With files from Cam Fortems
KTW

Postal workers could be locked out by the end of the work week as Canada Post delivered a 72-hour lockout notice Tuesday morning.

Lara Plummer, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPW) local for Merritt and Kamloops told the Herald employees will find out the extent of the job action come Friday (July 8).

“We might be working part time, or alternate days or half the people are working [and] half are not. It’s whatever Canada Post decides,” Plummer said.

She said in Merritt the post office may see a reduction in the hours it’s open.

In a press release, Canada Post says that as of Friday its current collective agreement will no longer apply. Under the new terms and conditions, employees will continue to receive their regular pay for hours worked and some benefits such as applicable prescription drug coverage, but others will be cancelled. The Crown corporation may also adjust staffing according to the amount of work required.

Plummer said there are approximately nine union employees working in Merritt, and in the event of a full scale lockout, picket lines will be set up outside the downtown post office.

She said the union doesn’t intend to call a strike at this time.

“We want to negotiate and we’re not going to go on strike unless we absolutely have to,” Plummer said.

Canada Post and CUPW exchanged proposals last weekend with little sign of progress.

“They refused to negotiate fairly with us and now they’re locking the doors and will try to starve us into submission,” said Palecek in a CUPW press release.

The lockout notice is caused in part by what Canada Post said is a drastic slowdown in mail and parcel processing as a work stoppage nears and fears of trapped mail become closer.

The Crown corporation and the union have been attempting to negotiate a new contract since last November.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated the federal government will not issue back-to-work legislation in the event of job action, saying that he wants to see a deal worked out at the bargaining table.

Canada Post said the union’s weekend proposal would add $1 billion to its costs.

Last year, posties delivered 1.6 billion fewer pieces of mail than a decade ago. Canada Post indicated that their last offer, which offers wage increases and no changes to the pension for current employees, is final.

Union national president Mike Palecek said the looming job action “is brought to you by the people  who wanted to take away home delivery.”

“They refused to negotiate fairly with us and now they’re locking the doors and will try to starve us into submission,” said Palecek in a CUPW press release.

Canada Post continues to insist on eliminating the defined benefit pension plan for new hires, something that would gradually relieve the Crown corporation of costs in the decades to come.

According to Canada Post, current employees’ pensions would be unaffected, and the union has ignored the pension issue.

“It’s more about cutbacks,” Plummer said. “Canada Post is very profitable. We don’t know why they have to roll back those benefits.”

The Crown corporation said it is facing a $6 billion deficit in its ability to fund worker pensions.

Canada Post said in the event of a full work disruption, it will not operate. Mail and parcels will not be delivered and no new items will be accepted.

However, the Canada Revenue Agency has deemed Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, Working Income Tax Benefit and the Canada Child Benefit cheques “essential’’ — even during a labour disruption.

Spokesman Jon Hamilton said Canada Post has a memorandum of agreement with the union where the federal socio-economic cheques will be delivered.

“In the event of a work disruption, we would arrange delivery one day of the month,’’ he said.

Canada Post said work is transferring to courier firms as business prepares for disruption.

The last Canada Post work stoppage occurred in 2011 when the union issued two weeks of rotating strikes followed by a lockout by the company. Postal workers were legislated back to work after a Conservative bill passed third reading in the House of Commons 158-113 and imposed a four-year contract with some wage increases.