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Canada Post employees in Courtenay and Comox locked out Tuesday morning
Waving flags while walking down Ryan Road, Canada Post employees were locked out Tuesday morning in both Courtenay and Comox.
"Today when we came into work we were told by Canada Post that we were not allowed to work, that we were not allowed to touch the mail. The letter carriers are not allowed to deliver the mail today," said Nancy Dodsworth, president of Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) 718 in the Comox Valley.
"We knew it was going to happen, but we were hoping that Canada Post would change their minds. Our rotating strikes that CUPW have been doing since June 3 have been designed to not have as great an impact on customers. Our job is to move the mail. We love our jobs. Canada Post has now escalated it so that we are denied serving our customers," she added.
CUPW represents about 50,000 workers; the Courtenay Local consists of 50 members and another 16 rural carriers.
Despite the picketing outside, Dodsworth confirmed the Courtenay post office is open, as inside workers and relief letter carriers are taking priority product from Canada Post.
"Right now (Canada Post) has told us we will have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday work week. So whenever we are not allowed to work, we plan to picket, as we are in a partial lockout," noted Dodsworth.
"The (employees) who have to work today are really bummed. They want to work the line. The ones who are walking the line, we've been expecting this to happen for a while because negotiations haven't gone well."
Key issues for the union are unsafe work methods, a proposed 22 per cent wage reduction or new hires — who would start at about $18 per hour — and the elimination of a sick leave plan. It also notes workers are being harassed when they are sick or injured.
Canada Post says changes are necessary due to declining letter volumes — 17 per cent per household in the past five years — and a $3 billion pension shortfall.
"Canada Post has really taken a hard line and they haven't been negotiating. They certainly haven't been bargaining in good faith," said Dodsworth.
She foresees more picketing later this week, but adds reception from the public has generally been positive.
"People are waving and honking. It's been really good. I think people are understanding that it's a fight between the corporation and us, and I think they realize that we want to do our job."