Your cheque is in the mail once again.
Canada Post is expected to resume service on Tuesday, after the government's bill to send the Crown corporation's 48,000 employees back to work received royal assent Sunday night. Plant workers will return first to begin sorting backlogged mail Monday evening, while post offices open and delivery starts the following morning, though the company warned it will take time to catch up on items delayed in the system.
"The parties weren't able to do their own deal," said Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, shortly after the legislation passed the Senate. "The only solution for Parliament was to order them to go back to work."
Ms. Raitt, who will now appoint an arbitrator to decide the details of the contract, said the legislation should be a warning to both management and unions to begin their collective bargaining early, especially when they know there are significant issues to resolve. "You can't resort to hurting the national economy as a way to resolve your disputes."
Both union and management, which locked out workers on June 14, stated they will comply with the legislation, which otherwise carries steep financial penalties.
While use of the traditional mail service has been steadily declining, the lockout hit smaller charities and businesses the hardest. Charity officials still worry that the month-long interruptions will have a lingering impact on customers and donors. Small businesses lost an average of $200 a day during the lockout, according to Dan Kelly, a senior vice-president with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
James MacLeod is president of Synergy Advantage Group Inc., a management consultancy firm based in Ancaster, Ont. Many of the clients that his small business invoices pay by cheque; when the postal-worker lockout began, he and his team had to pick the cheques up themselves, sometimes from as far as an hour away.
"You could spend an entire day driving," said Mr. MacLeod. "That's a day when you could be generating revenue."
The Union Gospel Mission, a social agency on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, estimates it lost about $200,000 in anticipated donations during the lockout. Their programs rely on $11-million in donations annually, and almost 90 per cent of their donations come by mail. While some donations may have been backlogged in the lockout, Chris Mah, the manager of annual giving for the mission, said, "I think that's probably lost revenue."
And Ken Dick, the president of Speroway, a charity based in Guelph, Ont., which delivers aid to children in countries such as Guatemala and Haiti and relies heavily on cheques sent by regular mail, doubts that people will double their support for the month of July to make up for any shortfall. "Most people, when they see a postal strike, stop giving," said Mr. Dick, who has seen the impact of previous labour disputes at Canada Post. He speculated that even though Speroway mailed out 40,000 pleas for donations just before the earlier rotating strikes, donors likely feared cheques would be stuck in the frozen mail system and avoided donating altogether.
Traditional mail delivery may still be necessary to deliver items to remote locations in Canada where private couriers don't operate, Mr. Kelly pointed out, but business use of the postal service has been in steady decline. The latest disruption will only serve to "hasten the trend," he predicted.
The legislation moved to the Senate last Saturday night, after a 58-hour filibuster that kept the House of Commons sitting past its scheduled summer break.
The Senate spent Sunday debating the legislation before passing it Sunday night. It received royal assent later in the evening from Governor-General David Johnston.
One by one, for three days, weary opposition MPs delivered 20-minute speeches on labour policy, heavily padded with history lessons, praise for their mail carriers and even a few boasts about their vote counts.
While the NDP says delaying the bill gave the two parties in the labour dispute a last chance to return to the table - the two meetings on Friday and Saturday lasted barely 30 minutes - it was virtually a foregone conclusion that the legislation would pass since the Conservatives hold majorities in the House of Commons and the Senate. The filibuster could have continued into next week, but opposition MPs, realizing that there was not chance of a settlement, allowed the vote to go ahead.
The government introduced Bill C-6 last Monday, after the Crown corporation locked out the union, which had been holding rotating strikes since June 3. Canada Post said the labour action was costing tens of millions of dollars in lost business.
"They weren't interested in negotiating once they had the government legislation in their back pocket," said George Floresco, vice-president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Editor's note: An earlier online version of this article incorrectly identified the name and the location of the Union Gospel Mission. This online version has been corrected.