Small businesses concerned over Canada Post backlog ahead of holidays

By Scott Roblin
November 19, 2018 - 5:22pm Updated: November 19, 2018 - 7:14pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB – Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers remain at a stalemate at the bargaining table over a month after rotating strikes began across the country.

In that time, small business owners like Kristine Russell have been waiting patiently, hoping to see their shipments return to normal.

It’s been five weeks since the first strikes and Russell said it’s been a trying process.

“It's really frustrating to try and grow as a small business when you rely so heavily on one entity to keep your business going,” said Russell.

The rotating strikes have backed up some online orders for Russell’s Rustic Pickle clothing company, especially to shipments within Canada.

Russell added it’s something that’s only going to get worse with Christmas just over a month away.

“I've had a couple of inquiries [about] where they were, and then always my luck they show up a couple of days later which is great,” she said. “But, now we're ramping up into the busy time.”

DYL Fashions is also expecting to take a hit in the coming weeks, as they have been pushing their new online store over the last year.

Owner Stephanie Sissons said now that the strikes have created a backlog of shipments, they’re weary about how successful the next month will be.

“A big, big part of our advertising plan for the store is to have that online option,” said Sissons. “So yeah, it is a little nerve wracking.”

With Black Friday and Christmas looming, Canada Post offered a ‘cooling down period’ to CUPW that would have ended all strikes until January.

They also offered Canada Post employees bonuses of up to $1,000, but the union rejected this proposal on Monday.

Fighting for job security, an end to forced overtime and better working conditions, CUPW Regional Education and Organizing Officer Todd Jarema said they’re unable to compromise those demands during the busiest stretch of the year.

“We are not prepared really to let our members go through another incredibly busy Christmas season without having the health and safety issues that we've raised addressed,” said Jarema.

Unsure whether her shipments of high-end second hand garments will arrive on time for Christmas, Sissons is considering looking elsewhere.

“The option is to maybe go outside of Canada Post and try FedEx, try Purolator, options like that,” she said.

According to Medicine Hat UPS co-owner Dominique Hirsch, more of these entrepreneurs are looking into their services as Christmas approaches.

She added they’re gearing up for a busier than usual holiday season if the rotating strikes reach into December.

“We can definitely see an increase in sales for sure and shipping sales,” said Hirsch. “Our customers will also get a chance to see everything else we do in the store.”

Sissons isn’t ready to take chances however, as she’s adjusted her game plan to try and attract more local customers to make up any loss of online revenue.

“We are going to be focusing on Medicine Hat and trying to get customers from our local area into the store,” she said.

As for Russell, she’s preparing for what could be a tight winter financially for her business if things don’t change soon.

“You bank on the majority of your income for the year on the holidays unfortunately,” she said. “So, it is going to be a big eye-opener.”

Jarema said CUPW is formulating a counter to Canada Post’s latest offer and added they’re ready to sign a deal immediately, but only if it addresses their workplace concerns.

Poppy Campaign raises approximately $70,000 in Medicine Hat