Strike by contract drivers disrupts some Canada Post parcel service

Parcel delivery drivers who work for a company contracted by Canada Post are on strike in Sydney, New Glasgow and St. Stephen, N.B. They've been looking for a first contract for nearly two years.

Contractor, union disagree on who is at fault for lack of negotiations

CUPW delivery drivers Brad Burchell and Paul White were among 14 contract employees on strike outside Canada Post's mail sorting plant on Upper Prince Street in Sydney. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Canada Post says mail delivery in parts of the Maritimes is being disrupted by striking contract drivers.

About 20 workers who deliver parcels for Nor-Pel, a Quebec-based company contracted by Canada Post, launched an information picket Wednesday morning at the Sydney mail sorting plant on Upper Prince Street.

The employees, who are members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, say they have not been able to negotiate a collective agreement since 2016, when Nor-Pel got the contract.

Darrell Hill, one of the drivers, said he started 16 years ago at $10 an hour. He now makes $14.30 an hour and has no benefits.

Darrell Hill, a delivery driver for 16 years, says every time Canada Post changes contractors, he loses more benefits. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The union says it is willing to negotiate. It's asking for $18 an hour and a basic medical package for the workers.

Hill said every time Canada Post changes contractors, he loses more benefits.

"We're sending them a strong message that we're not fooling around with them," he said. "We want something done and we want something done now.

"That's the whole idea of us being here, to get a contract, or get a livable wage and a medical package, or whatever they got."

Looking for a livable wage, basic benefits

Hill said drivers used to get paid vacation and sick days, food and clothing allowances and medical coverage.

Now, they get nothing, he said.

"I'm paying for everything out of my own pocket and last year I spent almost $3,000 in expenses with my family," Hill said. 

"It's a lot of money every month to come out of your pocket. And I think this day and age, everybody should have some kind of medical package, and we went after them when they first got here to give us some kind of a medical package and they kept giving us excuse after excuse after excuse, so we ended up with nothing."

Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, says Canada Post is "contractor flipping," which means the union has to regularly start over in collective bargaining. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Mike Palecek, national president of CUPW, was on the picket line on Wednesday, and said the problem is Canada Post is "contract flipping."

"That allows one company to drop a contract and another one to pick it up, and then it's like starting all over again with collective bargaining," he said.

The latest contractor, Nor-Pel, won't even talk to the union, Palecek said.

Company blames union for bargaining impasse

Pascal Rochefort, a Montreal-area lawyer who represents Nor-Pel, said it's the union that's being unco-operative.

He said CUPW has only made one contract offer and it was in a non-negotiable format.

The company is awaiting a decision from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board on whether the contract falls under federal or provincial labour laws, Rochefort said.

In the meantime, the company has gone as far as setting dates to meet with the union and a conciliator.

Contractor says it's willing to meet

"We're still open to go there, but the union never came back on those dates and basically just said you either take the collective agreement that we're sending you, or we go on strike," said Rochefort.

"We have been and we remain willing to meet with the union in the presence of the conciliator appointed in the file."

The company is not planning to bring in replacement workers, he said.

According to an emailed statement, Canada Post says it expected some disruption in mail delivery and is monitoring the situation.

However, the post office is not commenting on the strike or negotiations, saying it's a matter between the contractor and the union.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 32 years. He has spent the last 14 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.