Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about our intention to take action to end the labour dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, also known as CUPW.
Since the start of negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, we have been doing our best to help the parties find a solution.
We believe in the collective bargaining process. Negotiated agreements are always the best solution. We would not come down this road, however, we have exhausted every option.
Our government ran on a commitment to restore fair and balanced labour laws and relations, but we also have a responsibility to Canadian businesses that drive our economy.
As our country's primary postal operator, Canadians and Canadian businesses rely on Canada Post. Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers provide postal services that are of vital importance to Canadians and to Canadian businesses.
Older Canadians, persons with disabilities, low-income earners, as well as Canadians living in rural, remote and northern areas who rely on physical mail delivery, including indigenous peoples, are disproportionately affected during postal strikes. The costs of postal alternatives, such as courier companies, can be prohibitively high, especially in rural and remote areas. In some remote northern areas, there are no alternatives.
Canadians living in the north are more reliant on parcel delivery services than other Canadians, receiving approximately double the per capita parcel average in Canada in 2017. While e-commerce and e-communications are the norm for many, almost nine million Canadians, about 30% of the population, live in rural and remote areas where access to the Internet can be extremely limited.
We know that some of the most vulnerable in our country count on Canada Post for their cheques. These Canadians count on this money to scrape by, and they are put in very precarious positions by any delay, like Jack, who told me that as a person on Ontario disability any delay could mean a loss of housing for him. Many others rely on prompt payment to survive month to month.
The strikes have been going on for five weeks now. Canada Post said that it could expect delays of parcel and mail delivery into 2019 as a result of these rotating strikes. Canada Post has also told its commercial customers that at this point it cannot honour its delivery standards for any product because of the prolonged strikes. The strikes have created backlogs of mail and parcels just days before an expected rush of millions of additional parcels from Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales.
Businesses are already feeling the negative impacts of the strikes. Significant delivery delays are resulting in order cancellations for the many Canadian businesses that are dependent on sales from Black Friday through to the end of the holiday to survive. There are reports of declines in e-commerce demand. The impacts of the rotating strikes are particularly pronounced for small and medium-sized businesses, because the fourth quarter is their busiest.
The reality is that if the strikes are left to continue through the holiday season, they would create significant hardship. That means job losses and fewer hours for Canadians who count on the extra money to get by.
At the same time, Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail and parcel shipments to Canada, as it continues to deal with a major delivery backlog that has grown as a result of the rotating strikes. This affects not only Canadians and Canadian businesses, but also Canada's reputation as a reliable market for commerce and trade.
Small and medium-sized businesses that rely more heavily on Canada Post for billing and order fulfillment are struggling. Some of these smaller companies, operating on eBay, Etsy and Amazon platforms as e-sellers, are disproportionately affected. According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, or the CFIB, two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises surveyed said that they were being affected by the rotating strikes at Canada Post. According to the CFIB, costs are around $3,000 per business in terms of lost sales, cancelled orders, delays, or costs due to the use of more expensive delivery alternatives.
E-commerce is a significant source of economic growth in Canada. Compared to the 2011 postal strike, Canadians in 2018 have become greater consumers of e-commerce generated parcels. According to Statistics Canada, Internet-based sales from all retailers rose 31% to $15.7 billion in 2017. Up to 40% of these sales take place in the fourth quarter, which is currently being affected by the strike. In the event of an even longer postal strike, many companies, particularly smaller e-commerce companies, are saying they may not make it through the season.
Let me provide some of the real-life stories.
There is a company called Monkeys & More based in Halifax, which is run by Dale Kearney and his wife Sherrie. They specialize in selling handmade scarves, mittens and aprons online. They get orders from Canada and the U.S. during the holidays. However, this year, customers are reluctant to place orders for fear they will not receive their purchase by Christmas. Mr. Kearney said, “Normal years we're sold out by now. The rotating strike, it's killing us.”
How about Red Ribbon boutique? This is a shop on Edmonton's High Street. It is run by owner Rychelle Tuck, who relies heavily on Canada Post, as most of her sales are done online. Mrs. Tuck said that she knew packages would be late arriving to customers, but exactly how late was a mystery to her.
Small businesses like theirs are slowly becoming casualties of the ongoing Canada Post dispute.
In an article, Craig Patterson, director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta's School of Retailing, said that the margins of small businesses were “a lot thinner than the major retailers” and “They're relying on Canada Post a lot more, whereas bigger retailers can go to an alternative supplier”. He said that instead of taking the chance, many customers “will choose to go to...malls, as opposed to seeking out local businesses”, meaning money will often leave the local economy.
The strike is having an impact on the workers as well. Canada Post workers and other businesses affected are counting on the extra wages from this time of year as part of their revenue. In some cases, they need these wages to get by. Canadians are calling on us to take action.
The Retail Council of Canada sent an open letter to the Prime Minister, which said that the situation was heading into crisis territory, that the pace of parcel traffic was about to double and that the postal system was already overstretched.
We are not debating this legislation today because we still believe that Canada Post and CUPW can get a deal. I believe the two parties can still reach a negotiated agreement.
We still believe a deal can be reached, but we must be ready to step in if the parties cannot come to an agreement.
The parties are still negotiating, and nothing in this motion prevents that from continuing. We continue to provide them with all of the tools necessary to reach an agreement. Their negotiations started this time last year. The existing collective bargaining agreement expired on January 31, 2018, and these agreements covered approximately 8,000 rural and suburban letter carriers and 42,000 urban operations employees.
On June 29, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service received two notices of dispute from the union. The following week, on July 6, two conciliation officers were appointed to assist in the negotiations. On September 5, I appointed two mediators. CUPW began strike action on October 22. On October 24, I appointed the special mediator, Morton Mitchnick, and I have reappointed him twice since then to facilitate an agreement. Voluntary arbitration was offered and declined.
My colleague, the Hon. Carla Qualtrough, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, and I have reached out to the parties directly on many occasions to urge them to continue to work toward reaching agreements. We have worked hard to restore fairness and balance to the labour landscape in Canada, and these efforts demonstrate that.
Through Bill C-4, for example, our government's first piece of legislation—