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Private sector devises plans for a lengthy postal strike.

Private sector devises plans for a lengthy postal strike

With the possibility of a national postal strike once again threatening Canada, some northern businesses were gearing up last month for what would be for some a headache and for others a blessing.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) voted in late September to go on strike if a contract settlement was not reached. The 45,000 members of CUPW had been without a contract since July 31 1989.

The 14-month long contract negotiations between the union and Canada Post were held with the help of a Ministry of Labour concilliator. At press time federal Labour Minister Jean Corbeil was reviewing the concilliator's report.

Meanwhile, some of Canada Post's commercial customers were busy devising alternative distribution methods and other businesses were preparing for an increase in business.

One would assume that courier companies would benefit substantially from a postal strike. Not so, said Jack Mosher, regional service manager for Purolator Courier Ltd. in Sudbury.

Mosher explained that any increased revenue which is generated by a strike would be offset by the measures that would have to be taken to meet the increased demands.

"Volume will increase substantially. However, the effects will cause operational problems," insisted Mosher.

Mosher said that to absorb the increased business and still achieve the company's priority of "looking after the regular customers first," Purolator would have to increase the number of vehicles it operates, hire independent operators, require employees to work longer hours and promote part-time staff to full-time for the duration of a postal strike.

"We don't look forward to a postal strike," said Mosher.

Although he said Purolator is likely to retain a portion of any new customers, he said that those which stay with the company are insufficient to offset the added costs.

Although there was no sign of an increase in business last month, Mosher was not ruling out the possibility of a postal strike. In an effort to prepare for the possible increase in business, Mosher reported that he had already put "contingency plans in place."

"If there is a strike, we will be well positioned for it," assured Mosher. Charles Barbeau, assistant manager of the Union Bus Depot in Sudbury, insisted that a postal workers strike would help the bus parcel express (BPX) service offered by Greyhound Bus Lines. In fact, "It always has," he said.

Barbeau said a postal strike would give the service an opportunity to prove itself.

"We get a chance to prove ourselves to our customers and to prove ourselves to their customers," he said.

The assistant manager predicted that the parcel express business would increase approximately 20 per cent, based on the results of the last postal strike.

"We steal the customers once they realize the service that we offer," he said.

Barbeau estimated a 20-percent increase in retainable sales would occur as the result of a postal workers' strike.

Even though the bus service deals with fewer parcels than do courier services, Barbeau said the fees charged by the two services are comparable.

He said Greyhound would not face any added costs because of a postal strike.

"The buses go anyway," he explained. "The trucks aren't running full right now, so there will be no problem."

At present there are approximately 1,000 to 1,500 packages shipped daily by the parcel express service, and Barbeau estimates that the company could handle twice as much without changing its operations.

Although Jean Deredin, circulation manager for Northern Ontario Business in Sudbury, said she was assured by Canada Post's representatives that a strike was unlikely to occur, she had been initiating contingency plans just in case.

Deredin's strike strategy is essential to ensure the maintenance of the publication's paid subscription list. The list accounts for approximately 75 per cent of the 16,000 copies printed and circulated throughout Northern Ontario each month.

Maintaining readership is also required to fulfil the publication's responsibilities to its advertising clients.

Deredin said substantial costs would be incurred as a result of a lengthy postal strike, because increased courier shipments would be necessary to satisfy readers. She said that revenue generated by renewed subscriptions would be lost during a prolonged strike.

Under the contingency plan, bundled copies of the newspaper would be shipped via courier to area chambers of commerce for pick-up by the publication's readers.

"All I can do is increase bulk shipments," she said.

To further offset the effects of a postal strike, Deredin said both newsstand and airline distribution would be doubled to approximately 5,400 copies.

Copies for paid subscribers would be labelled and held until the strike concluded to ensure that subscribers receive all delayed copies.

Although the strike would prove difficult for the circulation department of the monthly business paper, the strategies which have been developed as a result will "serve as a testing ground for future possibilities to partially eliminate our dependency on Canada Post as our major means of distribution," said Deredin.

The Crown corporation announced last month that it plans to increase the price of a stamp by one cent on Jan. 1 to 40 cents. The increase represents a 2.6-per-cent hike.

It's scheduled to take effect the same day as the Goods and Services Tax.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:875
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