National Post (Latest Edition)

Canada Post, CUPW given pay-equity dispute deadline

Rural, urban row to be solved by Aug. 31

- Terry Pedwell

OTTAWA • Canada Post and its biggest union have been given until the end of August to reach an agreement in a long-standing pay equity dispute that could end up costing the post office millions.

After hearings that spanned four months this year, arbitrator Maureen Flynn on Thursday gave the Crown agency and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers 90 days to negotiate a settlement in the complicate­d dispute, which is rooted in perceived pay inequities between mostly male urban carriers and their majority female rural and suburban counterpar­ts.

If no settlement is reached by Aug. 31, the case could go back to arbitratio­n for a final determinat­ion, Flynn said in her 176-page decision.

But the union is already hailing the ruling as a “historic” victory for women because Flynn’s report rejected how Canada Post calculates compensati­on rates for it rural workers, known as RSMCs. The corporatio­n’s methodolog­y “is not reasonably accurate nor is it reliable,” Flynn determined.

“Rather, it is fundamenta­lly flawed and, consequent­ly, produces so-called compensati­on results that do not correspond to the employees’ respective realities in light of all the evidence that was adduced in this case.”

While the case could have a significan­t effect on thousands of women who work for the post office in some of the country’s more remote regions, thousands of men employed as carriers outside the big cities stand to benefit as well.

The numbers of male workers employed as RSMCs have increased steadily since they won their first collective agreement with Canada Post in 2003, the union said.

Cathy Kennedy, who was part of the union’s threemembe­r panel on pay equity, said she was pleased with the ruling in that it gives both sides in the dispute a solid base from which settlement talks can proceed.

She said arbitratio­n has shown itself to be a much more efficient process for fighting pay equity claims than going through other mechanisms, she said.

“It shows that this process can move faster than what the Human Rights Commission has been facing,” Kennedy said, noting the Canadian Postmaster­s and Assistants Associatio­n launched a pay equity complaint with the commission in the 1990s that is still ongoing.

CUPW had argued that the Crown agency’s roughly 8,000 rural and suburban carriers — two-thirds of whom are women — have been underpaid compared with their mostly male urban cousins, by about 25 per cent.

The union also pegged the hourly wage gap at $9.72 per hour — a figure the arbitrator said was in question.

Doing the simple math based on that amount, the overall gap for 8,000 employees could exceed $150 million.

But a final dollar figure could be much lower since indirect compensati­on, such as retirement and other benefits, as well as vacation, would have to be taken into account said Kennedy.

Canada Post saw beforetax earnings of $74 million last year, largely due to unpreceden­ted growth in its parcel business. Its parcel revenue exceeded $2 billion in 2017 for the first time.

Letter mail volumes, however, have been declining for several years. The carrier said Canadians mailed two billion fewer pieces of domestic letter mail in 2017 than they did a decade earlier.

Canada Post has maintained the compensati­on structures for the two sets of workers are unique in that urban carriers are paid by the hour while rural and suburban employees are paid based largely on the number of delivery stops they make and how far they have to travel.

Opposition New Democrats said the arbitrator’s ruling demonstrat­es the need for a pay equity law.

“The fact that Canada Post workers are still fighting shows how badly we need proactive federal legislatio­n,” said NDP equality critic Sheila Malcolmson. “Women are tired of waiting.”

 ?? JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Canada Post could be on the hook for millions of dollars to settle a long-running pay equity dispute.
JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS Canada Post could be on the hook for millions of dollars to settle a long-running pay equity dispute.

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