Canada Post's rotating strike hits Montreal

Residents and businesses in the Montreal region can expect mail delivery delays this week as the rotating postal worker strike has landed in the city.

Some 6,800 workers walk off the job, impacting the entire region's mail delivery schedule

Annie Lesage, who represents the local chapter of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, says the strike in Montreal is largest to hit the province. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Residents and businesses in the Montreal area can expect mail delivery delays this week as the rotating postal worker strike has landed in the city.

"We're fighting for equity and we're also fighting for health and safety issues," Mathieu Clermont, a Canada Post regional officer for Montreal, said outside a Saint-Laurent sorting centre where workers were picketing on Tuesday.

"There are a lot of members that are struggling in Montreal because they were doing too much overtime."

Members of the Montreal chapter of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which represents some 6,800 employees, went on strike at 10:30 p.m. Monday.

Among them was Stanley Ferdinand. He was a mail carrier for nine years before getting a job at the sorting centre.

Working inside is a bit easier, he said, but he knows what his mail carrying colleagues are going through as one the driving forces behind the protest is the extra time it takes to deliver all the parcels that are flooding the mail stream these days.

"I used to walk 21 to 22 kilometres per day," he told CBC News on Tuesday, saying he'd work 12-hour days as a carrier. 

"I know it's difficult for them."

These strikes are generally supposed to last 24 hours, but that hasn't always been the case. For example, union members in Quebec's Magdalen Islands went on strike from Saturday to Monday. 

The Montreal chapter confirmed late Tuesday that their strike would last 25 hours, ending at 11:30 p.m.

Canada Post employees were picketing out front of the Saint-Laurent borough sorting centre through the night and into the morning Tuesday. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), which represents 50,000 postal employees, launched the rotating walkouts earlier this month to pressure Canada Post into accepting contract changes.

The CUPW said its key demands are job security, an end to forced overtime and overburdening, better health and safety measures, service expansion and equality for rural and suburban mail carriers.

Negotiations are ongoing at the federal level.

Strikes also began Monday in Pickering, Oshawa and Thunder Bay, Ont., and striking continues in Vancouver and Sudbury.

In a statement published Monday, Canada Post said it is working to mitigate the difficulties experienced by mail carriers due to the increase in parcel shipments.

'Long days of work'

Annie Lesage, who represents the local chapter of the CUPW, says there will certainly be no mail delivered Tuesday.

As for Wednesday or Thursday, she wasn't as certain as Canada Post may bring in temporary workers to get the job done if the strike continues.

Lesage said she does not know how long the strike will last. She said she is waiting for orders to come down from her union at the national level. A similar strike in the Greater Toronto Area lasted two days.

Annie Lesage, who represents the local chapter of the CUPW, said mail carriers are relied upon to deliver more packages (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

Lesage said there are so many parcels coming through that mail carriers are unable to keep up with demand. For instance, routes designed for 30 parcels now have 100.

Mail carriers, she said, have "long days of work."

Lessage said an estimated 30 per cent of workers are part-time and on call. Those hours could be merged to create more full-time workers, she said. 

Outside of Montreal, she said it takes rural mail carriers sometimes eight hours to finish their route, but they are paid for six. This, she said, is another reason workers are protesting.

Businesses rely on Canada Post

Quebec's Federation of the Chambers of Commerce is hoping for a quick resolution to the strike.

"A postal service is essential for the Quebec economy," said spokesperson Joanne Beauvais, especially as an increasing number of businesses are making the shift to online shopping.

The federation, she added, has been pushing businesses in the province to make that transition to online commerce, but "the issue is, once you've made that transition, it's hard if the parcels can't be delivered to the clients."

Beyond online shopping and commerce, she said it is important for businesses to be able to send invoices and collect payments by mail.

With files from Lauren McCallum, Radio-Canada and La Presse Canadienne