The rotating strike by Canada Post mail carriers and other workers is scheduled to hit seven provinces starting late Sunday night, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers announced.
Mail service will come to a halt in the following areas before midnight Sunday, the union said:
- Corner Brook, N.L.
- Sydney, N.S., as well as North Sydney, Sydney Mines, New Waterford and Glace Bay
- Quebec's Mauricie region (including Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan)
- Sherbrooke, Que.
- Cornwall, Ont.
- Niagara Falls, Ont.
- Windsor, Ont.
- Nanaimo, B.C.
Service will resume in Red Deer, Alta., where postal workers were on strike over the weekend.
Canada Post and the CUPW held negotiations Saturday and into the night Sunday, facilitated by a mediator, but the two sides are still at odds on a host of issues, including new mail-processing technology the company wants to implement and wages for new hires.
"We continue to meet, but there's not a lot of progress," said Jeff Callaghan, the CUPW's national director for the Atlantic region.
On the issue of salaries, Callaghan said the parties are "fairly close" on wages for regular employees, but Canada Post is pushing for a significant cut in the hourly rate for new hires, to as low as $18 from about $23.
"We think that for a Crown corporation that's very profitable, they shouldn't be getting into a cheap-labour system," he said. "It's really about what kind of society do we want to have: one with new workers making low wages and struggling to get by?"
The union, which represents 50,000 postal workers, says Canada Post has been profitable for the last 16 years and is misrepresenting its financial position. It acknowledges first-class mail volume is down, but says that overall, it amounts to only a seven per cent dip since 2006.
The Crown corporation counters that measured on a per-address basis, mail volumes are down 17 per cent since 2006 and calls the union "out of touch" with the challenges facing the mail service.
"The uncertainty caused by seven months of negotiating and more than a week of union strike activity is hurting our customers, our employees and the business," Canada Post said in a written statement. "We cannot support any effort by the union to delay this process further or entertain costly and unrealistic demands that would cause rate increases for the customers."
Canada Post said last week that mail volumes have shot down by half since the rotating strikes began, and as a result it's cutting back delivery to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The CUPW has offered to suspend its strikes if Canada Post reinstates the workers' collective agreement, which lapsed in January. But the Crown corporation refuses to do so.
Workers denied medical benefits
The union also says Canada Post should be looking at new ways to expand its business — by following the lead of many European postal systems and getting into financial services, for example, particularly in rural areas where big banks have closed their branches — instead of slashing its pay scales and workforce.
CUPW also denounced the withdrawal of employee medical benefits, saying some of its members are facing huge bills for medications that would have been covered by their drug plan. Canada Post suspended its workers' health and dental coverage when the union issued its strike notice in May.
"We've gotten lots of calls from members. For some of them its regular prescription drugs, but some of them have higher costs — they're going through chemotherapy or more expensive treatments, and they're being cut off," Callaghan said.
Canada Post did not immediately respond to an interview request.