British Columbia

Canada Post workers still without new contract 1 year after back-to-work bill passed

It has been over a year since the federal government ordered postal workers back to work after a month of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). They still don't have a contract. 

Canada Post back-to-work Bill C-89 passed Nov. 24, 2018.

A Canada Post worker returns to work after the government ordered an end to the union's rotating strike Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/Canada Post)

It has been over a year since the federal government ordered postal workers back to work after a month of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

They still don't have a contract.

CUPW's 50,000 members — split into two groups: urban and "rural and suburban" carriers — have demanded better pay, more job security and minimum guaranteed hours.

The legislation ordering the end of the strike, Bill C-89, was passed into law in the House of Commons on Nov. 24, 2018 and went into effect Nov. 27, 2018.

Sharon Jacobs, who is a letter carrier in the Broadway corridor between Oak and Cambie streets in Vancouver, says Bill C-89 was upsetting. 

"It was galling. I was really, really disappointed with the decision to do that and the talk that led up to it. We weren't even completely off the job," Jacobs told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition

Following Bill C-89, a mediator was appointed in December 2018 to oversee CUPW and Canada Post negotiations. 

On Nov. 18, 2019, arbitrator Elizabeth MacPherson requested a second arbitration extension from the minister of labour. She was granted an extension to June 30, 2020. 

The rural and suburban carriers' contract will be two years expired, as of Dec. 31, and the urban carriers' contract will will be two years expired, as of Jan. 31, 2020, according to CUPW. 

"We're running on an old contract, old work conditions, old work rules. So, even if this thing gets resolved in June and we sign ... it's two and a half years expired ... it's very frustrating,"Jacobs said.

CUPW pickets on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, October 2018. (Catherine Rolfsen/CBC)

Rotating strike

Canada Post was dependent on overtime, says Jacobs. During the 2018 strike, CUPW began with an overtime ban, with employees still working five days a week.

"And that sent them into a tailspin. They got into a panic," Jacobs said of Canada Post.

During the strike, backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots accumulated. However, Canada Post and the union disputed how big and significant the pileup was.

"It was rotating strikes. The mail was still moving, people were still getting things. That might have been delayed by a day or two, but things were still moving," Jacobs said. 

Changing face of postal work

Jacobs, who has worked with Canada Post for 24 years, says her job has changed significantly since the advent of Amazon and significant increases in mail ordering. 

"They're not changes that I like. If I had wanted to just drive around and deliver parcels, I could have done that 24 years ago. I chose to be a letter carrier. I wanted to be out walking in our neighborhood ... in the daylight ... early morning starts. I could pick up my kids at school. I could have dinner with my family."

Jacobs says wintertime is particularly difficult for postal workers.

"It's dark at about 4 p.m. now. Not everyone's up to speed on that. Not everyone has a porch light on. People might still be out at work." 

Jacobs says working conditions for postal workers are mostly the same since Bill C-89 passed. There is a clause in the Canada Post workers' collective agreement in which they can be forced to work overtime. However, Jacobs says when Bill C-89 went into effect, Canada Post agreed not to enact that clause.

There continues to be a freeze on mandatory overtime for postal workers, according to CUPW. 

CBC's The Early Edition reached out to Canada Post for comments on the postal workers' contract. They declined "out of respect for the ongoing arbitration process."

Listen to the full interview here:

With files from The Early Edition and The Canadian Press