By Michael Keefe
Postal workers are on rotating strike. The reason postal workers are frustrated to the point of striking is because the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has been in negotiations with Canada Post since November 2017 with almost no progress at the negotiating table. In January, conciliators were appointed at the union’s request. In June, after 7 months of negotiations, the union asked the government to appoint conciliators, which started a countdown to a legal lockout or strike position on September 26.
Negotiations break down
On September 7, after over 9 months of negotiations, Canada Post made its first offer to the union, which was full of rollbacks. The union countered their offer on September 14. Canada Post didn’t respond to the counter offer for almost 4 weeks. Their offer removed the rollbacks and made some movement on minor issues, but made no improvements to the major issues – health and safety, gender equality, work-life balance and preserving good, full time jobs. So, after no further progress, the union gave notice on Tuesday October 16 that it would start rotating strikes beginning on October 22.
The Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) contract expired on December 31, 2017 and the Urban Ops contract expired on January 31, 2018.
New permanent hires in Urban Ops have to work 7 years to get to the top pay scale. Temporary (or casual) workers don’t get any incremental pay increase until their hired. So if you work as a temp for 7 years (which is far from unusual), you will have to work at Canada Post for 14 years to reach the top pay scale.
We need agreements that are fair and respect us as workers. What Canada Post has offered us is simply not good enough and they know they have to do better. Overwork and overburdening have caused workers to be injured in record numbers over the last two years. We are being forced to work overtime hours, sacrificing our health and time with our families.
We’re being forced to work 12-hour days, delivering mail well into the evening and night. That’s just no way to live. We want to be treated like humans, not like machines. The way postal workers are treated is unacceptable and things need to change.
This past week, Canada Post released its 2017 Social Responsibility Report, which reported that full-day lost time injuries increased 36% in 2017 and that the lost time injury rate for 2017 was 46% greater than 2015.
Injury facts at Canada Post:
-During the last four years there have been 30,774 injuries to CUPW members. Of these 14,751 were disabling injuries.
-One out of every 12 workers at Canada Post experienced a disabling injury in 2017.
-The disabling injury rate at CPC is 5.4 times greater than the rest of the Federal sector.
-25% of letter carriers experienced an injury in 2017.
-One out of every eight letter carriers experienced a disabling injury in 2017.
-During the past three years the number of disabling injuries for RSMCs has increased 30%.
RSMCs have gained equity through the pay equity case, but we want equality. RSMCs are bargaining for pay for all hours worked, job security, and guaranteed work hours, to name a few. We will not stop until RSMCs reach full equality. It’s not just about how much they are paid, but that they are paid for all hours worked.
Fighting for the future
We aren’t just bargaining for today, we are bargaining for the future – for our members and everyone who relies on the postal service. We have innovative ideas to expand services and increase revenues to keep Canada Post relevant and self-sufficient. Canada Post does not cost the taxpayer a single dollar and has paid over $1.7 billion dollars to the government in taxes and dividends.
While letter mail is declining, Canada Post still processed 3 billion letters in 2017, which is over 8 million letters per day. And while letters have declined, online shopping has resulted in a dramatic increase in parcels. But Canada Post has failed to adapt to the massive increase in parcel volumes over the last few years and that has created a huge burden on workers.
We don’t want to go on strike, and we’ve given them more than the required 72-hours to meet with us and settle. Canada Post has the opportunity to prevent postal disruptions. We are going on rotating strikes because that allows the mail to continue moving with minor delays.
A version of this piece was first published on the Nova Scotia Advocate.