Canada Post union members are uncertain as to if, or when, rolling strikes might hit the North, but local members say they are ready to take action to reach a collective agreement with the corporation.
Lynda Lefrancois, a postal clerk and president of the local 858 of the CUPW Prairie Region, said members are never given a heads up by the union until the last minute.
“We don’t know. I have not a clue. I would get maybe a three hour notice because the national office in Ottawa picks it,” said Lefrancois. “You have to keep them guessing.”
As of Thursday, CUPW members in Calgary, Red Deer and Sherbrooke were on strike.
Lefrancois said there are more than 30 CUPW members who are based in Hay River, Yellowknife and Inuvik.
CUPW members have been battling with the Canada Post Corporation for close to a year for a new collective agreement, with major grievances including improved workplace health and safety and better hours with less use of temporary workers. This means workers are often used on a call-in basis.
“We want the jobs,” she said. “They are using temporary employees and huge amounts of hours. We want (those workers) to become permanent employees with benefits, wages and a regular income, because that way it helps every community and city.”
The federal government got a mediator this week to try to reach a settlement, Lefrancois said.
“We don’t want to go out, but we might have to go out to force the corporation to talk,” she said. “They haven’t been doing it for almost a year.”
There are other Canada Post services throughout the North, but these are not directly related to the issue because they are not Canada Union Postal Workers. The Canadian Postmasters Assistants Association, for example, represents 14 Canada Post workers; nine in Fort Smith and five in Fort Simpson. Based on their collective agreement, they are unable to strike. In other communities, separate arrangements are made with Canada Post to provide postal service, typically through a retail outlet like the Northern Store.
Aalya Ahmad, communications director of CPAA said mail disruption could happen to a community whether or not they have CUPW workers because the latter union members sorting the mail in the more centralized, urban centers before sending to the smaller areas.
“It is very likely that if there is a strike in that part of the country (Yellowknife) that the mail will be affected (in more remote, rural areas), because that is where the mail is sorted,” she said.