Lockout shuts Duncan post office

Darrell Keeler and Shelley Brown were among  Duncan
Darrell Keeler and Shelley Brown were among Duncan's Canada Post workers locked as they continued picket action Wednesday outside the Ingram Street building.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

General mail delivery to Cowichan homes and businesses stopped Tuesday night after Canada Post locked out its striking postal workers across the country.

“I hear they locked up all the boxes today for mail to enter,” said veteran postie Janet Barney of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ Local 850.

Post offices staffed by CUPW members are closed.

Also, post offices in suburban and rural areas, staffed by the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants (CPAA) union, are open but new mail is not being accepted.

Meanwhile, delivery is suspended to all addresses served by CUPW letter carriers, the feds advised.

“Nothing’s going to be moving, but anything that’s in the system the rural carriers will cross the line to deliver that,” Barney said.

But if that mail gets delivered, she explained, service is over until a deal’s reached between Canada Post and CUPW brass who were slated to meet Wednesday.

“Don’t tell people to expect mail today,” Barney advised the News Leader Pictorial Wednesday from a Victoria picket line.

As happened during CUPW’s recent rotating strikes, federal pension cheques to seniors and veterans, plus child benefit and welfare cheques, will be delivered by the 20th of each month, Barney noted.

But it’s unclear how the lockout will affect delivery of B.C.’s HST referendum packages, due in all post boxes by June 24, said Don Main of Elections B.C.

“We’ll continue producing the packages for delivery but we have to wait to see what happens in the strike.

“We don’t know how many packages have been mailed out or where.”

If the strike lasts longer than five days, the chief electoral officer will decide about extending the referendum date, Main explained.

If it’s over sooner, HST poll packages should be delivered on time, he noted.

Cowichan packages were supposed to be mailed next week.

Meanwhile, Canada Post’s Anick Losier told the Leader from Ottawa Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told Parliament Wednesday she’s considering back-to-work legislation.

“That tells the urgency of a negotiated settlement,” Losier said of federal action to end CUPW’s rotating strikes.

But such a ruling by Raitt would spell bitterness among posties, explained Barney, guessing the lock–out might last a week.

“We don’t want to accept any rollbacks because we don’t know what kind of contract we’d end up with.”

Stall points in contract talks surround pensions, work security, wages, vacations and more.

“After 12 days of strikes, a $100-million price tag, no interest by the union to negotiate, and safety of our customers and employees being questioned,” Losier said, “we felt it was necessary for a lock out to expedite a negotiated settlement.”

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