“Chris” has been a Canada Post employee and an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for more than two decades, in centres across Canada.
She agreed to an interview with Black Press Media under the condition of anonymity, to discuss some of what the union considers questionable tactics used by Canada Post in an effort to gain support from Canadians.
Cheque’s in the mail?
Have you received your old age security cheques in the mail yet?
Likely not… but Chris says not to blame the strikers.
“We have had them since the 13th, and they have held them in the supervisor’s office and essentially delayed the mail, to make this crisis and blame it on us. Now they can say, ‘Our carriers are on strike, and that’s why you’re not getting your mail on time.’ That is not the case at all. The [cheques] are sitting in Canada Post management offices, and they have been there for… a long time.”
The cheques were held until Nov. 22, at which time they were processed.
Canada Post officials have confirmed the isolation and specific delivery instructions with the cheques, saying they had to be isolated to ensure they were not lost or misplaced due to the work stoppages.
“We have an agreement with CUPW to deliver the cheques where strike activity is occurring and that’s what we are doing,” said an email reply from Canada Post media relations. “The cheques have to be isolated because if the location is on strike, they can’t be mixed up in the mail stream and end up trapped. Distribution dates are determined by the agencies that prepare the cheques and we fully respect that.”
Canada Post is following guidelines set in the Socio-Economic Cheque Program, a collaborative agreement laid out by both sides to ensure proper distribution of government cheques in the event of a work stoppage. (Socio-Economic Cheque Program document is published at the end of this article.)
Backlog? What backlog?
According to Chris, the backlog being bandied about in the media is another Crown corporation fabrication. Some reports suggest upwards of 600 tractor-trailers sit unloaded.
“Where?” she said. “It’s just not true. Canada Post claimed they had hundreds of trailers backlogged in Toronto and throughout the country. But when [media] arrived to take pictures, Canada Post wouldn’t let them in [the compound].
“There are maybe 50 trailers across Canada that haven’t been unloaded yet. Canada Post is saying there are hundreds and hundreds, which isn’t the case at all. This is all fabricated by them to create this crisis.”
Wednesday, on its website, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers also refuted a report that postal workers have seen one truck in London, six trailers in Hamilton, two in Halifax, 15 in Moncton, and zero in Saint John and St. John’s.
“So where did all that mail go overnight?” asks Mike Palecek, CUPW national president. “We’re convinced that Canada Post manufactured a crisis just to get the government to intervene. If so, that’s a huge concern, and it will further poison our work environment and labour relations for years and years to come.”
Chris said she has personally felt the consequences of this tactic. A package she ordered from China was recently returned to sender.
“I contacted them, and they said because of the Canada Post strike, they are not allowed to send stuff to Canada. They have been notified by the corporation, which is totally ridiculous. We unload stuff every day.”
She said there has been no backlog at the Victoria depot.
“We get our mail every day from them. There is zero backlog. I can guarantee that.”
(Canada Post did not respond to a request for comment regarding this assertion.)
Working conditions for letter carriers is the biggest issue of this strike, according to Chris.
“The biggest issue is the over-burdening of our letter carriers now,” she said. “They are forced to carry more mail, and their routes are longer. Some of the routes are now over 30 kilometres long, and they are carrying 50 pounds on their back. Our injury rate is five times any other federal employee, because of the over-burdening of our letter carriers.”
Routes have been restructured, according to a letter carrier route measurement system created by Canada Post.
“When they do restructures, they eliminate routes and make other ones longer. Even though our letter mail has eroded a percentage in the last number of years, we make up for that tenfold in the ad mail they deliver. So it’s a heavier load now, the routes are longer, and of course, it’s an aging population.”
Another issue is the “force back overtime.”
Chris said letter carriers have refused this forced overtime during the strike, and that’s the only thing creating any backlog.
“What we have done now is we have curtailed the overtime. We work our eight hours and we go home,” she said. “That’s where the backlog is forming, because they don’t have enough staff. Whatever backlog there is has very little to do with the strike, because the strike is rotating.
“So we are out for a day, or a couple of days, here or there. We are slowing down mail to make the public aware of what is going on, but if there is any backlog of mail, it’s essentially because the letter carriers aren’t working any more than eight hours.”
Another big issue is pay equity for the rural carriers. If that sounds familiar, there’s a reason. It was one of the major issues in the 2016 strike as well.
“We won that in court – they are supposed to get that – but we are still striking for it, because apparently, the corporation doesn’t want to pay it,” said Chris. “This has been ongoing since 2005, when we brought them into our union.”
Chris appreciates not everyone is in support of the mail carriers, but she said the frustration should be directed towards Canada Post, and not the workers. The rotating strikes are the union’s way of bringing attention to the situation with as little disruption as possible.
“We don’t want to affect the public at all,” she said. “We are the good guys. We are the guys who want to help you. We are the people who show up to your door when someone has fallen and can’t get up, and call the ambulance.
“We love our jobs. We love helping people and we love delivering the mail. We just want to work and have a fair contract.”
Back-to-work legislation to force the end of the strike was tabled Thursday in Ottawa, with Labour Minister Patty Hajdu saying people and businesses are relying on Canada Post to deliver the mail as the holidays approach.
Chris said defiant postal workers could now face up to $1,000 a day in fines.
“If you’re a young person with a family, you could never afford to pay $1,000 a day, especially if you are already losing a couple of hundred dollars a day in wages. It’s a threat to the person that can’t afford it.”
The back-to-work legislation has been condemned by the Canadian Labour Congress.
“The right to strike is an integral part of collective bargaining. Without it, an employer has no incentive to bargain in good faith, and workers have no recourse to demand a fair process,” said president, Hassan Yussuff in a statement posted on the CUPW website.
The Harper government’s legislation to end the 2011 postal strike was later deemed to be unconstitutional.