The dreary month of November is quickly coming to a merciful end. For many Atlantic Canadians, Dec. 1 launches the official countdown to the festive holiday period. It’s a reminder that we must get that Christmas card sent to Aunt Mary and that special gift mailed to mom and dad.
Such essential holiday duties face potential annoying roadblocks.
Five weeks of rotating strikes by Canada Post’s 50,000 employees have caused delays in service. The disruptions couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Businesses that depend heavily on the crown corporation at their busiest time of the year are worried and angry.
Canada Post now makes most of its money delivering parcels bought on the internet and the next month is crucial for its profitability. And nothing says Christmas like gift packages. At any other time of the year, a postal strike might be viewed as an inconvenience. But it’s Christmas. The dynamics have changed.
The clamour is such that the federal government has provided notice that it intends to introduce back-to-work legislation. It should be noted that postal workers won a legal battle resulting from a previous labour dispute in 2011, when the previous Harper government locked out workers and passed back-to-work legislation. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2016 that rotating strikes were a fair bargaining tactic because there was no full work stoppage, and that such legislation violated workers’ constitutional rights.
Yes, we should be more concerned with the underlying issues of this labour dispute; and be more supportive of collective bargaining as an essential right for Canadians. But root causes of postal disruptions are pushed to the background at this time of year. We want to mail our parcels and cards without encountering picket lines or locked doors; and have assurances they will arrive in time for Christmas.
The federal government is trying its best to tiptoe around this labour strife. Wednesday, Ottawa gave the 48-hour’s notice required before introducing back-to-work legislation. The same day, it reappointed a mediator in response to a request from postal workers after the union rejected a cooling off period. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pleaded with both sides to resume talks, since a legislative option seems on shaky legal grounds. Maybe it will be enough to reach a deal.
There are some silver linings. The uncertainty about online shopping should convince Canadians to buy in person at their local hometown Atlantic retailers. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in Canada, connected to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, have already been negatively impacted. That’s more good news for local retailers.
And, oh yes, old age security and pension cheques will be delivered to ensure a merry Christmas for our seniors. And Canada Post is still planning to deliver letters to Santa because neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night — nor rotating strikes — stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds of getting letters to Santa delivered to children at Christmastime.