Barring a last-minute agreement on a new contract, unionized Canada Post employees are set to strike on Wednesday and Nunavummiut are preparing for repercussions.
Those running businesses in the territory have more alternatives to Canada Post than they used to in the past, but arranging for customer payment still involves a significant volume of mail, said Wilf Wilcox, president of the Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce.
“Getting your bills out and bills in is really pretty much a mail thing,” Wilcox said. “There’s alternatives but you still need paper flowing and good access to mail, for sure… If they do strike, hopefully it’s a short one. If they don’t, we’ll all be better off.”
For the Government of Nunavut, the greatest impact of a mail stoppage will be on residents who don’t use electronic funds transfers (EFT) or pre-authorized payments for billing, according to Wende Halonen, communications staff member with Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.
In the event of a postal strike, Qulliq Energy Corporation customers who receive their power bills in the mail will start seeing their bills sent to community power plants instead, Halonen noted. Methods of paying those bills during a Canada Post shutdown will be outlined in a communications campaign, she added.
Most transactions by GN vendors are done via EFT, making the impacts of a strike “minimal,” Halonen stated. The remainder of vendors have the option to subscribe to EFT or to pick up cheques in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet or Cambridge Bay, she advised.
Most other government services no longer rely on the mail, said Halonen.
“Generally speaking, most correspondence, transactions and communications are done electronically or via courier,” she said.
Pay cheques for government employees won’t be affected and neither will income assistance payments, which are issued directly in clients’ home communities, or through Northern and Co-op stores if the payments come from regional offices, Halonen explained.
She added that the GN has government liaison officers in every community “who are able to support GN communications and service delivery to Nunavummiut, where and when needed.”
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is seeking a 3.5 per cent annual wage increase for the duration of its next contract. Canada Post has countered with an offer of 1.5 per cent annual pay hikes.
The union is also demanding minimum guaranteed hours and improved job security. As well, it wants Canada Post to once again offer community banking services and have postal outlets act as internet hubs, particularly in Indigenous communities.
The union represents 42,000 urban employees and 8,000 rural workers. Earlier this month, 94 per cent of urban postal workers and 96 per cent of rural postal employees voted in favour of job action, according to the union.