Nfld. & Labrador

Canada Post workers vote in favour of strike action if deal can't be reached

Union workers could be off job Sept. 26, working conditions and pay are key issues

September 12, 2018

A postal worker walks past Canada Post trucks at a sorting centre in Montreal. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has voted in favour of strike action if an agreement can't be reached with Canada Post. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
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Canadian postal workers have voted in favour of strike action, with the union president saying members are overworked.

Strike votes were held at locals across the country between Aug. 7 and Sept. 9, with 93.8 per cent of urban postal operations workers and 95.9 per cent of rural and suburban mail carriers voting to walk out if an agreement can't be reached with Canada Post.

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That could happen as early as Sept. 26, shutting down mail delivery, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has warned.

"It would mean that it would basically cease for the time that the bargaining units were out," Jim Gallant, CUPW's regional grievance officer for Atlantic Canada, told CBC News on Wednesday afternoon.

There's a lot of people that are forced into working a lot of overtime. - Jim Gallant

"A decision has to be made by the union at that point, but the membership has given the union permission to do what we need to do to come to an agreement with Canada Post on a contract, so that's the last trump card that workers have."

Negotiations began in November 2017, with mediated talks starting in January. The collective agreement for the rural and suburban letter carriers, with about 8,000 members, expired Dec. 31, 2017, while the collective agreement for the urban postal operations unit, which has 42,000 members, expired Jan. 31, 2018.

Canada Post's first offer to the union was Sept. 7, something that should have happened months ago, said Gallant.

"From January until September, you don't get anything from them, you're forced to go out and take a vote on maybe taking strike action, and near the end of that, within a couple of days of the end of it, they give you an offer. So people have already voted to take strike action if necessary."

'Not quite sure'

The deal is being reviewed, but Gallant noted Canada Post has said it's not their final offer.

"I'm not quite sure what that means. They said that it's a starting point for conversation," he said. "We thought the starting point for conversation was when we sat at a table with them in January."

There are effectively two tiers to the negotiations, said Gallant. One is the need to reach two collective agreements, and the other is to reach an agreement on a pay-gap issue.

In late May, an arbitrator ruled that urban and rural mail carriers do essentially the same work, but  pay gap exists between the two groups. The rural and suburban letter carriers, who are mostly female, earn at least 25 per cent less than their urban colleagues, who are largely male.

Wages and working conditions main issues

As for the issues that are holding up contract talks, wages and working conditions are the major ones, said Gallant.

"There's a lot of people that are forced into working a lot of overtime instead of [increasing] staffing," he said. "So in a place like St. John's, that might mean a lot of overtime instead of hiring 10 more people."

A spokesperson from Canada Post declined a request for an interview from CBC but provided a written statement that said talks are continuing with the union to find common ground.

"We remain focused on working toward a successful resolution," it said.

"On Friday, September 7, Canada Post tabled offers which reflect the recent growth in our parcel business and the important role employees have played in this success. The offers include pay increases, benefit improvements and a commitment to work collaboratively on several areas of importance to both parties."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel MacEachern
CBC News

Daniel MacEachern is a St. John's-based reporter and producer with CBC News. You can email him at daniel.maceachern@cbc.ca.

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