Why We All Must Support Our Postal Workers

Any day now 45,000 postal workers could be on strike or locked out from their job by their employer Canada Post Corporation (CPC). The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and CPC have been in negotiation since October. The two sides are at fundamental odds over working conditions, the future of the postal service, and the treatment of new workers.

The CPC, a crown corporation, has been profitable for the last 16 years. In its last reported year, 2009, CPC registered a net profit of 281 million dollars from a total revenue of 3.1 billion dollars. Mail volumes fell in 2009, largely due to the economic downturn, but remained well above what they were 10 years ago. According to CPC  in 2009 “the negative pressure on revenue growth was mitigated by cost containment and operational efficiencies along with an unplanned non-cash reduction in employee future benefits expense.”

Thus despite an 8 percent reduction in mail volumes in 2009 CPC was able to make profits by reducing worker’s benefits and denying health and safety concerns of their employees (Postal workers make up about %6 of the federal workforce but account for  %20 of federal workforce injuries). And even though CPC recorded its most profitable year in 2009 “Canada Post did not pay a dividend to the Government of Canada in 2009 due to the company’s financial challenges and the need for significant capital reinvestment to modernize the postal system. ”

This reinvestment was the spending of 2 billion dollars to purchase new sorting machines, reorganize routes and reduce “inefficiencies” in the postal service. This capital reinvestment is referred to as the Modern Post. The Modern Post is an attempt by the CPC to reduce the size of its workforce, weaken the power of CUPW, increase the productivity among workers while reducing wages and benefits to those very same workers.

During negotiations the CPC has insisted on creating a two-tiered workplace where new workers will: get paid around %30 less than current employees, will have a defined pension plan where they bear all the risk, longer hours, less job security and less paid leave. This is an obvious ploy to weaken the union by creating resentment among new members and by setting up a precedence for all members wages and benefits to be reduce in future bargaining.

The CPC is also trying to implement working conditions that defy any standard of health and safety. They want letter carriers to carry double bundles in one arm when they are delivering mail. For those of you who are not letter carriers, this means you have two huge satchels on your side, a weird scanner gun, a heavy bundle of mail in your hand  and a heavy bundle of mail on that same forearm.  This is just plain dangerous, especially with longer routes and inclement weather. In places where they have tried implement this change, letter carriers simply refused to work under such conditions and went out on a wildcat strike.

The CPC  is trying to end sick leave as it is known. The want to replace sick days, with a Short-Term Disability (STD) plan. The STD plan pays 30 percent less than sick days, there is a lag of seven days before you can file for STD plan coverage in which you have to use personal days. Your claim is then subject to Manulife’s approval.

So why is the postal worker’s struggle important for us non-postal workers?

First off, CUPW is the most progressive union in Canada. It has been at the forefront of many progressive struggles. It was the first national union to pass a boycott, divestment and sanction resolution against the state of Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestine. CUPW had also been the first Canadian union to pass a boycott resolution against South African apartheid. It has also taken stances against the Iraq war and the Afghan war as well as taking stances against NAFTA and the FTAA. CUPW is also a major reason that maternity leave exists at all in Canada. In 1981, as a result of a 42-day strike, CUPW successfully negotiated 17 weeks of maternity leave paid at a rate of 93% of wages. This was a major breakthrough for all workers as the government and other major employers were forced to provide maternity leave and improve on it.

The defeat of the postal workers would be a major blow to the Canadian labour movement which is also facing huge jobs cuts on the federal level. If the CPC were victorious other major employers would implement many of CPC’s rules regarding sick leave and wage rollbacks and two-tier workplaces. This would be disastrous for all workers, whether they are unionized or not.

The CPC and the Harper government want to privatize our postal system. The CPC over the years has been whittling down the services provided by the postal system. They have reduced rural service, replaced door-to-door service with community mail boxes and got rid of banking services. An expanded postal service would create more jobs and provide more services in our communities.

Our society has become more and more unequal. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Linda Mcquaig and others have noted, the top-earning 1 per cent of Canadians almost doubled their share of national income, from 7.7 per cent to 13.8 per cent, over the past three decades. Things are only set to get worse under Harper. Workers, both unionized and non-unionized face a future of precarious job security and working conditions. Migrant labourers, women and people of colour will be facing even worse conditions as the Harper government will cut services, increase the security apparatus and institute a regressive regime that will police borders, bodies and dissent with the utmost cruelty.

This will be done in the service of a system, capitalism, which serves only those who already have power and wealth beyond the wildest imagination of most people in our society.

We are facing a choice in our society. Do we want to live in a place where managers and bosses aim to squeeze out as much profit from our labour and our communities just so a few people can have a third home and a second yacht. Or do we want to live in communities based on social solidarity, where if some one is down and out we help them out as equals and we look out for one another?

So we must support our postal workers with as much effort as we can muster. If they are handed a defeat by the Harper government we will all eventually feel it. So please lets organize and support postal workers in our communities as best we can. Whatever differences we may have, politically or personally, let’s put those aside so we can rally around this important struggle.  Put your trust in the postal workers and let’s focus on build community mobilization for this cause.

By practicing solidarity with our postal workers, by talking to our friends and neighbours, by building links in our communities around common struggles we can further build our capacity to resist attacks on those very communities. Also, through struggle we can build a better political analysis based on concrete realities that will help hone future political strategies to fight for a better world.

Together we can win this fight!

How You Can Help:

-Educate yourself on the issues

-Talk to your friends, neighbours, and family about the issues

-Put a sign of support in your window, then go to your neighbour and ask if they will do the same

-Write into your paper, call your radio station, commnet online and demand they get their facts straight and let them know you are with the posties

-Find groups organizing in your community, coordinate actions with them such as: canvassing neighbourhoods, having an information picket, leafleting events, putting up posters, making banners, organize teach-ins, film nights, organizing picket line support, coordinating community food servings, etc….

If there is no group in your community organizing then start one…

An injury to ONE is and an injury to ALL!

For materials (posters and pamphlets) you can use in your communities visit

supportpostalworkers.wordpress.com

If you are on Facebook join the event

https://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=221211814573000&notif_t=event_wall#wall_posts

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6 responses to “Why We All Must Support Our Postal Workers

  1. Thank you for a very concise, well-written summary of our struggle. I will add one more reason why the public at large should be against CPC’s “Short Term Disability” Plan. We will not be able to go on to the disability part of the plan until after we exhaust our Employment Insurance sick benefits. Under our present system we do not use Employment Insurance benefits when we are sick or injured, thus we are not a drain on the public purse. In case anybody missed it in your article, Canada Post does not receive tax money (contrary to popular opinion), and actually pays a dividend to the government annually.

    • Thanks for the comment,
      I am sure there are bunch of things I either overlooked or simplified with the STD plan. In short I think we can say the STD plan is malicious, complex and frankly stupid. Your clarification is most welcome…
      And yes Canada Post is a profitable crown corporation despite the best efforts of management to drive it into the ground.

  2. THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT
    IT IS HARD TO HEAR PEOPLE SAY TO GET RID OF THE POST OFFICE, IT IS COSTING US TOO MUCH MONEY. WHEN IT COST THEM NOTHING IF THEY DON’T USE THE SERVICE. AND WE ARE A SERVICE PROVIDER TO ALL CANADIANS.

  3. Thanks for the post. Allow me to give you another perspective. We are a small, but growing Canadian business. A few years ago we chose to invest in Canada rather than run our business by remote from the US as many of our competitors do.

    We currently ship about 2,000 packages per month, which makes us interesting, but not really significant to CP.

    Over the past few years we have been forced to absorb annual price increases from CP as the market will simply not accept us passing these on to them. As CP was historically significantly cheaper than options like FedEx and UPS, this is no longer the case. Without a doubt, their sole remaining competitive edge is the geographic reach of their network – much of it outsourced and not represented by CUPW interestingly.

    Our business cannot survive without shipping every day. The simple fact is that we would be irreparably damaged by a shipping halt of more than 4 or 5 days. No shipments means no income. Overhead will continue however. My staff still need to be paid.With no revenue, how do I do that?

    This risk is unacceptable to us, and leaves us with only two choices – dump CP and move to an alternate vendor, or close our operation completely and ship from south of the 49th parallel. Both of these options are really undesirable.

    I would love to discuss the incongruity of your view on profit and it’s importance to the functioning of a society, but that is probably for another day.

  4. Canada Post is the only way my small business can send packages to the USA without brokerage fees. The American courier companies charge between $8 and $20 to process a $50 package, and their shipping rates are typically about double.

    I can’t allow a strike to cripple my company, so I recently hired an American fulfillment company to process American orders. That means that I won’t be hiring Canadian shipping staff in the future, and Canadian postal workers will not handle my company’s packages.

    I don’t want to do this, but I need to pay for food and shelter for my family and I am *very* angry at CP and CUPW for directly threatening my livelihood.

  5. Jono,

    CPC does not “out source” in Canada. We have contractors who deliver parcels depending on location, but we always have, at least in the 24 years I’ve worked for Canada Post. This is the Corporation’s decision not to have employees do the work but instead hire a contractor (usually the lowest bidder) do the work.
    Further more, we are the “Last Mile delivery” for some couriers who prefer not to deliver to more rural areas. Fedex to name just one.

    This should give you an inkling of what the delivery would be like if the Post Office is privatised. Local delivery would be cheap while remote areas will be very very expensive. I’m talking about letters here. Right now mail delivery in rural areas is subsidised by the sale of stamps else where. Profits in this Crown Corporation are spread to all areas in the country. This is what providing a service means. Not the current corporate mind set of make money money money, profit being the bottom line. Privatisation would cut off the more remote communities or at least make it very expensive.
    As a Union Member, I realise that a strike will impact many people and business’s and for that I am sorry. However the blame should not fall on the shoulders of the workers. Management quite often pushes us into this position of strike for various reasons. Not the least of which, they believe we will be legislated back to work. Avoiding true contract negotiations.

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