Plans in place to deal with Canada’s postal strike

| 6/16/2011

Mail service in Canada came to a screeching halt this week, with union postal workers on strike and a retaliatory lockout by Canada Post, the country’s national delivery service. The disruption has the Canadian federal government on the verge of passing “back to work” legislation and the U.S. Postal Service deciding what to do about packages heading north.

Negotiations between members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canada Post over wages and pensions broke down earlier this month and led to rolling strike action by the union. On Tuesday, June 14, the sides reached loggerheads and service has all but stopped.

Lisa Raitt, Canada’s federal labor minister, told the press Thursday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party intends to file “back to work” legislation within a couple of days. The Conservatives possess the majority of seats in the House of Commons and have the ability to fast-track most bills.

But a pending work order hasn’t stopped the union from continuing its demonstrations. In addition to disruptions in major cities like Toronto and Montreal, localized strikes are also occurring, to “demonstrate the importance of our public postal service to smaller communities,” according to the union’s website.

Regular mail from the U.S. to Canada could see a disruption as soon as Friday, but the USPS has a contingency plan.

“If a settlement is not reached by Friday, June 17, between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the U.S. Postal Service will then have to suspend acceptance of all services destined for Canada – except Global Express Guaranteed (GXG) service,” a USPS press release states.

“Regardless of the strike situation in Canada, U.S. Postal Service customers will still be able to send letters and packages to Canada via (GXG) service. GXG is the premium, date-certain international shipping option from the U.S. Postal Service with international transportation and delivery by FedEx Express. GXG is available online at www.usps.comand at participating retail locations throughout the United States.”

Union strikes are not uncommon in Canada. The government is also currently working to end an Air Canada employee strike, and Canadian auto workers were also threatening to picket any day.