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A postal worker walks past Canada Post trucks at a sorting centre in Montreal on July 8, 2016.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Canada Post and its largest union have reached a tentative settlement, averting the prospect of job action this week at the postal service.

The tentative agreements must still be ratified by more than 50,000 postal workers across the country before they become new contracts.

"We can't give details of the agreements at this time, but we're pleased that our members don't have to resort to taking job action," Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said in a statement.

Canada Post has been bargaining with its employees for more than nine months, but both sides said they were far apart as of late last week on key issues including pension changes for new employees and pay scales for rural postal workers.

CUPW has sought to keep defined benefit pension plans for newer workers.

The lengthy negotiations were extended twice since the weekend, when a deadline expired on a 72-hour job action notice issued last Thursday by the postal union. The threatened job action was to involve a refusal of overtime in some parts of the country.

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said in a statement that the agreements were reached voluntarily.

The two sides were in talks nearly around the clock at the request of a special mediator appointed Friday by Mihychuk.

"These tentative agreements, reached voluntarily by the parties, are an important reminder for us all that a fair and balanced collective bargaining process works and can achieve real results for Canadian workers and employers," said Mihychuk's statement.

The government had faced some calls for legislative action on the matter.

Canada Post described the tentative agreements as short-term. It said they are for two years and that four-year contracts were typically negotiated in the past.

"The agreements will avert a work disruption, bringing much-needed certainty in the postal system for our employees and customers," said Canada Post in a statement. "Canadians can now use the postal system with confidence."

Canada Post also suggested the two-year deals would provide more time to look at how best to address some of the issues it faces — without the threat of a work disruption.

"We're at a point with the postal system where Canadians are using us differently," said Jon Hamilton, a spokesman for Canada Post. "We're trying to adjust the ongoing issues of declining mail volumes and increasing pension obligations continue. Those problems haven't gone away, but we need to continue to have those discussions without a threat of a work disruption."

Hamilton said he could not comment on specifics of the agreements, but he said: "Some things stay the same, such as the pension, as we look to what long-term solutions make sense."

The tentative settlement was announced the same day that calls for direct federal government action in the matter had grown louder.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had again been asked to get personally involved, this time by a group of prominent women from across the country who called on the prime minister to direct the Crown corporation to live up to its legal obligations on pay equity.

A day earlier, small businesses that rely on web-based sales were encouraged to write Trudeau and demand legislation to break the impasse.

The issue of differences in paycheques for rural mail carriers — most of whom are women — and urban letter carriers has been at the forefront of contract talks between Canada Post and its biggest union.

An open letter sent to the prime minister on Tuesday called on Trudeau — who is in China this week for a formal state visit — to keep his promise to support equal pay for work of equal value.

"We are asking you to use your influence to ensure that rural and suburban mail carriers achieve pay equity with (urban) letter carriers."

Tuesday's letter was signed by 200 women primarily from English-speaking Canada, including actress Sarah Polley, author Naomi Klein and social activists Maude Barlow and Judy Rebick.

It is not known specifically what the tentative agreements contain in regards to the pay equity question, but Mihychuk, the labor minister, said agreement was reached on that issue.

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