Urban mail delivery likely spotty for rest of the week due to strikes

Delivery of letters and parcels in Canadian cities is expected to be limited today and likely the rest of the week as the fallout from rotating postal strikes in Toronto and Montreal hits the national mail system.

Delivery of letters and parcels in Canadian cities is expected to be limited today and likely the rest of the week as the fallout from rotating postal strikes in Toronto and Montreal hits the national mail system.

Toronto and Montreal — which handle about 60 per cent of the country’s mail — held rotating postal strikes on Tuesday. Both Canada Post Corp. and its striking union said there will be spillover.

“The combined impact of strikes in these areas is expected to result in major mail disruptions nationally on Tuesday, likely carrying over into Wednesday,” Canada Post said in a statement.

Three smaller communities with some two dozen postal workers in total — Carbonear, N.L., Sioux Lookout, Ont., and Salmon Arm, B.C., — were named as the next strike targets. Workers there were scheduled to begin their job actions on Tuesday.

“Although their numbers come nowhere near to matching the thousands on the picket lines … in Montreal and Toronto, the roughly 23 postal workers in these three small rural towns play just as significant a role in their communities,” the union said in a release.

Urban mail boxes were empty Tuesday now that Canada Post has scaled back mail delivery in cities to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as negotiations continue with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The union represents about 48,000 urban employees.

“Yes, CPC’s decision to stop delivery today (Tuesday) will cause major problems for the rest of the week,” said George Floresco, a national vice-president for the union.

Reports on the amount of mail in the system varies, with some areas experiencing heavy volumes, Floresco said.

The strikes do not affect Canada’s rural postal workers, who fall under a different labour contract. Delivery in regions outside cities will continue five days per week.

Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said the one-day strikes in Toronto and Montreal will have a “lagging” effect on the ability to deliver mail to urban centres nationwide.

“That’s going to have a downstream impact across the country,” he said. “Now it’s really having an impact on our ability to operate.”

When delivery in urban centres does resume on Wednesday, Hamilton said he couldn’t predict how much mail would be delivered.

“I think most Canadians are seeing less mail in their mailbox,” Hamilton said. “So now we’re in a situation where our volumes are drying up.”

Both sides are still at the bargaining table and Canada Post has said it still wants a negotiated settlement while it does what it can to maintain service.

However, there was no sign the two parties were any closer to an agreement Tuesday as strike entered its 12th day.

Mark Tulloch, co-owner of a uniform business that serves police officers, firefighters, paramedics and the military, said the bulk of his orders are small packages sent to individuals in these organizations mainly through Canada Post.

“We’re tracking stuff that we’ve sent that is now sitting in limbo,” said Tulloch of Fisher’s Regalia & Uniform Accoutrements Co. Ltd. in Barrie, Ont.

Tulloch is also using courier services, which costs more.

“What the general public doesn’t understand is although they may be using email and technology, small businesses don’t,” he said, adding he’s having trouble serving his customers and getting paid.

Dan Kelly, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said business owners who take online, mail and telephone orders and use Canada Post to ship their goods are concerned about the impact of rotating strikes.

“Those are the members we’re hearing from with the most worry in their voices,” said Kelly, the federation’s senior vice-president.

“My gut tells me that it is going to take a toll in terms of its use post-strike.”

On Monday, the federal government appeared to rule out back-to-work legislation and is still hoping for a negotiated settlement.

Canada Post has accused the union of undermining the future viability of the service, saying the series of rotating strikes was chasing away long-time customers, possibly for good.

Union president Denis Lemelin says Canada Post has been trying to provoke a general strike with its decision to reduce postal service to three days a week, possibly triggering Ottawa to move toward legislating workers back to their routes.