A lockout or strike at Canada Post, that could happen as early as July 2, would be bad for local business, says Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber CEO Tim Creedon said how much of an impact will ultimately depend on how long postal service may be shut down.
“Any business that relies on the invoice payment process within their business has reason to be concerned. You can e-mail your invoice. But we rely on Canada Post to deliver the cheque,” Creedon said on Thursday.
Talks between Canada Post and Canadian Union of Postal Workers have failed to produce a collective agreement for 60,000 workers after seven months of negotiation and 60 days of conciliation. However, both sides continue to negotiate.
Creedon said small businesses would be affected more than large, global companies that depend on electronic orders and payments and ship their products by freight.
He said alternative services like couriers will be more expensive and businesses would have to shop around for the best price, especially during Alberta’s current economic slowdown.
“At a time when things are tight, you’re doubly focused on making sure you can get your payments when you need to get them.”
Creedon said Canada Post has done a great job turning the national postal service around, but a strike or lockout could drive customers to electronic payment systems and they may stick with them.
The last time contract negotiations collapsed in 2011, CUPW began a series of rotating strikes in June followed by Canada Post locking out its workers. After 27 days, workers were back on the job after the federal government imposed back to work legislation.
Two months ago, the Ontario Superior Court ruled the federal government violated CUPW members’ freedom of association and expression by legislating them back to work in 2011.
The City of Red Deer is now educating residents on payment procedures in the event of work stoppage at Canada Post.
Utility and tax payments are still due on time and are subject to penalties regardless of a disruption in mail delivery. Customers can get account information and sign up for e-billing or pre-authorized automatic withdrawals by logging onto www.reddeer.ca/mycity.
Alternate methods to make make utility payments include pre-authorized withdrawal, at their bank, online or telephone banking, at City Hall between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at temporary drop box locations in city recreation facilities.
Property tax payments can be made at their bank, online or telephone banking, at City Hall between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at after hours drop boxes at both entrances to City Hall. People can also use the city’s Tax Installment Plan (TIP), but they had to be enrolled by June 15 to avoid penalties.
Canada Post spokesperson Mouktar Abdillahi said the company is still focused on getting a collective agreement.
“We are negotiating every single day,” Abdillahi said.
Canada Post in Red Deer, which serves many communities in Central Alberta, has about 240 workers. Letters are sorted in Calgary, but parcels, oversized letters and other material are sorted in Red Deer.
Wages for carriers currently range from $19 to $25 an hour.
Gord Fischer, national director of CUPW prairie region, said lower wages and benefits for rural and suburban mail carriers, who are 70 per cent women, is a major issue for the union, as well as the growing number of temporary workers.
“When someone retires, they don’t replace them, they put in a temporary employee and pay them much less. It’s a cheaper form of employment and they have no guarantees in terms of wages or benefits,” Fischer said.
He said even though strike votes for members are being held across the country, there’s been no decision on whether to go ahead with a strike.
“We don’t want to see the Canadian people and businesses affected by a disruption of services and we hope that this can be worked out sooner rather than later,” Fischer said.
In the event of postal disruption, government cheques will still be delivered and live animals will not be trapped in the mail system.