Dozens of Canada Post employees in Winnipeg walked off the job Monday to protest a change in the mail-sorting procedure.
Canada Post's website says the corporation is undergoing a "postal transformation," and Winnipeg is the first location rolling out new sorting equipment and delivery methods before they're implemented across the country.
The new, automated way results in postal carriers having to carry three bags along their routes. Under the old sorting method, done by hand, carriers ended up with two bundles because the sorters were able to combine flyers with mail destined for each place of delivery.
A man sorting the mail the old way on Monday at the Wilkes Avenue facility was suspended, according to Bob Tyre, head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' Winnipeg local.
That prompted 40 other employees at the facility to walk out in solidarity.
"They [Canada Post] suspended him on the spot. And the other carriers decided that that was the line in the sand and they left, too," Tyre said.
About 60 carriers at the downtown sorting plant then left their jobs for similar reasons, but only walked out for about a half-hour, said Tyre.
He noted seven carriers at the Transcona plant were also threatened with suspension for sorting mail the old way.
Tyre said the new procedure is causing an increase in workplace injuries and slowing down mail delivery.
Carrying the three bags "makes walking treacherous [and is] hard on their necks and their backs," he said, adding "there's been a skyrocketing increase in injuries.
'They've gotten nowhere with Canada Post, so they just decided that they can't work that way and they went home.'—Bob Tyre, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
"And [the carriers] have tried to, and the union has as well, talk to Canada Post about the delivery method, how it's causing injuries, and it's not safe and it slows the delivery down on the streets, so they're all working overtime. They've been working that way now for about six weeks.
"And they've gotten nowhere with Canada Post, so they just decided that they can't work that way and they went home."
Canada Post spokesman John Hamilton said the corporation is still working out the bugs on the new sorting equipment and hopes employees will adapt to the change.
"The simple fact is that this is a big change, not everybody likes change, and there are going to be some issues from time to time," he said, adding the new sorting method has worked well in the U.S.
"We need to be realistic, this is probably the biggest change in 30, 40 years in terms of the way we deliver mail. It's a positive change."
Hamilton would not discuss whether any disciplinary action would be taken against the workers who walked out.
Last week, Winnipeg Liberal MP Anita Neville said she has been inundated with complaints from people in her Winnipeg South Centre riding because mail has been arriving late or not at all.
One seniors residence with 183 units had no mail for three days, she said.