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Sellers Brace for Possible Disruption to Canadian Mail

Online sellers could see a disruption in shipping when sending goods in and out of Canada thanks to a possible contract dispute between Canada Post and union workers. In fact, Canada Post has warned some of its biggest customers of a possible disruption this summer and are being told to make contingency plans, according to CBC News.

Ecommerce is contributing to the dispute, Canada Post indicated to EcommerceBytes, due to the growing number of parcels and changing consumer demand.

Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton said the organization has been innovating and needs flexibility to make sure it’s not priced out of the market. Currently it works on a 5-days/week mail model, and only delivers in evenings and weekends during peak periods and in large markets that offer its Delivered Tonight service. “We need to have the flexibility to deliver on weekends and evenings and not pay double-time, which is cost-prohibitive,” he said.

“With parcels growing, we want to continue to grow that business, we need to be flexible and be respectful of shippers that are under pressure from consumers to offer free or inexpensive shipping options,” he said.

Meanwhile sellers are looking for possible alternatives. eBay Canada warned its users on Tuesday, telling sellers it would launch buyer-facing messaging in the event of a disruption to ensure that Canadian eBay customers are aware of the likelihood of shipping delays.

It also said that should such a disruption occur, “eBay will ensure that sellers are not penalized for the delayed arrival of shipments originating or terminating in Canada: eBay will monitor and remove defects associated with shipping delays caused by the Canada Post disruption.”

The union website notified members that conciliation had ended on Friday, June 10, 2016. “Despite seven months of negotiations and 60 days of conciliation involving intensive negotiations, we are still without a new collective agreement for urban and RSMC members.”

Amazon sellers in Canada discussed possible alternatives to Canada Post in the event of a disruption. “Any suggestions on which courier is a good choice in Canada and also how to negotiate a good rate?” one seller asked.

Another seller who apparently uses Fulfillment By Amazon as well as fulfilling orders directly wrote, “Personally, I am vacationing all of my FBM merchandise and making it Amazon’s problem.” (FBM refers to orders that are “fulfilled by merchant.”) The seller also warned that things could get complicated when trying to choose alternatives to Canada Post.

“Because of the relationship between Canada Post and Purolator, I would not rely on Purolator. UPS and FedEx only cover part of the country and hand off the last part of the delivery to some areas to Canada Post,” the seller said, “Therefore, whichever option you choose, is problematic.”

We asked Canada Post’s Hamilton whether a disruption had the potential to disrupt Purolator service. He said Purolator is a part of the Canada Post group of companies, but it is run completely separate with a different union that would not be impacted by a Canada Post labor dispute.

eBay sellers in Canada also discussed alternatives, but several sellers said they simply put their Stores on vacation to avoid selling items they might not be able to fulfill in a timely manner.

In 2011, there was a disruption when Canada Post instituted a lockout after a series of rotating strikes by workers. The government under Stephen Harper eventually passed a law ending the labor disruption. A different party is now in power in Canada.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.