OTTAWA — Canada Post proposed a "cooling off" period with its striking postal workers Monday as pressure mounts to resolve the ongoing labour dispute ahead of the busy Christmas delivery season.
In a statement, the Crown corporation agreed with a proposal from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to bring another mediator into the ongoing contract dispute — but with a catch.
It said it wants CUPW members to put down their picket signs until the end of January while talks are on, and offered a special payment of up to $1,000 for each member if there is no labour disruption before the so-called cooling off period ends.
"With the rotating strikes, resulting backlogs, and the massive Black Friday and cyber Monday volumes that will arrive within days, we are trying everything we can to work together with the union — urgently — to deliver the holidays to Canadians," Jessica McDonald, chair of the board of directors and interim president and CEO of Canada Post, said in the statement.
"This proposal also includes a way for the parties to resolve their differences and these negotiations."
It wasn't immediately clear if the union would agree to the offer, which came with a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday.
Canada Post said it would start talks "with a jointly-agreed, government-appointed mediator," while reinstating both collective agreements with CUPW during the cooling off period.
If an agreement is not reached by Jan. 31, the corporation says a mediator would provide recommendations for settlement. If not adopted by the parties, it said binding arbitration would be introduced.
The proposal came as Canada Post workers continued their rotating strikes Monday after rejecting the Crown agency's latest offer and requesting the government appoint a mediator to help end the ongoing dispute.
The union had let pass a time-sensitive proposal from Canada Post meant to stop the strikes affecting about 42,000 urban employees and 8,000 rural and suburban carriers.
A spokeswoman for Labour Minister Patty Hajdu wouldn't say whether Ottawa would oblige the request for a mediator, but indicated it was a good sign that both sides remained committed to finding a solution.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a last-minute plea to the two sides to resolve their differences, just hours before the midnight deadline on the Crown corporation's offers expired.
The strikes have created a huge backlog of undelivered mail, prompting some businesses to issue pleas for a resolution.
The Retail Council of Canada urged Ottawa to "bring an immediate end" to the rotating strikes through back-to-work legislation.
Canada Post says the suspension of strikes could allow it to begin reducing the massive backlog of mail and parcels now sitting in hundreds of trailers.
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