At a time when Canada Post has seen a 17-per-cent drop in mail volumes over the past five years, the union is seeking wage increases. The postal workers have been acting against their own interests by holding rotating strikes.
The drop in mail business is attributable to the increase in online banking, text messaging and Facebook. Today, consumers e-mail money, pay bills by telephone or electronically, chat and write to friends instantly - without the fuss of stamps, envelopes and long waits.
Many find mail in paper form to be quaint; it no longer plays a central role in society. The strike will only accelerate that trend by making online converts of those who have hitherto been reluctant. More of the public will discover the faster, less costly alternatives.
Those that will suffer the most include businesses and charities. Covenant House, an organization in Toronto that provides shelter for children, says a lack of mail could spell a $500,000 loss in June. In the same city, the Yonge Street Mission could lose about $56,000 a week without mail service, forcing them to cut down on services.
A mail market in decline should hardly encourage workers to strike. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers are seeking safety enhancements to the workplace, plus wage increases of 3.3 per cent in the first year and 2.75 per cent in each of the next three years. Canada Post has offered 1.9 per cent increases in each of the first three years and two per cent in the final year.
Canada Post has offered pay increases that would lead to a top rate of $26 hour and has called the union "out of touch" with the challenges the Crown Corporation faces. Union demands, it says, would total about $1.5-billion over four years.
During the last strike, in 1997, the Internet was new and Canada Post delivered 11 billion pieces of mail to 15 million residential and business addresses. CDs and DVDs were a major portion of its shipments, and people still read catalogues. The workers had to be legislated back to work.
Today, we have smartphones, computers, iTunes and Netflix. Catalogues go straight into the recycling bin. An increasing number of Canadians will find the mail service is one they can live without. And with that, postal workers may be signing, sealing and delivering their own fate.