Nova Scotia

Unionized drivers must apply to keep jobs after Canada Post hires new contractor in N.S.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says it's a 'steady race to the bottom' for drivers who have to fight for their jobs every time Canada Post hires a new contractor.

Postal union local in Cape Breton accuses Crown corporation of trying to save money on backs of drivers

Gordie MacDonald, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 117, says some parcel delivery drivers for Canada Post will be out of work after the hiring of a new contractor. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers local in Cape Breton is calling on Canada Post to move its parcel delivery service in-house after the Crown corporation hired a new contractor, which will result in job losses.

Gordie MacDonald, president of CUPW Local 117, said "contract flipping" means the union has to fight for workers every time the contract gets switched from one company to another.

The new contractor, NovaXpress of Halifax, takes over from Quebec-based Nor-Pel on Sept. 30.

MacDonald said the only reason Canada Post hired a new contractor is to save money.

"We were out on strike with the Nor-Pel bargaining unit in 2018 for a collective agreement and here we are in 2021, three years later in the middle of a pandemic, and Canada Post decides to flip this contract once more," he said.

"It's been a steady race to the bottom for these guys."

The union local represents 13 drivers in and around Sydney, plus one in Antigonish and several more in St. Stephen, N.B.

Those three locations fall under the same collective agreement and will all continue to be serviced by Nor-Pel until NovaXpress takes over.

Drivers want to keep jobs, says union

MacDonald said COVID-19 public health restrictions kept many people at home, creating a huge spike in the parcel delivery business, and the pandemic is still going on.

"A year ago, we were calling them heroes," he said of the drivers. "We were calling them front-line workers. We were boosting them up and putting them on pedestals, and here today, Canada Post decides they're going to sweep them out the door to save a few dollars on their backs."

MacDonald said one driver started out at $8 an hour and after 30 years on the job, now makes $16 an hour as a result of the contract won after the 2018 strike.

"That's not big money," he said.

The union is trying to convince Canada Post to turn the drivers into employees.

"We're really trying to avoid any kind of illegal work stoppage at the moment, just because we want to make sure that Canada Post knows that these people are there," MacDonald said.

"They want their jobs. They want to continue doing the same work."

Delivery drivers mounted a picket line outside the Sydney sorting station in 2018 and won a new contract. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

In an email, Canada Post said it regularly uses a competitive process to find suppliers.

It said after a request for proposals this summer, Canada Post awarded the contract to "an experienced service provider in the area who will help us continue to meet the delivery needs in Sydney."

Contractor looking for new hires

Karanjeet Singh, owner of NovaXpress, said the company will use some of its existing employees and is doing interviews to hire others.

He said the parcel business often fluctuates. The company will start with eight drivers in the Sydney area and may hire more, if there's enough business.

He said the company is not anti-union and current drivers are free to apply for jobs.

"We want to give everybody a chance," he said. "If they are successful in an interview, then we will hire them."

The union said it does not know how many drivers NovaXpress intends to have working in Antigonish or St. Stephen.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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