Looming CUPW strike worthy of close attention

CUPW-RSMC-enAs lockout looms, CUPW 126 President Craig Dyer says St. John’s employees are working in toxic environment

After Canada Post issued a 72-hour lockout notice, President Craig Dyer (photo Lower Right) says the corporation is trying to provoke a strike.

Though 94 per cent of postal workers have voted to strike should they fail to reach a collective agreement, the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Local 126 in St. John’s said the union didn’t intend to serve notice at this point. Dyer, also a mail carrier in St. John’s, represents more than 350 postal workers on the Avalon Peninsula.There are more than 700 postal workers across Newfoundland and Labrador, and more than 50,000 across Canada, who are waiting to find out if they’ll reach a deal by Friday or if they’ll find themselves on the picket line.

“The intent of the union is to reach a deal over the next few days, but the corporation has been acting in bad faith since it started, since the expiry of the urban and rural collective agreements, in our opinion,” he said.

Canada Post made its final offer to the unions on June 25, and the union provided a counter offer July 1.

Among other things, Dyer said, the unions are fighting to retain the current ratio of full-time jobs and to achieve pay equity between bargaining units.

“They wanted to reduce our full-time jobs. We have a ratio right now of 78 per cent; they wanted to reduce it to 72, which would mean less full time jobs across Canada,” said Dyer.

“They didn’t want to pay the RSMCs — that’s one of the bargaining units — pay equity. Right now we have 8,000 RSMCs that we represent — the majority, 70 per cent of those, are women — and myself as a letter carrier in St. John’s, I’m making 28 per cent more than they are doing the same work. So one of our big issues is pay equity.”

But Canada Post rejected the unions’ demands, contending that they would cost more than $1 billion. The corporation issued the lockout notice Tuesday, stating in a news release that “the uncertainty caused by the prolonged negotiations and the union’s strike mandate is having a negative and escalating impact on the postal service.” The corporation said almost all its largest e-commerce customers have switched to using other mail carriers, and only half the usual volume of letter mail is being shipped.

Canada Post also says CUPW is ignoring the issue of the pension plan, which it said is facing a $6.2-billion solvency deficit. The corporation proposed changes to pension plans for new employees.

The union says the solvency deficit is decreasing, and the pension plan also has a huge surplus of $1.2 billion.


CUPW Local 126 President Dyer

CUPW Local 126 President Dyer


Dyer said Canada Post’s final offers, made June 25, included 33 rollbacks, some of which the unions didn’t even understand. He poked fun at one in particular: a demand to reduce the number of stools.

“We don’t even know what it means. We don’t know what it represents. That’s our problem, and that’s how we feel that they’ve been negotiating in bad faith, because they never came across with their demands or explanations or justification — they just called for conciliation,” he said.

Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton, however, said stools are not an issue at the bargaining table, and he’s not sure why they were mentioned.

“We don’t provide them at our post offices as it’s not very customer friendly,” he said in an email to The Telegram.


‘Toxic’ work environment

Dyer said local employees are working in a toxic environment now. Three postal workers told him this week that they had received written reprimands and wage suspensions. He said one of those workers, who is unable to work more than eight hours a day due to a health condition, is getting a wage suspension for being unable to deliver everything on a heavy day that would have required more than eight hours of work.

“So they’re already poking at us, and they’re trying to provoke a strike,” he said.

“Our members are strong. We gave the strongest strike mandate ever of 94 per cent. We believe that this is the time. It is 2016; things got to change. We’ve got to respect the women who work for Canada Post, we’ve got to use our profits to make better services, and not just this doom and gloom, the sky is falling.”