Locked-out Canada Post workers will be holding several rallies and demonstrations over the weekend as the prospect of back-to-work legislation nears.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers held rallies on Friday in Vancouver, Montreal and Windsor, Ont. Weekend rallies are planned in Sydney, N.S., Halifax and Toronto.

Canada Post locked out the 48,000 workers and ceased most services Tuesday after 12 days of walkouts that rotated among major cities.

U.S. to stop accepting most Canada-bound mail

The U.S. Postal Service says it will stop accepting most mail to Canada starting Saturday night.

American postal officials said it appears the lockout at Canada Post will continue at least into sometime next week. 

The post office will continue to accept items to Canada sent by its premium Global Express Guaranteed service, which is delivered in Canada by FedEx Express.  

Source: Canadian Press

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CBC News Friday the government expects to go ahead with plans to introduce back-to-work legislation in Parliament. The bill could be passed and signed into law as early as Thursday.

"There has not been significant movement in the past 15 days on the issues of short-term disability and sick bank, or on the issue of how to deal with pensions or on the issue of workplace methods," she said.

"Those three things are continuously at the table, and we are not seeing a whole lot of progress on them."

Canada Post said in a statement that sticking points including sick leave, pensions and wages.

The Crown corporation said that the union's demands would "drive up costs, limit operational flexibility and restrict Canada Post's ability to address fundamental problems such as declining mail volumes, competitiveness and a $3.2-billion deficit in the pension plan."

The union said in a statement that there were no formal negotiations Friday. 

"Just as they have done for almost eight months, CPC is waiting for the back-to-work legislation that they so desperately wanted," the statement said.

A Canada Post spokeswoman later said that talks were planned for the weekend.

In Windsor, Ont., on Friday, people in the heavily unionized, auto industry city were to march at noon from the University of Windsor to a local postal station, hoping to support the CUPW cause.

In Halifax, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour planed a weekend rally outside the main post office to show support for postal workers.

CNIB suffering

The labour dispute has caused problems for some organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

The CNIB said Friday it supports back-to-work legislation, because it depends on the mail for 70 per cent of its funding. It expects to lose $250,000 as a result of the strike.

"The climate of uncertainty created by this disruption has taken a huge toll on Canadian charities like CNIB that depend on a reliable postal system to be able to fulfil their missions," CEO John M. Rafferty said in a statement.

In Toronto, the city's transit commission has told people not to expect delivery of their monthly passes. Instead, it directed people looking for their popular, discount-price passes to go to subway collector booths and pay for them there.

In Winnipeg, a downtown homeless shelter and soup kitchen is working with Manitoba credit unions to ensure donors can keep contributing. Siloam Mission is 85 per cent privately funded, with 90 per cent of all donations arriving by mail. Now donors can drop cheques made out to Siloam Mission in addressed and sealed envelopes at participating credit unions.

In Quebec, beekeepers who ship through Canada Post said the lives of thousands of bees are at risk because the lockout has the trapped packages stored in warehouses.

Twenty-thousand queen bees are shipped every year in Canada, with June being the busiest month, but they have been stranded since Tuesday.

And Canada Post reminded Canadians on Thursday that despite the labour dispute, postal workers will be delivering two million public pension and government cheques across the country on June 20.

Cheques will go out Monday

An agreement was reached with the CUPW in March to ensure delivery of the cheques, including those from the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Veteran's Affairs Pension Plan, Canada Tax Benefit and Receiver General of Canada.

Canada Post also said Quebec's Pension, Child Assistance and Income Security cheques, as well as Alberta's pension cheques, will be delivered on that day.

Post offices will be open on June 20 to allow customers to retrieve their cheques, but they will not be handling any other retail transactions.

Locked out postal workers in Toronto checked trucks Friday to make sure only social assistance and pension cheques were aboard, not regular mail.The postal workers who will deliver cheques on Monday are volunteers and plan to donate their $50 per person honorarium to charity.

Chief shop steward Mark Brown said the cheques were on their way to postal stations for Monday delivery.

"We don't want the most vulnerable in society to be negatively affected by our struggle with our employer, so right across the country our members are delivering these pension cheques," Brown said.

With files from The Canadian Press