Canada Postal Strike Expands, Airline Walkout Looms

Canada Postal Strike Expands, Airline Walkout Looms

Canada’s 10-day series of rotating postal strikes mushroomed Monday to 10 cities in seven provinces as a potentially more damaging strike at Air Canada loomed for midnight.

Unions and management representing the postal service and Air Canada were talking Monday, but there was little sign of movement in what already have been protracted contract negotiations.

Air Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers union, representing 3,800 workers, were negotiating in Toronto Monday, under a strike notice served Friday that allows the union to strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The workers are 3,200 airport customer service agents and 600 call-center employees. A main sticking point is Air Canada’s proposal to lower pension benefits for new employees, as the airline is running a US$2.15 billion pension deficit. The airline had been forced into creditor protection in 2003-2004, in part because of its pension deficit.

With Canada Post, where there is a long history of poor worker-management relations, something of a war of words continued on Monday. Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, accused the employer of trying to bully the union into calling a general strike “to bring about special legislation (by Parliament) to return us to work.”

“Canada Post is doing everything it can to provoke the union into a national walkout,” by reducing from five days a week to three the days of delivery for urban letter carriers, he said in a statement.

Lemelin called it a countrywide mini-lockout of workers.

Canada Post said the series of one-day rotating strikes in targeted cities across Canada has reduced mail volume by 50 percent and that the federal government agency can’t afford to continue at full staffing levels. The one-day strikes in one or sometimes two cities across Canada expanded on Monday to 10 cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. A key dispute is over wages, with Canada Post attempting to reduce wages for new employees by $5 an hour.

Contact Courtney Tower at ctower@sympatico.ca.