LETHBRIDGE: Lethbridge will go without mail service for the foreseeable future as local employees are affected by a nationwide lock-out, with possible back-to-work legislation in the works.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers introduced rotating strikes that targeted individual cities over a week ago, and local workers were under a reduced service order as of Monday. Tuesday night at around 9 p.m., Canada Post locked out workers across the country. Wednesday afternoon, labour minister Lisa Raitt said she intended to order the dispute's end and legislate the union back to work, likely within 48 hours. The head of the Lethbridge local union says he's not sure what that will mean for his membership.
"It's the kind of situation that you don't really know how you're going to deal with it until you're faced with it," said Ken Sears, president of the Lethbridge local union. "Our position has never changed. We want to be at work. We've offered that we would return to work as long as negotiations continued, but Canada Post turned us down on that."
Sears says the union is putting measures in place to make sure critical mail like social assistance cheques gets through to Lethbridge residents. He expects volunteers to deliver that kind of mail by Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, Alberta is mobilizing its emergency mail plan to make sure important mail continues to flow between Albertans and the government.
The vice president of the Lethbridge local union apologized to city residents Wednesday, saying he's sorry to anyone affected by the disruption. But Jim Matkin says the issues his group is fighting for are too important to let go. "Biggest concerns are the rollbacks to the health and safety rules, which would leave us walking longer and picking up more mail," said Matkin. "And the inequity of the new hires, where their wages would be significantly decreased in comparison to what workers are making now." Sears agrees, adding the company's staffing cuts have led to worse service, and in some cases no service - where staffing gaps meant some mail wasn't getting delivered as quickly as it should. "A strong postal service is in everybody's interest. We think it provides a social benefit, leading to stronger countries and stronger communities."
Photo by Country 95 News: Lethbridge postal workers picket to raise awareness about the lock-out at the downtown office.