Mail delivery disruptions could occur, as negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) are still ongoing.
Jessica Wirischagin, president of the local branch 746 of CUPW, said that a strike is likely, as CUPW has been in negotiations with Canada Post since October, without any results.
“If they come to the table with something reasonable, we, by all means, don’t want to strike,” Wirischagin said.
“We don’t want to see people suffer because of it.”
The workers have the right to strike on May 24 at midnight.
Wirischagin said that so far, Canada Post hasn’t been reasonable when coming to the table.
“Canada Post has made a profit every year for the past 15 years and yet they’re trying to roll back everything; benefits, sick leave, you name it they’re trying to roll it back,” she said.
“We’re not asking for money of any kind. We’re not asking for a raise. We’re asking them to keep things as they are: don’t attack our sick leave; don’t attack pensions for employees who are retired.”
She said the Crown corporation would like to introduce a two-tiered pay system so that any new employees who come along will be paid at an inferior rate and the union is trying to protect jobs for current employees and future ones.
There are two separate collective agreements. The collective agreement being dealt with in the strike is the urban unit’s agreement.
There are six workers in Grand Forks on the urban operation. The other section is the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs), of which there are three in Grand Forks.
“If the urban operations goes on strike, the RSMCs can’t do their job,” says Wirischagin, who is also a rural carrier.
“We would not be the ones on strike, but we would be in support of, because we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs either.”
The urban operations include letter carriers (none in Grand Forks), wicket clerks and people who sort the mail.
“We’re hoping other unions come out in support,” she said.
Wirischagin added that they would like public support and wanted to clear up the misconception that postal workers are overpaid. She reiterated that the union is not seeking more money, only to keep what the workers currently have.
In April, members of the union voted 94.5 per cent in favour of striking if necessary.
John Caines, a spokesperson for Canada Post, said that they are working hard to get a deal done.
“As long as we’re at the bargaining table we have a chance to get an agreement and that’s what we’re working towards right now,” he said.
Caines said that just because the deadline is May 24 doesn’t mean they will begin the strike then.
“They have to give 72 hours notice before they do go out. We have to give them 72 hours notice before we lock them out, if it came to that,” he said.
“Negotiations are continuing and progressing; why would anyone walk away from the table?”
Caines said that since last week there has been a third party moderator assisting in negotiations.
“There’s a lot of issues to be discussed on both sides of the table and we get that,” he said. “There’s a lot of changes that have to be done at Canada Post to make us move forward with our employees.
“We put some proposals on the table that we think are attractive. We’re confident we can get a deal done here.”