Companies poised to profit, lose from postal strike

Winners and losers from any strike by Canada Post employees will extend beyond the corporation and its workers.

Local couriers say they are gearing up for a potential strike and can handle nearly every aspect of service - and at competitive prices.

Workers at Canada Post appear to be headed to the picket line, rather than the office, by Thursday. The union representing urban workers presented its final offer and served 72-hour strike notice to the Crown corporation on Monday.

Lianne Buffie, a branch and regional manager with ACE Courier Services in Kamloops, said she is anxiously awaiting word on whether posties will hit the streets.

"It hasn't really affected us yet. Once they do go it will be a bit of a rat race."

The company services the Alberta and B.C. markets and it expects to be hopping with local service of everything from cheques and bills to parcels.

"Anything from parcels to mail. Government cheques, pension cheques will probably be big."

Canada Post and the union have an agreement to bring in volunteer workers to deliver pension and social assistance cheques.

Kamloops UPS Store owner Clint Desmarais said business and inquires are up about 10 per cent or more over the past several weeks with news of a potential strike.

"The only thing we can't do is, and no courier can, ship to a (postal) box," he said. "Canada Post has that exclusive right."

UPS Store represents a number of independent courier firms, choosing the lowest price among competitors to fit customer needs.

"Rates to the United States are comparable, to Canada - not so much," Desmarais said. "You can't beat a 57-cent stamp. But you can get it there the next day."

Critics are questioning how critical is the nation's mail service in an era of widespread private competition on the courier side as well as electronic services. Telus Corp., for example, recently reminded customers they are able to view and pay statements online, bypassing the postal service.

Desmarais's message to those worried about a pending strike: "We're possibly cheaper and certainly faster."

While courier companies will profit from any strike, one of the losers, along with workers who will go without paycheques, is Kami Cabs.

"If there's a strike there will be no mail and they won't use us," said manager Pinder Banipal.

The cab company does not deliver mail or parcels but it does deliver posties to and from their routes.

"We get a lot of business from Canada Post," Banipal said. "It (strike) would definitely affect our revenue."

While courier firms are getting inquiries, they are limited in their ability to handle a crush of deliveries. ACE's Buffie said the courier has back-up vans it can press into service.

"There are company vehicles here during the day and we could use those during a strike."

Desmarais said he's closely watching the situation, but the uncertainly makes it difficult to increase staff numbers do deal with a possible influx of work. Nonetheless, he's thinking of bringing on a couple part-time staff if postal workers go on strike.

"It's tough. You don't want to hire staff and it only lasts four days."

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