Rotating strike action by postal workers at selected cities turned into a full lockout by Canada Post Tuesday night.
Employees with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers at the Glanford Avenue plant in Saanich were told by Canada Post to stop working around 8 p.m.
“They were informed they have to cease working and leave the premises,” said Janet Barney, president of CUPW Victoria. “(Canada Post is) saying that they’ve lost $100 million (since the rotating strike began June 3), which we’d like to see how they calculated that – we don’t believe it’s true.”
The corporation’s decision halts urban mail delivery and could lead Parliament to consider back-to-work legislation as early as next week.
“A lockout is the best way to bring a timely resolution to this impasse and force the union to seriously consider the proposals that address the declining mail volumes and the $3.2-billion pension deficit,” Canada Post said in a statement Tuesday.
“If we allow the uncertainty created by the rotating strikes to continue, our ability to remain financially self-sufficient and not become a burden on Canadian taxpayers will be in jeopardy.”
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CTV News her staff will reassess the impact to the economy and public interest before contemplating legislating the 48,000 urban postal workers back to work.
Canada Post had already cut service to three days a week in response to shrinking demand as uncertainty from the strike led customers to use competing services or switch to online alternatives.
In a statement, the CUPW said management was “irresponsible” to lock out the workers.
“Canada Post is reneging on its responsibility to the public to deliver mail that has been paid for. We committed to deliver pension and social assistance cheques and we intend to fulfil that commitment.”
The union had asked for wage hikes of 3.3 per cent in the first year and 2.75 per cent in each of the next three years.
Canada Post offered a four-year contract lifting pay 1.9 per cent in each of the first three years and two per cent in the fourth.
Issues at the table include changing technology, job procedures and concessions on wages and benefits for new hires.
Postal workers currently make at least $23 an hour, however Canada Post wanted the starting wage for new hires to begin at $19 an hour.
Canada Post says it must address labour costs as a result of a 17-per-cent drop in letter-mail business since 2006 due to a rise in online bill payments and other electronic communications.
– with files from Kyle Slavin