Can Canada Post afford a strike?

When it comes to the looming Canada Postal workers strike, one question is likely to be asked a lot. Something like this, perhaps: “Who would notice?”

When it comes to the looming Canada Postal workers strike, one question is likely to be asked a lot. Something like this, perhaps: “Who would notice?”

But the same factors that make regular “snail” mail less relevant are also likely to make whatever action the postal workers’ union takes this week into a long one, perhaps rivalling the epic postal strikes of the 70s and early 80s.

The difference this time is that the union is in a far less strong bargaining position.

Courier services and e-mail have cut deeply into Canada Post’s core business — even having bills arrive by e-mail is no longer uncommon, and paying bills electronically is nearing universality — so a postal strike no longer has the possibility of bringing commerce to a standstill.

That’s not to say that Canada Post is unnecessary. Social assistance cheques of various kinds still arrive via mail and, except for hand delivery, the mail is the most effective way of getting original copies of documents across the country.

But what a strike will do is encourage people to make even more use of direct deposit, electronic communications and courier services as a substitute, hastening the transformation of Canada Post into just another commercial courier service, moving farther away from their prime position of being Canada’s official carrier.

Both sides in this dispute have a lot to lose if a strike occurs. Far from avoiding wage rollbacks for new hires — one of the key issues in the dispute — the union stands the chance of decreasing the long term need for new employees.

And Canada Post can’t afford the lost business that will never return if they are too stubborn in the negotiations.

Rather than the pre-strike posturing we see going on right now, we suggest both sides in this issue need to take a step back and consider how the public will react to a strike … and then sit down at the table like adults, and keep at the negotiations until they find a compromise acceptable to both parties.

-Penticton Western News

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