Canada Post strike needs back-to-work legislation, eBay head urges in letter to Trudeau

Online sales and auctioning giant eBay called on the federal government Wednesday to legislate an end to the Canada Post contract dispute, warning that quick action is needed to ensure retailers don’t lose out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

The plea, contained in a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, came as the postal service said recent rotating strikes by its employees have resulted in a historic backlog of undelivered parcels and packages.

“I encourage the government to explore all available legislative solutions to alleviate the current situation,” eBay’s general manager of Canada and Latin America operations, Andrea Stairs, wrote in the letter, which was also sent to Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough.

Continued rotating strikes at Canada Post will result in significant losses for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across the country, Stairs warned, noting that smaller businesses are unable to negotiate lower shipping fees with other delivery services.

While many businesses have adapted as best they can to the strikes that began Oct. 22, Stairs said adjustments online sellers have made so far to avoid delivery disruptions are unsustainable.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are critical sales opportunities for Canadian small and micro retailers, particularly those that sell into the U.S. – the largest consumer market in the world,” she wrote.

“Should the Canada Post service disruptions continue through this key retail moment, these SMBs will be seriously disadvantaged in competing for U.S. demand.”

“Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are major days for shopping discounts, tied to American Thanksgiving. This year, they’re Nov. 23 and 26.

The prime minister warned last week that his government would look at “all options” to bring the labour dispute to an end if there was no significant progress in Canada Post’s contract talks with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Trudeau did not elaborate on what actions could be taken, although the previous Conservative government passed legislation to end a two-week lockout of postal employees by the agency in 2011.

Canada Post said Wednesday it was facing an unprecedented backlog of shipments and warned the situation could escalate quickly.

CUPW members staged pickets in Toronto on Tuesday for the third time in the past two weeks.

While the latest job action in Toronto had ended, by Wednesday morning the shutdown added to the items that need to be sorted and shipped from there, said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.

“At Gateway parcel processing plant in Toronto, we have now surpassed 260 trailers of parcels and packets waiting to be unloaded,” Hamilton said in an email.

“The union just took down their pickets but we are backed up beyond anything we’ve ever seen in our history. With Toronto out on strike, we also missed two days of customer pickups, which will likely push that trailer total over 300 today.”

The previous peak for backlogged trailers reached 220 during last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period, he said.

CUPW, which is negotiating contracts for 50,000 of its members in two divisions – urban carriers and rural and suburban workers – said Tuesday that Canada Post was refusing to address key issues, including health and safety, staffing levels, over-burdening and job security.

The Crown corporation, though, said it had made “significant” offers of increased wages and benefits, as well as added job security.

The two sides have been negotiating for almost a full year, with little success despite the assistance of government-appointed mediators.

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