Canada Post will cut staffing levels at its mail sorting plants and reduce the frequency of mail deliveries in urban centres across the country to adjust to lower volumes since rotating strikes began, the Crown corporation says.
"This is all as a result of the 50 per cent drop we've seen in our volumes in the last five days due to the union's rotating strike activity," said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.
"We can't keep our costs the same while we've seen our business drop by half. We need to take action now to avoid significant losses that would harm our financial self-sustainability."
Mail pickups from red letter boxes will continue as usual, and Canada Post customer offices will maintain normal hours, but deliveries of letters and advertising mail by members of the union will be reduced starting next week, he said.
Canada Post will also keep its sorting plants running but reduce hours and reschedule staff at the plants to deal with the reduced volumes. The letter carriers represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers won't be laid off, but their pay will reflect that they'll be working three days a week.
CUPW national president Denis Lemelin, who is the union's chief negotiator, said Canada Post's announcement wasn't all that surprising and it wouldn't push the postal workers off their strategy of waging short, localized strikes.
"We really wanted to minimize disruption of services but now it shows they (Canada Post) want to go further," Lemelin said.
However, the number of communities to be affected on Thursday will be the highest since rotating strikes began in Winnipeg last week. The union said 13 small- to mid-sized communities have been identified.
They are: Labrador City, N.L., Acadie-Bathurst, N.B., Summerside, P.E.I., Ste-Therese and Ste-Jerome, Que.; the Ontario cities of Thunder Bay, Hearst, Brantford and St. Thomas, Flin Flon, Man., Vernon, B.C., and the territorial capitals of Yellowknife, N.W.T. and Whitehorse, Yukon.
The president of a CUPW local in Edmonton - one of two cities where strikes were held Wednesday - said that mail volumes in their plant haven't dropped by as much as the company says.
"People are saying, actually, that there's still mail being moved and we haven't seen the reductions that Canada Post is claiming as a result of the strikes," Bev Ray said from Edmonton. "We have not seen a 50 per cent drop."
Ms. Ray did say that fewer parcels were being shipped and those that were being sent were being diverted to courier service Purolator, in which Canada Post owns a major stake.
Mr. Hamilton said Canada Post stands by its numbers and repeated the company's position.
He also repeated the company's position that the strikes aren't necessary because union and Canada Post negotiators continue to talk - although there hasn't been much progress and many issues.
Canada Post has said its latest offer includes annual wage increases that for current employees would bring the top wage rate to $26 an hour, job security, no changes to a defined benefit pension plan, medical benefits and "generous" vacation leave that tops out at seven weeks per year.
Future hires would get a starting wage of $19 an hour, rising to a maximum $26 an hour, up to six weeks vacation and a defined benefit pension by age 60.
Rotating strikes began last Friday in Winnipeg and have since been held in Hamilton, Montreal, Moncton, N.B., Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton.