Contingency plans initiated in Canada Post lockout

As locked-out Canada Post workers picketed across the country, companies and governments that rely on mail service were breaking out their contingency plans.

Canadian Union of Postal Workers members picket outside the Red Deer sorting plant Wednesday morning after Canada Post locked them out.

Canadian Union of Postal Workers members picket outside the Red Deer sorting plant Wednesday morning after Canada Post locked them out.

As locked-out Canada Post workers picketed across the country, companies and governments that rely on mail service were breaking out their contingency plans.

Alberta government officials planned to activate an emergency mail plan today and the City of Red Deer has also outlined alternative payment options for residents used to mailing in utility or property tax cheques.

To ensure critical mail continues to flow between Albertans and the government, provincial offices will be used as mail collection and drop-off points during the disruption.

Those who need to send mail to a provincial department can drop off clearly addressed mail at the nearest provincial office. No stamps will be required.

People waiting for important mail from the province will be notified of the time and location where their mail will be delivered, unless departments have made alternate arrangements.

“Some departments will be participating in a Canada Post program to deliver provincial government socio-economic cheques one day per month during the disruption,” says a release from Service Alberta.

For more information go to www.servicealberta.ca

The City of Red Deer says bill and property tax payments still must be paid on time to avoid penalty even if the mail stops.

Payments can be made through banks, pre-authorized withdrawal, online and telephone banking, by credit card, or at City Hall from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Property taxes are due on June 30.

The city is also setting up drop boxes for mail addressed to the City of Red Deer at City Hall, and the G.H. Dawe, Collicutt, Michener and Recreation centres.

The Red Deer Advocate has also put together a plan to ensure thousands of Central Alberta Life readers, who won’t be getting copies in their mailboxes on Thursday, can pick up a copy nearby. A number of rural Advocate readers not on a delivery route will also be affected.

“For weeks now the Advocate has been preparing for this to accommodate our advertisers and our readers,” said circulation manager Louis Myers on Wednesday.

The newspaper is monitoring the situation closely to respond to any changes in the status of the lockout that began on Tuesday night.

Companies that rely on the mail for delivering bills are also providing options to customers and warning that accounts must still be kept up to date.

Direct Energy suggests signing up for epost to receive bills online, or by paying at a financial institution or at a Direct Energy office.

Meanwhile, at the Canada Post sorting plant in Red Deer about two dozen workers carrying signs expressed their displeasure with the corporation’s move to lock them out.

“I think the members are getting very frustrated because we just want a fair contract and we want the deal to be made,” said Megan Graville, a letter carrier and shop steward.

“We want to work and we want to be serving our customers and getting people’s mail out.”

Graville said workers are opposed to some of the concessions sought on health benefits by the corporation and its pursuit of a two-tiered pay program that pays new workers less and reduces their pensions.

She believes that the corporation has been trying to force the government’s hand on back-to-work legislation by ordering a lockout.

“I think there is a lot of negative things about what the postal employees want that is being put out which is completely unfair and a lot of it is completely untrue.”

Letter carrier Shirley Klassen said the postal workers’ fight goes beyond their membership.

“We’re fighting for everybody. We’re fighting for all the workers of Canada, private sector plus the unions.”

In 1981, the union went on a 40-day strike for maternity benefits from which all Canadians now benefit, said Klassen, who has been with Canada Post for 17 years.

“We are fighting for everybody to have the right to earn a living wage.” The regular hourly wage of postal workers is $24, on par with the average for Canadians, she said.

Local 818 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers represents about 155 employees in Red Deer, Innisfail, Lacombe, Stettler, Olds and Rocky Mountain House.

At Pack & Post in downtown Red Deer, owner Jens Jensen has seen an increase in his FedEx customers since postal disruptions began with rotating strikes across the county on June 3.

“It has increased in the last couple of weeks, increased quite a bit,” said Jensen.

“In the next few days I expect a few more to come in.”

While he is seeing more business, Jensen doesn’t like to see postal employees out of work. “I hope it doesn’t last long.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com