Mail carriers Brian Starkiewicz and Denise Hamilton take to the picket line in front of the Vernon post office Thursday.

Mail carriers Brian Starkiewicz and Denise Hamilton take to the picket line in front of the Vernon post office Thursday.

Strike disrupts postal delivery

Mail delivery virtually  came to a halt Thursday.

Rural routes weren’t impacted but door-to-door service ceased as 65 workers walked off the job at the downtown Vernon post office as part of a 24-hour strike.

“We want to get the employer to negotiate a fair contract,” said Denise Hamilton, local vice-president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

“With the latest proposal, it took three days for the employer to get back to us and they rejected everything.”

Negotiations between the union and Canada Post have been underway for eight months and a major sticking point is health and safety.

Denise Hamilton says the Crown corporation has introduced a three-bundle system for delivery.

“It’s not ergonomically safe.”

Another concern is new employees being paid less than existing staff.

“Gas isn’t two-tiered. Rent isn’t two-tiered,” she said, adding the average wage is $24.72 an hour.

“We need good paying jobs to make the economy run. We’re a really profitable corporation. We’re a cash cow for the Canadian government.”

The union is also demanding service expansion.

Canada Post has announced that next week, door-to-door delivery across the country will only occur Monday, Wednesday and Friday because rotating strikes have reduced the amount of mail in the system

However, Denise Hamilton disagrees.

“This week, I had normal volumes on my route,” she said.

Canada Post says Thursday’s strike, which occurred in 12 cities across the country, was disappointing.

“It’s an unfortunate disruption to our customers,” said spokesperson Jon Hamilton.

“We have a generous offer on the table. We’re still talking so strike action is unnecessary.”

Canada Post has offered to increase the top wage rate to $26 an hour and provide job security.

Jon Hamilton says the union is standing in the way of new equipment and processes, such as three-bundle delivery.

“We’re replacing equipment that is 50-years-old with equipment that is safer, easier and faster.”

As for reducing door-to-door mail delivery to three days a week next  week, Jon Hamilton says it is necessary because national mail volume is down 50 per cent as a result of rotating strikes.

“We have to reduce costs. We can’t keep costs the same when volumes are down,” he said.

Full service in Greater Vernon is expected to resume today.