Canada Post workers in Campbell River and other North Island communities were off the job Wednesday as part of a series of rotating strikes.
The local got the call on Tuesday evening that workers in the community would be on the picket for a 24-hour period starting 9 a.m. on Oct. 31.
Through the morning drizzle, a group of workers stood with their signs in front of the Ironwood location while cars, several honking, drove past.
Local president Ryan Knight said the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had been negotiating with the employer but talks have stalled.
“We’ve been negotiating for over a year,” he said. “Talks have really picked up since the spring. Still they haven’t addressed any of our major issues.”
The local represents about 60 workers in Campbell River and other communities to the north.
Many of the concerns for postal workers are around health and safety, as he says many are putting in long shifts. Knight said a lot of people in Campbell River see postal workers out at 6 p.m. delivering mail.
“When we come in in the morning, we’re expected to finish our route, no matter how much time it takes,” Knight said.
One of the reasons has been an increase in the delivery of parcels, which Knights says is growing by about 20 per cent a year, meaning it makes it harder to finish a route in a regular work day. As well as package delivery, this can require getting signatures, scanning bar codes or collecting duties. As well, the conversion to community mail boxes has resulted in larger numbers of houses for delivery routes, from roughly 400 up to 1,200. Many employees, Knight added, are working 10- to 12-hour days.
“It’s thrown our delivery system completely out of whack,” he said.
Throughout late-October, CUPW started the rotating strikes across the country. On Wednesday, other communities including Courtenay, Nanaimo and Port Alberni were also on strike.
A next phase could see a full walkout, though Knight says it is too early to speculate.
“It’s in the hands of the negotiators,” he said.
On its website, Canada Post has said a special mediator appointed by the federal government is working to help the parties reach a negotiated settlement.
“The Corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security, and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return,” the statement says. “We value the relationship with the union and have been able to find common ground on some issues. We have also committed to work together to address employees’ workload concerns caused by parcel growth, additional financial services and going beyond pay equity for rural and suburban employees by extending job security and moving to one uniform for all delivery employees.”