06/06/2011 01:14 EDT | Updated 08/06/2011 05:12 EDT

Canada Post Strikes Rotating In Montreal, Hamilton, Winnipeg


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONTREAL - Businesses coping with rotating postal strikes warned Monday that the postal system will soon get "gummed up" once the walkout expands to larger centres like Montreal.

The major mail hub in Quebec, Montreal was hit by a 24-hour strike Monday, which also cut postal service to outlying suburban communities.

"One problem will beget another problem further down the food chain and the system will become gummed up, I would imagine, in a week to 10 days," said Dan Kelly, senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Postal service was disrupted over the weekend in Hamilton and on Friday in Winnipeg, but negotiations continued Monday between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to reach a settlement.

"We haven't had any calls from panicked members yet saying that they felt any impact of a strike. The one thing about Canada Post is that customers are well used to delays," Kelly said from Ottawa.

But if rotating strikes also hit Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, that's when Kelly said he expects problems to likely occur for businesses as the cumulative effects of rotating strikes would be felt.

"The strategy of gumming up the system and moving to larger distribution hubs will no doubt raise the stakes for small businesses."

Local union president Alain Duguay said the strategy behind rotating strike is to disrupt service as little as possible.

"Our objective is that the population suffers from it as little as possible," Duguay said, adding the union's battle is with Canada Post not its customers.

Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said the Crown corporation is doing everything it can to maintain service across Canada but the longer the strike goes on, the more impact it's going to have on operations.

"The more this goes on the farther the impact is going to be felt, which is really unfortunate because we're negotiating at this time," he said from Ottawa.

"We need to stop withdrawing service even if it's in some communities because people rely on us. We need to stop giving our customers reasons to go somewhere else."

Sick leave benefits, and starting wages and health and safety issues working with new equipment were sticking points for the union.