By Doug Nesbitt
Momentum is growing among postal workers to reject a deal that would extend existing union contracts with Canada Post by two years. The two contracts cover Urban Ops, and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs). That’s 50,000 Canada Post workers in total, and all members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
According to CUPW President Jan Simpson, the union was approached by Canada Post management in early June with a two-year extension proposal. The offer included a 2% per year wage increase (4% over two).
The union’s National Executive Board authorized four senior officers to bargain, including Simpson. A tentative deal to extend the contract by two years was reached and the NEB approved it unanimously. This was announced to members on June 25.
Members will vote
Online voting will take place between August 3 and September 3. Details of the agreement were sent to members on July 5, giving some locals a short month to study the agreement, inform members, and hold meetings.
In approving the tentative deal, the NEB has since produced a Vote Yes issue of the union’s Perspective Magazine. Vote Yes statements are coming out through official union communications at a steady clip.
However, a rapidly growing number of members and local activists are calling for a No vote.
Toronto local president Qaiser Maroof says the proposal “does not meet the demands put forward by the membership.”
The Nova Local executive points out that the pay increases and lump sum payments in the proposed deal will not keep pace with inflation, and “is not much of a reward for voluntarily giving up our right to collectively bargain.”
The Case for No
Among the many criticisms of the deal, there are some common points of opposition, including:
- Does not address two-tier wage system
- Does not get Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) paid for all hours worked
- Does not address serious concerns with SSD (separate sortation and delivery)
- Below-inflation wage increases
The contract being extended was imposed by an arbitrator after Justin Trudeau’s strikebreaking legislation in late 2018. As the Edmonton local argues, “We should never ratify an inadequate contract imposed on us in arbitration. This is not a gain.”
A comprehensive counterpoint to the deal has also been published by Edmonton’s Local 730. This and similar documents are being widely circulated to members and posted on bulletin boards.
Slippery MOA language
Maroof, the Toronto local president, also says the language of the two Memorandums of Agreement for Urban Ops and RSMCs is unacceptable. He instructively cites the following phrases found in the two MOAs:
“Conditional, discuss issues, examine, may continue the discussion, mutually agreed on, outstanding issues shall become part of the next round of bargaining, nothing in the agreement constrains the corporation from…, agreed to meet and reaffirm the commitment”.
Union activists report a union-wide campaign is being coordinated. Rankandfile.ca is informed a longer list of “No” locals will be made available in the coming week.
NEB under scrutiny
Strong criticism has also targeted how the union’s NEB reached a tentative agreement. In a No vote document now being circulated by members, Atlantic Region CUPW rep Michael McDonald writes,
“The tentative agreements were born outside of the process outlined in our constitution as stated in the language of article 5 and 6. The NEB agreed to these tentative agreements before the regional conferences for the membership’s demands were completed and before a national program of those demands could be compiled and presented to the membership and then the employer.”
Roland Schmidt, President of the Edmonton Local 730 has said “Our members are deeply concerned with the increasingly wayward direction of the NEB” and criticizes the “unsanctioned negotiations.”
What is management’s strategy?
The fact that Canada Post management approached the upper union leadership for a contract extension has many CUPW members on edge.
Schmidt warns, “we must realize that CPC would never propose something like this unless it was to their benefit at our expense.”
In addition to the pandemic chaos and possible federal election in the autumn, Canada Post also announced the arrival of financial services in late June. With differing points of emphasis, both management and the union’s NEB have cited these changes as reasons for the contract extension.
In his letter explaining why he is voting “No”, postal worker Michael McDonald concludes:
“I feel like I’m unable to vote yes to these agreements because of the damage it will do to us as a union moving forward and also because of the Oath I took to protect the union from all attacks…that may sound corny but I see this as an attack on our union membership and the union’s process. It’s an awful dilemma to be in and that is the exact nature of the dilemma the Corp wanted to create.”
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