By Chloe Rockarts
November 14, 2018 marks 1 year since the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) began negotiations with Canada Post Corporation. Across the country, postal workers are entering their second month of rotating strikes. Thousands of workers are striking over health and safety issues, exhaustive and unsustainable workload issues, and inequities between urban and rural mail carriers.
Saving Canada’s postal workers
In 2014, the ‘Save Canada Post’ campaign was launched, ensuring that door-to-door delivery was restored, job cuts were stopped, and that the postal service was kept publicly owned.
In the past decade, the expansion of online shopping has caused a rapid increase in parcel delivery, which has in turn caused a dramatic increase in injuries.
With 48 per cent of the 30,774 injuries to CUPW members between 2014-2017 being disabling injuries, health and safety has become one of the major issues of this strike. CUPW’s demands are seeking to address these injury issues. These demands include requiring the employer to maximize routes to 8 hours per day (wherever possible), for pay for injury on duty to be at 80 per cent of normal pay and to be paid by Canada Post, and for improvements to the Short Term Disability Plan (STDP) including a better appeal process, unlimited carry-over of unused personal days and increasing the pay from 70 to 75 per cent of regular pay. Additionally, the union is calling for Permanent Relief Employees to receive pay based on their last 52 weeks or the route they are covering (whichever is greater).
Additionally, there are many other concerns that postal workers have been bargaining on over the past few months. 33 per cent of temporary and part-time workers in Group 1 (which represents inside workers) are highly precarious within the union. CUPW is calling to include job security for all regular employees (route holders and Permanent Relief Employees) with 5 years of continuous service. Groups 3 and 4, (which represent technical services) are also bargaining for an increase in pay and new classification for heavy-duty truck mechanics.
Rotating strikes are not a new strategy, and have been historically used a number of times in CUPW history, as they have less of a negative impact on both the community and membership. This strategy was used in 1970, 1991, 1997, 2011, and again in 2016. Both the Urban Operations unit and the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) unit are bargaining together as one committee to increase their bargaining power.
In 1970, the walkouts resulted in above average wage increases. Between 1965 and 2011, the federal government has legislated CUPW members back to work five times, three of which used rolling strikes (1991 under Brian Mulroney, 1997 under Jean Chretien, and 2011 under Stephen Harper).
Strategically, going on notice ahead of both cannabis legalization and the holidays has put a large amount of pressure on the employer. Currently, hundreds of trucks of mail and parcels have yet to be delivered. On Monday, Canada Post proposed a “cooling off period” that would send the postal workers back to work while going through mediation. Canada Post has offered $1000 to CUPW members to stop job action.
In a statement on the unions website, CUPW National President Mike Palecek said of Canada Post’s proposal:
“We aren’t doing this to harm the public, but the proposal asks our members to go back to work at the heaviest and most stressful time of year, under the same conditions that produce the highest injury rate in the federal sector. It asks women to continue to do work for free. How can we do that?”
On October 24, a mediator appointed by the federal government has intervened and will determine how both parties can move forward with negotiations. As of today’s publication, picket lines are in Chatham (ON), Kelowna (BC), Scarborough (ON) at the Markham Delivery Centre (31 Brodie), Richmond Hill Main and West Beaver Creek facilities, St. Thomas (ON), and Woodstock (ON).
Canada Post has yet to address the major issues of pay equity between suburban and rural mail carriers, or the rising injury rate faced by mail carriers and has now asked 190 countries to suspend deliveries to Canada as the backlog increases.
CUPW has presented the employer with offers for both RSMC and Urban Operations units, and has yet to hear a response from the Canada Post negotiating committee. It’s possible that CUPW members will be legislated back to work if the strike is not resolved by the holidays. The union has rejected binding arbitration and has called on Canada Post to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a settlement.
How to support posties on strike
CUPW postal workers are overworked, and deserve to reach a fair collective agreement. In order to support the strike, there are several ways unionists can get involved. While rotating strikes continue, ensuring that your union and community have a ‘fly squad’ to visit picket lines on short notice is one of the best ways to show your support. To find out where current pickets are, visit the CUPW website here. Contacting your MP and Justin Trudeau and calling on Canada Post to come to the table and negotiate.
CUPW has launched the ‘Delivering Community Power’ campaign, which focuses on expanding the postal service to serve the community. The campaign involves a range of different projects including bringing broadband to rural communities, creating a postal banking system and a public-sector cellphone service, as well as having CUPW members support seniors to stay in their homes longer. To get involved in the campaign, click here.