Manitoba

Canada Post rotating strikes hit Winnipeg, Brandon

Manitoba is the latest province to be hit by rotating strikes by members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.​

2nd week of rotating walkouts around the country

Rotating strikes started Oct. 22 after negotiators failed to reach a new contract agreement before a deadline set by CUPW. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Manitoba is the latest province to be hit by rotating strikes by members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.​

The union's 1,500 members walked off the job in Winnipeg at 10 p.m. Sunday, while workers in Brandon set up picket lines just after midnight.

Mail and parcels will not be delivered or picked up in the impacted areas, the postal agency said on its website. There is no word on how long the job action will last in Manitoba.

The union wants a four-year term in the new contracts, with 3.5 per cent wage increases in each year. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Canada Post also reported on its website Sunday night that weekend strikes were continuing in Niagara Falls, Ont. and Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.

This is the second week of rotating walkouts around the country.

The job action started Oct. 22 after negotiators failed to reach a new contract agreement before a deadline that was set by CUPW.

The union, which has more than 50,000 members across the country, is pushing for improved job security, an end to forced overtime and better health and safety measures.

With the explosion of Amazon, where you can get [everything from] a toothbrush down to car parts, it's amazing what we do deliver- Lisa Peterson

"We're frustrated. We had an imposed contract in 2011 by the Harper government. They legislated us back to work," said Lisa Peterson, president of CUPW's Winnipeg branch.

"We had negotiated increases in wages and other benefits for our workers and unfortunately, when the Conservative Harper government legislated us back, they rolled back some of those issues for us."

Peterson acknowledged there are people who perceive letter carriers as irrelevant in the age of email but in fact, they're busier than ever, she said.

There is less letter mail but there has been an "overwhelming" increase in the number of packets and parcels, she said.

"We're in a different time where a majority of shoppers are doing a great bit online, and with the explosion of Amazon, where you can get [everything from] a toothbrush down to car parts, it's amazing what we do deliver," Peterson said.

Consequently, there has also been increased rates of injury, overburdening and fatigue, she said.

"We're still waiting for Canada Post to deal with our health and safety concerns. We're needing them [Canada Post] to come to the table and face some of those issues."

Seeking 4-year deal, annual wage increases

The most recent contracts — there are separate ones for urban and rural carriers — expired at the end of December 2017 and January 2018.

The union wants a four-year term in the new contracts, with 3.5 per cent wage increases in each year, "which we feel is very fair considering the rollbacks and secessions that we took over previous contracts," Peterson said.

Canada Post workers in Winnipeg picket early Monday at the sorting station near the airport. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The union also wants the agreements to be retroactive to the expiration of the previous contracts — which means members would get a chunk of back pay.

"Canada Post isn't recognizing the work that we've put into progressing this company, bringing profits and serving Canadians from coast to coast," Peterson said.

"We have more corporate locations than there are Tim Hortons across this country."

In response to the strike, Canada Post released a statement in which it says it remains committed to the bargaining process, noting a special mediator appointed by the federal government is working to help reach a settlement.

"The corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security, and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return," the statement says.

"We value the relationship with the union and have been able to find common ground on some issues. We have also committed to work together to address employees' workload concerns caused by parcel growth, additional financial services and going beyond pay equity for rural and suburban employees by extending job security and moving to one uniform for all delivery employees."

For years, u​rban letter carriers and rural and suburban delivery employees have had different Canada Post uniforms, according to a spokesperson for the corporation.

"We reached agreement in principle in October to give [rural and suburban] employees the rights to order from the same uniform catalogue as urban employees with the same number of points — how many articles you can order during a specific time period," said spokesman Jon Hamilton. 

With files from Austin Grabish

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