Postal strike hits North harder
Remoteness makes service essential

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 24/97) - When the post office strikes, the North probably takes more notice than other parts of Canada.

"Remote Northern communities rely heavily of Canada Post to deliver not only mail but food and other dry goods," Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell (Liberal) said.

"Most Nunavut residents rely heavily upon Canada Post to deliver Christmas gifts for their children as most shopping is done by mail order."

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers went on strike Wednesday afternoon, just as the Christmas rush began.

Postal workers originally sought an 8.6 per cent wage raise over 18 months but are now looking for "inflation plus" CUPW vice-president Deborah Bourque said.

The corporation has offered three per cent over two years.

"We were able to get the child tax benefit cheques out (and) if we are still on strike on the 26th (Wednesday) pension cheques will go out," CUPW Local 858 president Dale Bouchard said.

Under an October agreement between CUPW and Canada Post Corporation, the postal service will deliver government cheques Nov. 26.

Bouchard and other union members were out picketing at the Yellowknife postal sorting building near the airport.

She said volume has dropped 40 to 45 per cent in the last 10 days because of fears of a strike.

There are 13 full-time postal workers in the North at Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik post offices. In all there are fewer than 50 people who work for the post office in the North, she said.

"Canada Post wants to replace full-time workers with part-timers and not pay them benefits.

"(But) they're working full-time," she said.

Reaction in the communities is one of determination not to let the strike cripple regular affairs.

"For a lot of payments, we will be able to use payment agencies, like stores," Pangnirtung SAO Rita Mike said.

Iqaluit SAO Sara Brown said she spent Thursday morning reviewing how to handle the strike.

"There will still be local delivery," she said, meaning mail sent from an address within the community to another address within the community will still be processed as usual.

Part of the process is to re-sort all the mail into local and outgoing, she said.

"Some will be deferred, others couriered," she said. "There's an increase work load and cost."

The last postal strike was in 1991.