More delays expected as rotating strikes carry on for fifth week
Greta Kooy, News Editor
After nearly a year of negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the dispute has yet to see a resolution. The union, which represents 50,000 postal employees nationwide, is currently negotiating contract renewals in two divisions – urban carriers and rural and suburban workers. Talks between Canada Post and the CUPW began in November 2017, with mediated talks in January this year. Since 2017, 50,000 postal workers have been without a contract.
Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman addressed concerns over whether or not mail-in referendum material would be affected by the strike early on, noting that the dispute was being closely monitored by Elections BC. The referendum period is scheduled to conclude on Nov. 30, although, if necessary, Boegman does have the authority to extend the deadline.
In late October, the CUPW began rotating strikes. Different Canada Post locations will strike at different times in order to minimize postal disruptions. Strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Windsor and Halifax and have since spread to other cities across the country. At the time, a spokesperson for Canada Post said in a statement that they will “continue to operate across Canada… accepting and delivering mail and parcels in all other locations.” The strikes were set to last for 24 hours at respective locations.
“Since Oct. 22, CUPW’s rotating strikes have shut down Canada Post’s operations in more than 150 communities across the country,” Canada Post put in a news release, adding that they would “remain committed to the bargaining process.”
The CUPW’s key reasons for striking stem largely from recent surges of parcel deliveries and include wage equality for rural and suburban mail carriers, health and safety measures, job security and forced overtime.
Rotating strikes hit the Metro Vancouver area on Oct. 26 in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and North and West Vancouver with a total of 3,500 CUPW workers off the job.
“If anybody was in our position, where they’re put in the position to do things that they shouldn’t be doing or forced to work in the dark or unsafe conditions, I think they would have a problem with that too,” said Blair Bancroft, a CUPW member. Bancroft addressed striking letter carriers outside of a North Vancouver mail depot on Oct. 26.
In Vancouver, Anju Parma, CUPW Vancouver Local 846 third Vice-President told Global News that negotiations have still not resulted in their mutual satisfaction, adding that there are still many outstanding demands not being addressed.
“The Corporation has made significant offers to CUPW, which include increased wages, job security and improved benefits and has not asked for any concessions in return,” Canada Post said. However, their efforts have been futile. On Nov. 13, they suspended delivery-time guarantees.
The CUPW has closed two major processing centres, including one in BC, which Canada Post admitted will cause significant disruptions. 600 tractor-trailers of mail have accumulated since the beginning of the strikes. Canada Post has since requested foreign mail services to stop sending mail to Canada.
Canada Post has three main sorting plants located in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – all of which have been closed several times since the beginning of the rotating strikes. All three combined process approximately one million parcels per day.
“Canada Post has been working hard to maintain service to Canadians, but Vancouver is a key processing hub for mail and parcels in Canada. The union’s rotating strike will therefore have a significant impact on our operations and cause further backlogs of trailers,” they said.
Canada Post is deemed an essential public service, which means that the federal government can table legislation forcing employees back to work even in the event of a strike. During the 2011 postal workers strike – which was met with a lockout by Canada Post – the Canadian government passed legislation doing exactly that.
E-commerce giant eBay called on the federal government to put a stop to the dispute, prompting Canada Post’s new “time-limited” offer to CUPW. The four-year, $650 million offer includes an annual two per cent wage increase and a $10 million health and safety fund.
There was a catch, however. Negotiations had to be concluded before the holiday shopping rush with an acceptance deadline of Nov. 17.
Currently in their fifth week of rotating strikes across the country, the CUPW refuses to back down. “In spite of the continued assistance of the mediator over the weekend, Canada Post still refuses to address our major issues,” said CUPW national president Mike Palecek in a statement. “While we remain at the bargaining table, ready to negotiate with Canada Post, we will not sit back in silence. This fight is not over.”