Snail mail turned into stalled mail Tuesday night when over a week’s worth of roaming Canada Post strikes gave way to a nationwide lockout, leaving Penticton’s unionized postal workers out on the streets Wednesday morning.
However, the service discontinuation will likely be short-lived as the federal government gave word by midday that it intended to introduce back-to-work legislation along with a binding arbitrated settlement. If passed, the bill could have the Crown corporation up and running some time next week.
Standing alongside about 15 other locked out workers on Industrial Street outside Penticton’s main post office, holding signs and waving at honking vehicles, Canadian Union of Postal Workers local vice-president Ray Cartwright said workers were surprised and disappointed to be locked out.
“We don’t want to be out here. We want to be delivering mail to the people,” he said. “We had guys show up to report for work today because they had not heard the news last night and had no idea we were locked out. So we were prepared to come in and deliver the mail today.”
Cartwright said he hopes the two sides can reach an agreement before one is imposed.
“They are asking for some pretty deep cuts to us but maybe we can split the difference,” he said. “It took us 20 years to get here and I don’t think they should roll everything back all in one week but we’ll see where it goes.”
Picketing organizer Sue Upton said the workers had been protesting on Industrial Street since 6:30 a.m.
“We seemed to be getting great support from the passersby,” she said. “People are honking their horns and waving … because they believe in our cause; they believe in our fight; and they believe in the union.
“It is a good feeling to know that we are being supported by the public.”
Upton said in these days of economic strife, it is not fair for Canada Post to be demanding so many concessions.
“Things are costing more. Things are going up all around us. We have higher taxes. We have higher cost of living and businesses are charging more for their products,” she said.
“It is not like we are overpaid. We don’t have a lot. We may have more than some but we don’t have a lot and we work hard for our wage. Our jobs are physical. We work through all weather: rain, sleet or snow. We are out there in the elements and the different terrains of the city and the countryside carrying 50 to 60 pounds at a time and going door-to-door.
“And it can be dangerous. We trip and fall. We have dog attacks. We have people that get irate and get violent with us. Myself, I have been spat at by a homeless person. Those are the kind of things that we deal with on a daily basis.”
Upton said a three per cent pay increase over a four-year period would be fair.