Postal strike behind 'dull' start to busy holiday season for rural businesses
From stock deliveries to farming to delayed invoices and cheques, the rotating strikes at Canada Post are having an impact far beyond major centres.
Rick Skelton, the owner of St. Francois Xavier, Man.-based Golfing in Style, says he has upwards of 40 shipments stuck in the mail with no sign of when customers might get their items.
"Generally, it's a loss of sales," he told CBC News. "I ship 20-25 packages per day. You lose customers when you're not in contact with them. It's pretty dull."
The latest rotating strikes in Manitoba hit Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, The Pas, Dauphin, Flin Flon and Thompson last Friday.
Workers previously hit the picket lines in Manitoba in late October.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that "all options will be on the table" to end postal disruptions if there is no progress in bargaining.
Small businesses concerned
However, Jonathan Alward, the Manitoba-based director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says it's made the lobby group's members no less uncertain.
"It's a growing concern and we're hearing that from small businesses right across the country," he said on Tuesday, adding that members could face thousands of dollars in extra costs because of the rotating strikes.
Alward says brick and mortar stores that depend on Canada Post for stock deliveries are facing delays, adding to the uncertainly with the holiday season right around the corner.
Others, he says, are having problems sending or receiving cheques or invoices. Alward says one Manitoba farmer the group had heard from said while he wasn't seeing many direct effects of the strike, grain buyers hadn't been receiving samples.
"This impacts pretty well every type of business, no matter where you are," Alward said. "This is time and money that they are losing," he said on Tuesday. "It's not just in Winnipeg, it's in rural Manitoba as well."
Tracy Murphy sells Avon products in Brandon, Man.
On Wednesday, she told CBC News she had 11 boxes of products customers had already purchased.
"It's really hard to satisfy your customers," she said. "We didn't know when it was rotating that it would be in Quebec and then in Manitoba [the following day]. That's where our product comes from. So we had slowdowns on both ends."
Murphy estimated she had more than $1,200 in products still in limbo — many that had been ordered as gifts for the holidays.
"I can't fill the rest of the orders until the rest of the stock is here," she said, adding that while she feels for the workers and wants to see them get a fair deal, she hopes the job action ends as soon as possible.
Holiday sales lost
Skelton, who sells golf accessories and clothing online, says the rotating strikes have left his deliveries in limbo, forcing him to close temporarily. He says he has looked into delivery alternatives, but found they were too expensive for his budget.
He says many of his shipments head to the United States, where customers aren't aware of the job action affecting Canada's mail.
"I've probably lost 50 per cent of my holiday sales already," he said. "A lot of people order early."
While most customers have been understanding, Skelton says, some are asking for refunds.
"I'm really hopeful that cooler heads will prevail and we will have a settlement this week or something this week," he said. "If I can't use Canada Post, I don't know what I would do."
Canada Post said last week that 600 trailers filled distribution centre yards, each containing an average of 2,500 parcels.
With files from Radio Noon