A local perspective on postal union’s rotating strike action

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By Dawn Huddlestone and Laura MacLean

“We don’t want to strike. We want to be at work, doing our jobs and moving the mail and parcels for the community,” said Doug McDonald, a full-time postal clerk who has been working for Canada Post in Huntsville for 32 years. “It’s something we’re proud to do. But Canada Post isn’t seriously considering our concerns. Without a decent and fair offer from Canada Post, we’ve been forced into rotating strikes.”

On October 16, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) gave notice to Canada Post that job action would begin the following week if agreements couldn’t be reached for the Urban Postal Operations and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) bargaining units.

“Our members gave us a clear mandate to take job action if Canada Post refused to address our major issues— health and safety, gender equality and preserving full-time, middle class jobs,” said CUPW national president, Mike Palecek, in a media release.

Key demands for postal workers are job security, an end to forced overtime and overburdening, better health and safety measures, service expansion and equality for RSMCs, noted the release, adding that “the working conditions of postal workers have deteriorated over the last decade in part because Canada Post has failed to properly address the massive increase in parcel volumes and the burden it has placed on members.”

In September, arbitrator Maureen Flynn ordered Canada Post Corporation to pay its rural and suburban carriers, most of them women and most of them earning at least 25 per cent less than their urban counterparts, equal pay. Flynn issued the ruling after the two sides failed to reach an agreement by an August 30 deadline.

With no agreement in place for its other demands, CUPW began rotating strikes in communities across the country on October 22. They reached Huntsville on Friday, November 9, when union members walked a picket line outside the post office on Main Street.

“We’re disappointed with Canada Post’s offers to us and we certainly stand strong and united in fighting for our offers and proposals to Canada Post,” said McDonald. “We had collectively over 94 per cent (of employees) to fight for those rights.”

He added that the pay equity win doesn’t go far enough. “Rural Suburban Mail Carriers are not paid for all hours they work. They have a daily rate and if they work longer than that they are not paid for that. They need to be paid for all hours worked. There’s huge health and safety concerns. They have the highest injury-on-duty rate just behind the mining sector. There’s huge health and safety concerns in delivering mail. There’s trips, slips and falls and an increase in parcels. We want those concerns to be addressed for not just the mail carriers but for all members of Canada Post. This labour situation between the union and Canada Post is for inside workers, letter carriers, Rural Suburban Mail Carriers.”

In a November 10 update, Canada Post said that it “remains committed to the bargaining process. The Corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security, and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return.”

Canada Post added that it has “also committed to work together to address employees’ workload concerns caused by parcel growth, additional financial services and going beyond pay equity for Rural and Suburban employees by extending job security and moving to one uniform for all delivery employees.”

On the same day, CUPW posted a message from Dave Bleakney, CUPW’s second national vice-president, that began, “Courage, focus and patience! We are up against big forces and an ‘operations’ culture that has used us. It is not easy and we need each other. We can change our working conditions for the better, not by asking but by making it happen—by showing our collective strength.”

McDonald said he’s proud to be a CUPW member and acknowledged that “we get bashed a lot and we get a lot of support.” But he added that it’s important to note that the union “fights for social justice. In the early ’80s we were out on the picket for 40 days for paid maternity for the ladies. We were the first sector to win. Men were out there as well. I didn’t picket to win. It was a social issue. Shortly after, all Canadians won that right. Members of CUPW fought for that great cause. For our union, it’s not that we want more money or paid leave. We’re fairly looked after. It’s the labour struggle our union has put forth.”

You can find updates from Canada Post at canadapost.ca/update and from CUPW at cupw.ca/en/news-and-events as negotiations continue.

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10 Comments

  1. None of us would never want anyone to be hurt on the job. Hard to believe that being a Postal Worker is being classified as dangerous work in the same category as miners. Perhaps not delivering all that junk mail we receive would help the delivery issues. Less junk mail also creates less damage to the environment. We should be able to go on line and request Canada Post to stop delivering junk mail to our address. This would be a simple solution to the overburdened postal delivery folks.

    • Hello Edward, you can request Canada Post to stop delivering “junk” mail to your address, unfortunately it cannot be done online. You can request this at your local post office by bringing in government issued photo I.D.

  2. Your kidding …right ..”it’s not that we want more money or paid leave.”? Too funny .. it’s all about money! and benefits .. and .. union strength! Management adds new services ie parcel shipping for weed and other non-mail parcel services to keep your jobs and all I hear is how hard you need to work now to do your … JOB!

      • Douglas McDonald on

        Hello Ed, I trust you are not being facetious with your comment. Injuries on the job are no laughing matter. Congratulations if you have not suffered from this. Canada Post employees, miners and the rest of working Canadians who have suffered work place related injuries should never be mad fun of.

    • Hello Bob, no I am “not kidding”, after 32 years with Canada Post I am fairly well looked after, I make a decent wage and have decent benefits. Yes I do want a pay increase but that is not what is stopping our union and Canada Post from reaching an agreement. Canada Post is attacking our working conditions and in particular new hires. You can respond sarcastically with it being “too funny” but I assure you it is not too funny to employees of Canada Post or the people that use our service. Are you saying “union strength” as a negative denotation? For it is with union strength that I have had a decent middle class job that has afforded me the ability to look after and raise my family. Yes I am fortunate not to be in the non-livable wage bracket of $14.00/hour.

  3. Some sectors should, perhaps, be ordered back to work; e.g. teachers, and postal workers at Christmas. Obviously, I don’t care for myself, but there are gifts for my children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren which are being shanghaied somewhere; undelivered.

  4. Kathy Henderson on

    It has always bugged me that if you work for the government you make good money, you get benefits and sick days AND YOU GET A PENSION. Not to belittle the job as I know postal workers work hard as I have a few friends work for the post office in the city BUT why does this position warrant good pay benefits sick days AND a pension? We the people are the government and most people do not get the good pay,benefits, sick days or pension or job security . We don’t work we don’t get paid. Most people make just enough to pay their bills with nothing left over for retirement. I could do a job at the post office as could so many others. I’m pretty sure you don’t need a university education to do most government jobs so why do government workers get enough to look after their families, paid sick days, good benefits and a retirement pension when I and many others do the same type of work WITHOUT THE BIG PAY, BENEFITS, PAID SICK DAYS AND A PENSION? What makes someone doing the same job as a postal worker, government employee or even a town employee worth less than others doing similar jobs? This has always irritated me. I can see making more if special education is required before applying for the job. But to me working for the government, which is me, shouldn’t automatically qualify you for all that they get. My opinion and experience. They do need to find out why all the accidents and do something to resolve that. But most people have not seen a raise in pay in years, do not have benefits or paid sick days or a pension or job security and work really really hard as well.

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