Postal workers are on strike in Victoria and Moncton, the latest targets in the union's continuing dispute with Canada Post.
"In Victoria and Moncton, the public has suffered deterioration in postal service due to Canada Post's changes to the way mail gets processed and delivered. We have been saying all along that these changes don't make sense," John Bail, national director of the Pacific region for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said in a statement released Monday night.
The union said the strike that began midnight on Monday will last for 24 hours at both locations. Rotating postal strikes started in Winnipeg last week, moved to Hamilton over the weekend and hit Montreal on Monday.
The move comes after Canada Post turned down the latest contract offer put forward by the union, calling it too costly.
In a news release Monday afternoon, Canada Post said the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' proposals "remain too expensive and fail to address the challenges facing the postal system such as declining mail volumes, increasing competition, and electronic substitutions of traditional mail."
In bargaining, Canada Post said it had agreed to withdraw one of its key proposals — creating more part-time positions to help it adapt to a steady decline in mail volumes. About 85 per cent of the 48,000 jobs in CUPW's urban bargaining unit are full-time positions, said the release.
Meanwhile, modernization of technology appears to be a key issue in the job action.
CUPW president Denis Lemelin said his union is not opposed to modernization but wants to be consulted on how that change is implemented.
"CUPW has been trying to get Canada Post to use Winnipeg as a test site for its modernization program for three years. We want the corporation to identify what works, what does not work and to solve systemic problems in this location before proceeding any further. We also want management to respect its contractual obligation to minimize adverse effects on employees when introducing new technology," Lemelin said in an email.
"We want ergonomic and other studies to be conducted on the impact of new technologies, equipment, and work methods. We believe this preventative action will benefit everyone."
For example, Canada Post has introduced a new sorting method that does not allow carriers to sort their mail into a single bundle but requires them to carry multiple bundles, which affects their safety, leads to an increase in forced overtime, and results in greater stress and fatigue-related health problems, according to the union.
But Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said the Crown corporation has been consulting with CUPW on these issues since 2008 and has tried to address safety concerns.
The state-of-the-art equipment and work methods it is adopting have been used safely at postal systems around the world for years, said Hamilton.
"Holding mail in two bundles is how many of the 200,000 letter carriers in the U.S. safely deliver the mail — and have done so for almost 20 years," he said in an email.
"What we are talking about is change. Change is necessary given our challenges, but it's not always easy, especially after doing things the same way for 40 years."
Sick leave benefits and starting wages are other sticking points for the union.
Meanwhile, businesses coping with rotating postal strikes warned that the postal system will soon get "gummed up" once the walkout expands to larger centres like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.
"One problem will beget another problem further down the food chain and the system will become gummed up, I would imagine, in a week to 10 days," said Dan Kelly, senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
"We haven't had any calls from panicked members yet saying that they felt any impact of a strike. The one thing about Canada Post is that customers are well used to delays," Kelly said from Ottawa.
Local union president Alain Duguay said the strategy behind rotating strikes is to disrupt service as little as possible.
"Our objective is that the population suffers from it as little as possible," Duguay said, adding the union's battle is with Canada Post not its customers.