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.”

Op­er­a­tions sus­pended

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.

Photo by Bill Bow­man/The Com­pass

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.

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