Nunavut settles in for national postal strike

Private courier companies and First Air expect to benefit. Regular mail serice within Eastern Arctic won’t be affected, since postal workers here belong to different union.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Couriers and cargo handlers forecast increased sales this week as striking postal workers brought mail service across the country to a halt.

Corey Stewart, owner of Iqaluit’s Arctic Express, said demand for courier services had already risen by about 15 per cent over the last couple of weeks as the labor dispute between Canada Post and unionized employees worsened.

Corey told Nunatsiaq News earlier this week he expected business to flourish as the holiday season approaches.

“I think once the strike hits, if it goes anything over two weeks, or even a week, there’s going to be a big increase,” Stewart said.

Canada Post Corp. has been in contract talks with unionized employees for several months, with no agreement in sight. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had been in a legal position to call a strike since Tuesday.

Canada Post has reported more than a 50 per cent drop in the volume of first-class mail and Parcel Post deliveries since the dispute began heating up a month ago.

No change in Eastern Arctic

Mail service to and from communities in the Eastern Arctic won’t be directly affected by the strike. The union representing postal workers in the Eastern Arctic is not involved in a labor dispute with Canada Post.

Any mail originating the western Arctic, though, will not reach its destination, since postal workers in Yellowknife and Hay River are members of CUPW.

A spokesperson for the territorial government said residents in northern communities who depend on social welfare will still be able to recieve income, as welfare cheques are issued by social workers in each community.

Since Arctic Express also holds the local contract for Canada Post’s special-delivery products, Stewart said he likely won’t need to hire additional staff to handle the extra business while postal workers in the South take to the picket lines.

“My labor forces will be decreased at that end, so I can just move them over to concentrate on the courier business,” Stewart said.

After a month of brisk sales attributed to customer uncertainty about postal service, First Air’s cargo division faces the prospect of losing the business of its largest customer Canada Post.

“We have seen an increase over the last month, and we’re going to lose some, of course, as a result of the strike, but how much we’re going to lose, it’s hard to predict,” Marcel Anctil, director of cargo sales, said.

Anctil said cargo volumes were actually up by about 15 per cent in the last month as northern customers hurried to lay in supplies before any disruption of the mail.

“If the strike lasts two or three weeks, they have enough goods to last,” Anctil said. “After that, you’re going to see the courier companies increase their volumes.”

First Air could stand to benefit temporarily from an increase in its own pick-up and delivery service, which it offers to Ontario and Quebec customers.

“We plan to have more customers and we plan to put extra personnel (to work), if need be. We think that we’re able to cope, we’re ready to face the music.”

Food mail, which Anctil said comprises roughly 85 per cent of the volume of First Air’s cargo, won’t be affected by the strike.

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