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Work stoppage next week could prove fatal to Canada Post

Last Updated Jun 27, 2016 at 10:00 pm EDT

A strike or lockout at Canada Post may not have a huge impact on most people these days, but it could be another nail in the coffin for the beleaguered Crown corporation.

“We deliver two out of every three parcels to Canadians that they order online,” said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton. “That’s a business that’s competitive. People have options. So customers can go elsewhere to get their parcels delivered, and a strike would give them a huge reason to move away from Canada Post to somebody else.”

About 50,000 Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) could be locked out or on strike by July 2.

According to Joanne McNeish, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, a work stoppage could backfire on management at Canada Post from a public relations standpoint, too.

“I don’t think this is great management thinking,” she says. “We have a time when people don’t accept what the big guys are saying. I think they’re going to look like they’re bullying the union.”

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Hamilton says the biggest issue at the bargaining table has been pension benefits.

“We need changes to the pension plan for future employees, people we will employ in the future,” he says, noting that employees under the current pension plan would be unaffected. “We need to offer a different pension plan, and that’s a plan that’s already in place for many groups of employees at Canada Post, including management, and it works very well.”

Hamilton says that the Crown corporation has a $6.2 billion pension solvency deficit, and “we can’t just hit the snooze button and pretend that’s going to go away.”

Canada Post has been warning of a work disruption since April, posting updates online. And governments have been putting contingency plans in place to ensure government cheques and other essential mail could be available for pickup at designated locations.

McNeish says the biggest impact will be on businesses.

“The big pushback is from the banks and large mailers,” she says.  “Most of the mail in the mail stream is businesses sending to each other and businesses sending to consumers.”

McNeish says a stoppage could open the door to another entrepreneur – or even a courier or newspaper – who could take on the responsiblities of delivering mail.

Canada Post employees have been without a contract since the end of January. CUPW leadership is looking to tackle pay equity issues in which rural mail carriers make as much as 28 per cent less than their urban counterparts. National president Mike Palecek says Canada Post recorded a $44 million profit in the first quarter of 2016.

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