Locked out by Canada Post
Mail service expected to resume this week as Ottawa prepares back-to-work legislation
The federal government is expected to introduce back to work legislation in Parliament early this week, ordering 48,000 postal workers back to work. The move comes after a series of rotating strikes by members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPW) and a full-scale lock-out by Canada Post last week.
Despite the ongoing labour dispute, Canada Post reminded pensioners late last week, postal workers would be delivering two million public pension and government cheques across the country on Monday, June 20. While post offices would be open Monday to retrieve their cheques, according to Canada Post, they would not be handling any other retail transactions.
Picket line in Carbonear
Closer to home, five postal workers at the Carbonear Post Office had to change their signs from CUPW ON STRIKE to CUPW ON Lock Out, when they reported for work Wednesday, June 15.
The members of the Urban Operations Bargaining Unit of CUPW found the doors to their building locked when they arrived for work.
Carbonear was one of three post office locals in Canada poised to begin a 24-hour strike when the lock-out occurred. The strike was supposed to have been part of a series of rotating strikes, which have been ongoing across the country since May 31.
Elizabeth Slade, president of the CUPW local in Carbonear said, after “difficult and frustrating attempts to negotiate a new collective agreement with Canada Post since ( last fall), we have no other recourse but to exercise our right to strike.
“Instead of addressing our demands for the future,” Slade said, “Canada Post management is trying to turn back the clock on major issues such as pension, internal staffing, letter carrier workload, vacation leave, and sick leave that employees have had since 1965.
“Canada Post wants to replace their system of sick leave with a complicated and inferior short term disability plan,” she said. Wages are also at stake, according to Slade. “Canada Post wants new employees to start off with 22 per cent less pay and weaker job security. It’s also about benefits and working conditions for years to come. Sometimes workers have to strike to preserve members’ health and safety or fight for an important principle like the maintenance of our public postal system,” Slade said.
Profitable post office
Union shop steward Linda Soper said the Carbonear post office is unique in that it is run by union members only.
“ We run that place like it was our own,” Soper said, adding, “Canada Post gives us a quota and we are not money losing. We are profitable for the corporation. We are just trying to get by and do the best we can. We just feel we should get a little part of those profits.”
The CUPW representatives believe Canada Post is doing everything it can to goad the union into a national walkout in the hope government will pass back to work legislation.
Looking for a negotiated settlement, the union says: “ We will suspend our rotating strikes and go back to work provided our collective agreement is reinstated.”
Last week’s lock-out came after 12 days of what Canada Post described as “increasingly costly rotating strikes by CUPW.”
In a prepared statement, the corporation said: “ The accelerating decline in mail volumes and revenue combined with the inabili- ty to deliver mail on a timely and safe basis,” left them with no choice but to suspend operations.
They said the rotating strikes had had, “a significant impact on short-term revenue.” Their “ losses are approaching $100 million since the rotating strikes began — and that figure is climbing daily.”
Canada Post and CUPW remain far apart on several fundamental issues and there has been no progress made at the negotiating table for weeks, they said.
“ We believe that a lock-out is the best way to bring a timely resolution to this impasse and force the union to seriously consider proposals that address declining mail volumes and the $3.2-billion pension deficit.”
Hoping to have reached an agreement without a disruption in postal services, the corporation said it “ has made every effort to protect the pay, pension and job security of existing employees.”
Meanwhile, plans are in place to secure all mail that is left in the system during the lockout, and to resume normal operations quickly once the current situation has been resolved.
While talks between both sides continued last week, it seems the only thing they could agree on was that there was little progress as government intervention loomed.
The latest word from both sides before our Friday editorial deadline was that negotiations were to continue throughout the weekend.
Members of the Carbonear local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had to change their signs from ON STRIKE to Lock Out on Wednesday morning, June 15, when they found the doors to their building barred. Front row, from left: Cyril Griffin and Nell Butt. Back row: Elizabeth Slade, president CUPW local and Linda Soper, shop steward.