Companies & Industries

Canada Post work stoppage: it's a lockout, not a strike

By now, Canadians know they won't be getting mail on Monday—but there’s some confusion about exactly why

Canada post mailbox

(Darren Calabrese/CP)

By now, you’ve probably heard that there’s an ongoing labour dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. It’s likely going to mean a stoppage of work on Monday, but—contrary to popular belief—that’s not because postal workers will be “on strike.” It will be because they’ve been “locked out” by Canada Post. The terms are not interchangeable.

The difference between a strike and lockout is not always clear, as customers will likely focus on the lack of service itself, rather than the nuances of why it is occurring. Nevertheless, it is an important distinction to understand.

A strike occurs when workers collectively decide to stop working. A lockout, on the other hand, is when a company’s management chooses to stop employees from working, occasionally going so far as to physically bar them from the premises (hence the name.)

So, in the current labour dispute between Canada Post and CUPW, it is Canada Post that has issued a lockout notice, that will likely come into effect on Monday at 12:01 a.m. Both Canada Post and Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuck are hoping that CUPW agrees to binding arbitration (in which an outside arbitrator would review the dispute and arrive at decision that both parties would be bound to accept) before the proposed lockout deadline. However, as of Thursday morning, CUPW had rejected the proposal.

In summary: a work stoppage seems likely to occur this Monday–but it will because Canada Post has locked its employees out, not because they walked off the job.