Canada postal workers begin rotating strike

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Picket lines went up early Friday at Canada Post mail processing plant in Winnipeg as part of a limited rotating strike around the country.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers last struck in 1997 and seem to want to avoid a complete shutdown of the mail system lest they be legislated back to work as happened last time. The union will continue to deliver social assistance and government pension checks.

The strike will last 24 hours in Winnipeg, where new equipment has been introduced, and will rotate to 48-hour action in the steel town of Hamilton, Ontario, near midnight on Friday night.

“The purpose of our strike is to encourage … management to return to the bargaining table with a proposal that meets the needs of current and future postal workers,” union President Denis Lemelin stated.

Even if the strike is rotating rather than nationwide, the uncertainty surrounding it is undoubtedly causing many users to explore new ways to to business, for example paying bills by phone, via the Internet or at their bank branch.

Canada Post says its letter mail volume has declined by 17 percent in the last five years as e-mail and Internet use has increased. The government corporation says it it cannot afford the union’s wage demands and says it needs to introduce new rules to reduce sick leave. It also wants to reduce wages for new hires.

Its last annual report, for 2009, showed a profit for the 15th consecutive year, but said its financial future was weak. (Reporting by Rod Nickel, and Randall Palmer in Ottawa; editing by Rob Wilson)