(Reuters) — Canada's national postal system has locked out its employees,saying more than a week of rotating strikes by unionized workers had cost ittoo much money.
Canada Post and the workers are engaged in acontract dispute complicated by questions over how the postal system cansurvive in an era when letter writers use email and bills are delivered andpaid over the Internet.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)launched a series of 24-hour strikes 12 days ago that rotated daily betweendifferent communities. The job action has already cost their employer $100million, said Canada Post.
"The accelerating decline in volumes andrevenue combined with the inability to deliver mail on a timely and safe basishas left the company with no choice but to make this decision," it said.
“We believe that a lockout is the best way to bring a timely resolution tothis impasse and force the union to seriously consider proposals that addressthe declining mail volumes and the $3.2-billionpension deficit.”
Canada Post, which is owned by the governmentbut operates independently as a for-profit company, had already cut maildeliveries in urban areas to three days a week in response to the labouraction.
The union did not immediately respond toCanada Post's lockout but union officials have previously accused the companyof attempting to provoke the federal government into intervening in thedispute.
But the government was not prepared to getinvolved in the contract dispute because Canada Post had not shut down thenational system, according to Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
Canada Post has offered raises to existing employees but has said itssurvival depends on allowing it to impose a lower wage scale on workers hiredin the future.
The union said the company is profitable butrefuses to listen to its proposals to deal with increasing competition byproviding non-traditional services such as banking at post offices.
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