Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Could Canada Post Just Stay Shuttered?

Canada Post announced today that it is halting mail delivery nationwide.  In a statement, Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton  stated "If we allow the uncertainty created by the rotating strikes to continue - and we've seen customers walking away from Canada Post - our ability to remain financially self-sufficient and not become a burden on taxpayers certainly is going to be in jeopardy."

The lockout by Canada Post is designed to put pressure on CUPW to modify its demands to the point that the the two sides can agree on a contract.   But what happens if there is no movement toward an agreement and the Harper Government does not force an agreement?

There are numerous examples in the private sector of similar impasses.   More importantly, the examples of similar impasses in industries facing declining demand due to technological or competitive factors clearly show that the longer the impasse lasts, the worse the prospects for the company and employees involved.   The best example is Bethlehem Steel, which shuttered during a similar impasse in union-company negotiations.   Similar stories exist in the U.S. textile, rubber and steel industries.  

There is a possible out for both sides but it may require Parliamentary action.   The out adds employee stock ownership as a way to bridge the differences,   Giving employees a share of Canada Post's success and profits may not be a panacea but it gives employees a share in the benefits that the Canada Post's proposed contract changes are expected to produce.  Delivery of print communications and consumer delivery of parcels will continue to have a role in the Canadian economy for decades to come and employee shares in that enterprise could generate real divends and capital gains.  Given the intractable nature of the impasse, and the propect of a much smaller Canada Post without a quick settlement, maybe its time for a solution that is not even on the table.