Postal employees forced back to work

As a result of the back to work legislation implemented upon Canada Post this past Tuesday June 28, Canadians can once again open their mailboxes and find bills.

On June 14, Canada Post locked out its employees after they performed 12 days of rotating strikes. Gerry Deveau, Ontario’s regional director of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) said that the rotating strikes were done in order to minimize any impact to Canadian citizens. “The lockout,” Deveau said, “was implemented by management, not the workers.”

Following the lockout, numerous bargaining sessions were held between Canada Post’s management and its employees, but neither side made any sort of amendment to their position.

“They want to establish a two-tier employment system,” Deveau said. “They want to change pensions and benefits and make an inferior sick leave system.” He continued to say that Canada Post wants “to implement pay cuts because they say they’re preparing for future projected losses — but our profits don’t seem to show this.”

Another reason Canada Post plans on making cuts to workers’ contracts is because, in a rapidly growing technological world, the need for letter mail is decreasing thanks to e-mail, Facebook and other social media tools.

Bronwyn Corrigan, a third-year student at Queens University said, “The postal strike was just more of an inconvenience for me since I usually receive my bills in the mail. But I just set up payment online so it wasn’t a big deal.”

“We do honestly recognise that letter-mail has declined,” Deveau said. “But parcels have increased, businesses still heavily rely on Canada Post and we believe letter-mail will stabilize.”

Larger corporations such as Sobeys didn’t find the strike too problematic. Erin Reidel, administration manager of Sobeys Northfield Waterloo, admitted, “We weren’t overly inconvenienced. We’re covered by Purolator for many of our resources so it wasn’t too bad.”

She continued, “The only thing that was frustrating was customers who signed up for Club Sobeys cards. They were gathering points and bonuses but since we couldn’t send their information to head office, they weren’t receiving anything.”

The federal government still insisted that an agreement be made or legislation would be enforced. While not every business relies heavily on Canada Post, many still do. Paper companies and stationary stores that mail out invitations would have lost business due to the strikes, as well as those that offer subscriptions, catalogues or online companies such as eBay.

When debate between the employer and union failed to move in any direction, the Conservative government stepped in, threatening that unless an agreement was quickly reached, back to work legislation would be passed in order to get Canada Post back up and running.

“The government should not be involved.” Deveau said. “We should be permitted to engage in free, collective bargaining without any government influence.” He continued to say that it’s common for the government to side with the employer, which is what happened when Bill C-6 was passed in the House of Commons last Saturday night.

According to Deveau, the union is obviously unhappy but is currently looking for ways to challenge this legislation in court. “We were always hopeful the members of the Conservative government would see how unjust it all was and would make amendments.”

“Clearly, this is not a government looking for fairness,” he added.

The New Democratic Party did stand up on behalf of the postal workers and delayed the passing of the bill for as long as they could. However, it wasn’t enough.

The NDP tried to bring forward a final amendment to the bill dealing with wage cuts and pay-rates but the Conservatives defeated it, along with every other amendment presented on Saturday June 25.

Deveau also mentioned that management is refusing workers any overtime hours. The carriers are apparently willing to work longer hours to ensure that Canadians get their mail as quickly as possible, but this is being denied. They have been instructed to work eight hours and then leave the unfinished tasks until the next business day.

“If they were actually concerned about service to the public,” Deveau said, “they would let workers stay longer. So this is yet another example of management having no interest in the public.”

In other words, if workers were allowed to stay longer all mail could be out and resume normally by the beginning of next week. With this denied overtime, mail will take a few weeks to resume its normal pace.

“I would just like to say,” Deveau added, “that none of this was intended to harm the Canadian citizens. We just wanted to bring attention to management, the unfairness of our situation.”