By Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – The restoration of delivery service guarantees by Canada Post — three weeks after striking postal workers were forced back to work — proves the shipment backlogs Ottawa used to justify legislating an end to rotating walkouts were “fiction,” says the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
The Crown agency announced Tuesday it had caught up on most parcel delivery backlogs that had been created by the sporadic labour disruptions that began Oct. 22.
As a result, the corporation said its normal holiday service commitments were being restored across most of Canada, except the West Coast.
“With continued progress, we are now in a position to restore our normal holiday delivery service guarantees for much of the country,” Canada Post said in a statement.
“This means Canadians can expect normal holiday delivery timelines for parcels. The exception remains items headed to or departing Vancouver as backlogs there continue to cause additional delays.”
The announcement came as the mediation process aimed at bridging the impasse between the post office and its unionized employees came to an abrupt end.
The federal government legislated an end to job action by postal workers on Nov. 27 after Canada Post complained that a backlog of parcels had reached historic levels ahead of the crucial holiday shopping period.
At the time, Canada Post warned the backlog could take until the end of January to clear up.
The fact that service delivery guarantees are being restored just three weeks after back-to-work legislation was passed proves the parcel backlogs being claimed by Canada Post were an illusion, said CUPW national president Mike Palecek.
“The reports that we’ve been getting, and are still getting, is that our plants are not even operating at capacity,” Palecek said in an interview.
“We have places where (Canada Post) is offering members leave without pay to go home because they don’t have work. So I wouldn’t just question the backlog, I would say it was total fiction.”
Canada Post said it delivered about four million packages between last Friday and Monday of this week, and will likely be able to deliver items ordered online in time for Christmas.
It credited a lack of incoming packages — rather than a non-existent backlog — for the faster-than-expected pace of deliveries.
“Incoming holiday parcel volumes continue to be down over 2017, and significantly below projections for this year,” the agency said.
“As a result, our fully-enacted holiday delivery plans, which were built to deliver the projected double-digit parcel growth from online shopping this holiday season, continue to help our operations catch up.”
Still, the corporation warned, whether packages arrive before Christmas will also depend on where the parcels are coming from. Some shipments from outside Canada might only be delivered in early January.
During the walkouts, Canada Post requested that its foreign partners halt deliveries to Canada while job action was underway. That request was lifted after postal workers were legislated back to their jobs.
Under the back-to-work bill, a mediator-arbitrator was appointed to attempt reaching new collective agreements at Canada Post.
But a week of talks aided by former Canada Industrial Relations Board chair Elizabeth MacPherson were halted Tuesday with both sides too far apart to extend the negotiations for another seven days, as was an option under the legislation.
Palecek said there was no movement on the union’s key demands, which include health and safety concerns and calls for equality measures, during the talks.
A spokeswoman for Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said the government was “disappointed” the two sides were unable to reach negotiated agreements, but noted the bill sets out a path to bring the dispute to an end.
“The legislation outlines guiding principles for a new collective agreement, which will ensure that a fair and balanced deal is arbitrated for the parties,” Veronique Simard said in a statement.
MacPherson is now expected to begin a process in January that will result in arbitrated settlements being imposed on Canada Post and its 42,000 urban carriers and 8,000 rural and suburban employees.