Postal strike in Corn­wall

The ro­tat­ing strikes at Canada Post ar­rived in Corn­wall on Wed­nes­day.

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - NEWS - ALAN S. HALE

The Canadian Union of Postal Work­ers (CUPW) has been hold­ing ro­tat­ing strikes across Canada for a few weeks now, and on Wed­nes­day it was Corn­wall’s turn to see mail ser­vice halted for 24 hours as em­ploy­ees pick­eted both in the down­town and in front of the Canada Post build­ing on Bound­ary road. Mail ser­vice will re­sume in Corn­wall at 8 a.m. on Thurs­day.

CUPW mem­bers have been with­out a con­tract since Jan­uary, and the union reps in Corn­wall say the main rea­sons for the im­passe in ne­go­ti­a­tions are health and safety is­sues caused by awk­ward - but ef­fi­cient - meth­ods of car­ry­ing the mail and ex­ces­sive over­time re­quire­ments.

“What’s hap­pen­ing at Canada Post is that they have a new method of us de­liv­er­ing the mail called the ‘two-bun­dle sys­tem.’ In­stead of hav­ing all the let­ters to­gether, we’re car­ry­ing two dif­fer­ent bun­dles with fly­ers in the other one,” ex­plained Stephane Rioux, pres­i­dent of the CUPW lo­cal in Corn­wall. “So you’re sup­posed to try to walk up to some­body ’s house by hold­ing onto their handrail while jug­gling their mail in your arms.”

The two-bun­dle sys­tem - where car­ri­ers hold a bun­dle of elec­tron­i­cally pre-sorted let­ter mail in their hand with the se­cond bun­dle of man­u­ally sorted items held hor­i­zon­tally on the fore­arm - is an idea bor­rowed from the U.S. Postal Ser­vice as a way to make ev­ery de­liv­ery quicker and more ef­fi­cient.

But it has been crit­i­cized by the CUPW for years as putting car­ri­ers at in­creased risk of fall­ing and be­ing in­jured. Ac­cord­ing to oc­cu­pa­tional in­jury data col­lected by Labour Canada from fed­eral ju­ris­dic­tion busi­nesses, the fre­quency of in­juries at Canada Post jumped 50.1 per cent be­tween 2012 when the two-bun­dle sys­tem was be­ing im­ple­mented, and 2016.

“It’s a safety haz­ard,” in­sisted Rioux. “We should be able to ma­neu­ver with­out hav­ing to deal with the two-bun­dle sys­tem.”

The safety risks posed by the two-bun­dle sys­tem prob­lem are be­ing com­pounded, the union says, by ex­ces­sive over­time work caused by not hav­ing enough full-time car­ri­ers to de­liver the mail dur­ing reg­u­lar hours.

“That’s how they staff a lot of post of­fices: in­stead of hir­ing more let­ter car­ri­ers, they staff with forced over­time,” said Rioux.

Forced over­time is not re­ally an is­sue in Corn­wall specif­i­cally, ad­mits Rioux, but it is in other parts of Canada. That said, he noted that the mail has be­gun ar­riv­ing later in the day, which is caus­ing car­ri­ers to de­liver mail in the dark by the end of their shifts.

Al­though the union is putting health and safety at the fore­front of its mes­sag­ing about the strike, CUPW is also look­ing for wage in­creases for car­ri­ers as well. Rioux said postal work­ers haven’t had a “good, de­cent wage in­crease,” in about four or five years and would per­son­ally like to see wages go up by 50 cents per hour or more.

“They give us 10 cents raises here or there, but with in­come taxes, we never see the money come to us. The govern­ment just takes it back,” said the lo­cal pres­i­dent.

The strik­ing postal work­ers are quick to ar­gue that none of their de­mands would cost tax­pay­ers a cent. Canada Post is an in­de­pen­dent cor­po­ra­tion that makes enough money to meet their de­mands with­out tax­payer as­sis­tance.

The Canada Post Group of com­pa­nies posted a $144-mil­lion profit in 2017, $88 mil­lion of which was made by its par­cel de­liv­ery sub­sidiary, Puro­la­tor. The union also favours the im­ple­men­ta­tion of postal bank­ing as a new source of rev­enue.

As for the state of ne­go­ti­a­tions, from what union­ized postal work­ers in Corn­wall have heard things have stalled which, un­sur­pris­ingly, they blame on Canada Post. “When they started bar­gain­ing, the union asked for a me­di­a­tor to be there right away to help the process along, but they haven’t been mov­ing,” said Claude Labrecque, vice-pres­i­dent of the Corn­wall lo­cal. “They brought in a spe­cial me­di­a­tor, and there was still no move­ment, and that’s when the ro­tat­ing strikes be­gan.”

If no one budges from their po­si­tions soon, the union of­fi­cials in Corn­wall say they would not be sur­prised if things be­gin to es­ca­late to a full strike or lock­out be­fore too long. Rioux said he wants to avoid that out­come be­cause not only would in­crease the like­li­hood of back-to-work leg­is­la­tion but also a com­plete work stop­page would more sub­stan­tial im­pact a lot of peo­ple’s lives.

“We don’t want to stop peo­ple from re­ceiv­ing their mail or parcels. We’re just de­lay­ing it by one day, which doesn’t harm any­one or the com­pany too much,” he said.

ALAN S. HALE/CORN­WALL STAN­DARD-FREEHOLDER

Strik­ing postal work­ers in front of the Canada Post build­ing on Bound­ary Road on Wed­nes­day Novem­ber 7, 2018 in Corn­wall, Ont.

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