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E-commerce giant urges businesses to write PM over Canada Post dispute

Postal vans arrive at the post office in Halifax on Monday, May 30, 2011. It appears contract talks at Canada Post have stalled as a strike mandate for more than 51,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is set to expire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Canada Post has been bargaining with its employees for over nine months

The federal government hasn't raised the possibility of legislation to end the Canada Post contract dispute

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – E-commerce giant eBay urged Canadian businesses on Monday to write to the prime minister and demand a legislated end to the labour dispute at Canada Post as a threatened work disruption was once again put on hold.

Launch of the letter-writing campaign came as contract negotiations between the Crown agency and its biggest union stretched into overtime.

While government officials expressed optimism that a 24-hour extension of the talks would break a months-long impasse over pensions and wages, small and medium-sized businesses have heard it before, said eBay Canada managing director Andrea Stairs.

“Negotiations are ongoing, but we don’t see a solution coming down the pipe,” Stairs said in a telephone interview. “So we really felt it was time for the prime minister to get involved.”

The letter, emailed to eBay sellers and addressed to Justin Trudeau’s Langevin Block office in Ottawa, encourages the prime minister to “explore legislative solutions to the current situation” at Canada Post and warns that businesses are being harmed by uncertainty about whether parcels will be delivered.

“EBay sellers, like other small and medium businesses across Canada, have been dealing with this uncertainty for months,” the letter states. “We have been forced to adapt our businesses and make other shipping arrangements for our goods.”

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

Talks continued over the weekend with the aid of a special mediator and threatened job action by the union’s 51,000 members was halted under a 24-hour extension aimed at reaching a last-minute agreement before midnight Monday night.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers had announced on the weekend it would begin job action on Monday by having its members refuse to work overtime on a rotating basis, starting in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

But the plan was halted when both sides agreed to a request for more time from the mediator, who was brought into the dispute Friday.

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk welcomed the extension of the talks as “an encouraging sign of ongoing progress and a renewed determination to negotiate a new collective agreement.”

In a release issued by her office early Monday, the minister said she would remain focused on supporting the ongoing negotiations and would continue to monitor the situation closely.

CUPW national president Mike Palecek previously said that the union’s planned job action would have little effect on Canada Post customers, noting mail would still be delivered.

Jon Hamilton with Canada Post disagreed with that assessment, warning in a phone interview that the threat of job action was creating uncertainty for customers and would have a huge impact on the business “whether the union likes it or not.”

The federal government hasn’t raised the possibility of legislation to end the contract dispute. During the summer, the prime minister all but ruled out back-to-work legislation to end a threatened lockout of its workers by Canada Post and has repeatedly expressed confidence that a negotiated settlement could be reached.

Parliament doesn’t resume sitting for another three weeks.