The countdown has begun toward a nationwide postal strike.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) delivered its 72-hour strike notice Monday, letting Canada Post know that unless a deal is reached they will walk off the job late on Thursday.
The two sides have been in contract talks since last fall, but have been unable to reach a settlement.
Both sides say they remain hopeful a solution can be reached.
“We are hopeful they will and that we can still reach a settlement for the collective agreement and avert the strike all together,” said Bev Ray, president of the Edmonton chapter of CUPW.
John Caines, a spokesperson for Canada Post also expressed a similar hope, but said the corporation has to protect its financial security.
“We have to get to some common ground here. They have come in with some huge costs and we can just not go forward adding another $1 billion to our bottom line.”
At issue in the dispute are debates over salaries, starting wages for new hires and working conditions.
The last proposal, which the union handed over, included wage increases over the next four years and an offer to divert funds from an annual benefit program into the pension fund.
The union still has concerns that Canada Post would have new employees start at a lower wage scale than existing ones.
“That would mean that a new employee would start at a rate of 22 per cent less than what a current employee would start at,” said Ray.
Caines said the corporation believes that is a reasonable proposition and that even at the lower rate of pay the jobs start at $18 per hour and include good benefits and security.
“I think if we were to advertise those jobs there would be a lineup.”
The union maintains the corporation has seen a consistent profit for over a decade and that they should be spending more.
Caines said mail volumes are failing and the only way to keep profits up is to make the service more efficient.
“We have cut costs dramatically and that is what is helping us balance our books right now.”
One area of mail delivery that’s immune to a strike is pension and government benefit cheques from either the federal or Alberta governments.
Under a long-standing agreement those cheques will continue to be delivered.
“We have already started discussions with management to make sure that we have the postal workers out there to do it if a strike should take place,” said Ray.
Some mail may continue to trickle out in rural areas where the carriers are contracted and not covered by CUPW.
Caines said those rural carriers would be able to deliver, but likely only for a few days at best because the mail is sorted at other facilities.
“They will operate as long as there is mail in the system. Once that is exhausted there will be no further mail delivery because there will be no mail sorted.”
It is unclear whether rural areas around St. Albert will receive the Gazette in the event of a postal strike since the paper is delivered directly to post offices. Copies will still be available through strategically placed newspaper boxes; a map of locations is available at www.stalbertgazette.com under the Gazette drop-down menu and by clicking Reader Services.
Newspaper delivery within the city of St. Albert will not be affected.