Courier companies ramp up as Canada Post uncertainty causes business increase

TORONTO – Courier companies say they’re seeing an increase in volume as a possible work stoppage looms at Canada Post.

UPS Canada has hired approximately 300 new staff across the country and says it is already seeing a sharp increase in business volume as Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers appear unlikely to reach a new contract.

Canada Post says a 72-hour notice delivered to the union on Tuesday does not necessarily mean it will shut down on Friday, and CUPW has vowed to not go on strike and stay at the bargaining table — but no talks are scheduled.

Purolator says it has also seen a significant increase in shipping volume.

A spokesperson says the company has a contingency plan to hire more staff and institute overtime hours, should a work stoppage occur.

FedEx says it has a contingency plan, but would not reveal what that plan entails.

A UPS spokesman said the company is used to spikes in business around certain times of year, like Christmas, but that this is a different situation.

“Christmas is an event we know is on the calendar, lasts a certain amount of time and then fades away,” said Nicolas Dorget. “This (potential work stoppage), we know when it possibly is starting, but we don’t know when it possibly is going to end.”

The dispute revolves, in part, around such issues as potential changes to pension plans for new employees, the future of door-to-door mail delivery and differences in the way rural and urban postal workers are compensated.

The union wants a pay increase for its rural, mostly female carriers, who earn 28 per cent less than their urban, mostly male, counterparts to address what CUPW sees as a pay equity issue.

Canada Post has called CUPW’s demands “not affordable,” saying they would add $1 billion in costs over the life of a new contract as the postal service undergoes a review of operations, including the move away from door-to-door delivery.

The federal government has said it will stay out of a looming work stoppage for now, putting the onus on Canada Post and the union to come to an agreement quickly before the mail stops being delivered.

Canada Post and the union have agreed to deliver some “essential” mail to customers, such as cheques for child tax benefits, disability benefits and Canada Pension Plan benefits.

Customers of other products, such as medical marijuana, were notified back in April that a work stoppage might occur and that contingency plans could be necessary, according to Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.

Canopy Growth Corp., a licensed medical marijuana producer that includes the brands Tweed and Bedrocan, says it switched over from Canada Post to a variety of other couriers in order to prevent patients from experiencing any delays in deliveries.

“We actually began using other couriers weeks ago to ensure no packages were stuck in transit,” said spokesman Jordan Sinclair.