Canada Post workers rally at Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg
Union representing postal workers call back-to-work legislation a charter violation
While union groups disrupted operations at an Ontario Canada Post sorting facility Saturday, postal workers and supporters held a rally outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, calling legislation forcing them back to work a violation of their charter rights.
"Let's give a message all the way to Ottawa — negotiate, don't legislate," said Gord Fischer, the national director of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) prairie region, in a speech to union members and supporters in front of the CMHR.
Canada Post employees had been on rotating strikes across the country for five weeks before the senators voted Monday night in favour of the Liberal government's legislation to force Canada Post employees back to work.
C-89 imposes fines of between $1,000 and $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the Act, and up to $100,000 per day against Canada Post or the union if they are found guilty of violating its terms.
"The fact that they've been legislated back to work through our federal government is a shame and it takes away the rights of workers," said Lisa Peterson, president of the CUPW Winnipeg local.
"We're here to tell our Prime Minister it's not fair what's been done."
The union says it wants better pay and job security, guaranteed hours for its 8,000 rural and suburban carriers, and equality for those workers with the corporation's 42,000 urban employees. It also wants Canada Post to adopt rules that would address workplace injuries.
Fischer said rural and suburban carriers are paid a set salary, and without an hourly wage many are forced to work without pay to finish routes that take longer than their allotted shift.
Rural and suburban mail carrier Eric Toupin says the system isn't fair.
"I really enjoy the people I work with, but it's a very demoralizing to work for Canada Post… because the expectation and the reality are at odds," he told CBC News at the rally.
"As workers we wanted to have our say and improve our working conditions and Justin Trudeau has taken that away from us."
Meanwhile roughly 100 demonstrators, mostly members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, waved placards, chanted, burned wood in barrels and blocked three entrances to sorting facility in Mississauga, Ont. Saturday.
Canada Post called the barricades "illegal" and said on Saturday it has obtained an injunction from the Ontario Superior Court that prevents "blockading" at the facility.
"The protesters are in violation of the court order," Canada Post said in a tweet. "We will take all appropriate action to address illegal activity impacting the collection and delivery of mail and parcels to Canadians."
CUPE says 19 protests are scheduled this weekend at facilities across the country, allowing workers to enter, but not letting mail out of the plants. The union said its members in Ontario plan to protest at the Mississauga facility until 10 p.m. ET on Saturday, in spite of being served with the injunction.
Courts in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. have granted injunctions that prohibit anyone from obstructing or interfering with people or vehicles entering or exiting its facilities.
There is no word whether similar actions are planned in Winnipeg.
'Holding Canadians hostage'
While the demonstration went on in Winnipeg, CBC News was hard pressed to find anyone who supported the postal workers' protest, outside of those taking part in the rally.
When a reporter caught up with Karen Fletcher and her husband Lee Fletcher shopping at The Forks, the couple said they're going to be using a courier to make sure their gifts make it to their grandchildren this Christmas.
Karen said postal workers are "holding Canadians hostage" by striking around the holidays.
"This is a government agency, so why can't the government just tell them sooner to go back to work?" she asked.
"Why are they allowed to do this to us? Why should we support them?"
Thirteen-year-old William Boulton told CBC News he's happy mail carriers are back to work because he's been waiting for a birthday present to arrive in the mail since the end of October.
"Everyday when I get home from school I look in the mailbox but there's nothing there," he said.
"I'd really like it because my dad said my grandma was going to give me something really cool for my 13th birthday but it hasn't come yet and my dad still won't tell me."
With files from Walther Bernal, Austin Grabish and Muriel Draaisma