businesses can get goods brought in, said Greg Drury of the Sambaa K'e Development Corp., which runs the local general store.
"Lots of the community members here rely on ordering goods and items they need to live out here. They order them from various suppliers — it might be from a business in Yellowknife or Fort Simpson or Edmonton, or from a lot of different places," Drury said.
"Canada Post is one of the ways that they can ship the goods in a cost-effective way. So this just means that now the cost of those same goods is going to rise exponentially."
Drury said there is always a lot of excitement in the community of 106 when the mail flight arrives, as people come to see if their mail has come in.