Striking Canada Post workers walked the picket line on a foggy Monday morning in Greater Victoria.

“I’m sorry for the delay and it’s unfortunate we’re here,” says Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Victoria local president Jessica Dempster. “But we’ve used every tool we’ve got — conciliation, meditation, but none of that has worked.”

Victoria, along with Edmonton, Windsor and Halifax, are the first cities to see 24-hour strikes as rotating job action rolls across the country.

Contract negotiations for 50,000 postal workers have dragged on for almost a year and the unions says it’s trying to send Canada Post a message.

“Right now, it’s not going very well,” says CUPW Edmonton local president Nancy Dodsworth. “We have these major items on the table and Canada Post hasn’t dealt with them at all.”

Key issues include wages and increasingly stressful working conditions, due to the rise in parcel shipments.

“Parcels have exploded so much, we’re really needing to deal with the volumes but unfortunately the way it’s structured hasn’t caught up with that so that’s a key issue,” Dempster says. “We’re working lots of overtime, our injury rates are sky-rocketing.”

The job action comes just days after online cannabis sales kicked off in B.C. so orders could be delayed.

And while most Canadians may not miss a day or two of delivery, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses say it can be a real problem for small businesses.

“The crazy thing for Canada Post workers right now is they’re fighting to keep making sure they have on-going relevance in the economy and yet the strike action is making sure more and more customers will bleed away from the corporation,” says Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

But the union says it’s trying to minimize the impact on customers with rotating strikes instead of a total service stoppage.

“We’re just hoping this is enough to pressure them to come to the table and make some genuine movement and come to us with some genuine offers,” says Dempster.

Canada Post claims there is a deal on the table with wage increases and better benefits but until the two sides can agree, rotating strikes will continue.

As for the Victoria workers, they’ll be back on the job Tuesday.

Tess van Straaten