(Updates with quote from union in third paragraph.)
June 14 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian postal workers said they extended rotating strikes to Montreal and Toronto, the country’s two largest cities, involving the largest number of workers yet in the 11-day-old job action.
Workers at Canada Post, a government-owned corporation, began a 24-hour strike in the two cities June 13, according to an e-mailed statement by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The union has been holding rotating strikes in cities across the country since just before midnight June 3.
The union said the company has been cutting working hours and limiting postal service to three days per week in most cities. “Management is penalizing our members for exercising their right to strike,” Gerry Deveau, CUPW national director for Ontario, said in a statement.
Canada Post says it needs to cut staff costs to avoid having to take government subsidies as traditional mail services are replaced by digital communications and electronic commerce. The union wants the company to improve health and safety and sick-leave policies, among other issues.
The company said in a statement Monday that uncertainty caused by the strike is “damaging” the postal system. It limited delivery of letters and small packages to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in most urban areas, saying volumes have declined as much as 50 percent since the rotating strikes began.
The union and Canada Post are negotiating a contract for about 48,000 letter carriers and other staff in urban areas. The strike doesn’t involve another 7,000 suburban and rural mail carriers represented by the union, who are involved in a separate set of negotiations.
Denis Lemelin, CUPW national president, said Monday the union hasn’t yet extended the strike across the country since rotating strikes appear to be accomplishing its goal of reminding the public of the importance of the postal system.
A Conservative lawmaker said Monday the government is monitoring the talks. “I am concerned about the effects this will have on Canadians and Canadian businesses across the country,” Kellie Leitch, parliamentary secretary to the labor minister, told the House of Commons.
While the government can introduce legislation compelling the employees to return to work, Leitch said “the best solution is one that the parties come up with together.”
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