UPDATED: Canada Post extends 72 hour notice for lockout to Monday

July 7, 2016   ·   0 Comments

If you have mail you want to send, now is definitely not the time to do it. On Tuesday morning, Canada Post issued a 72-hour notice warning that its unionized employees could be locked out as of Friday morning.

Just after midnight on Tuesday, Canada Post sent out a press release notifying the public of the lockout following failed negotiations with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

“The uncertainty caused by the prolonged negotiations and the union’s strike mandate is having a negative and escalating impact on the postal service,” said Canada Post in the press release.

As of tomorrow (July 8), Canada Post will change the terms and conditions of employment for all employees represented by CUPW, as the old collective agreements no longer apply. Under the new terms and conditions, Canada Post says their employees will continue to receive their regular pay, as well as some benefits like prescription drug coverage.

“The corporation must now respond to the rapidly deteriorating volumes and the financial impact to the business, using the means provided in the Canada Labour Code.”

This means that some items, which were under the previous collective agreements, have been cancelled to line up with the minimum conditions established under the labour code. Another change includes Canada Post’s ability to adjust staffing according to the amount of work they feel is required.

On Monday, Canada Post told CUPW that its offers, which had been presented on June 25, are to be considered final, as they felt they represented “a fair and reasonable framework for settlements.”

Although the 72-hour lockout notice has been provided, Canada Post iterated this does not necessarily mean the business will not be operating on Friday.

Following the announcement from Canada Post, CUPW issued a statement accusing the corporation of driving the workers “out onto the streets without pay” in order to force workers to accept steep concessions being imposed on them. 

“We knew this was their game all along,” said Mike Palecek, CUPW president. “They are sabotaging the public review of the post office. They refused to negotiate fairly with us and now they’re locking the doors and will try to starve us into submission.”

CUPW portrayed much of its negotiations as involving an attempt to get pay equity for its female-dominated workforce, as well as stave off the company’s demands for massive rollbacks. Currently, the union says, female postal workers earn 28 percent less than their male counterparts.

The union says that since the negotiations began, Canada Post tabled only one offer, and would not budge on the offer’s details throughout the talks. Now, the company is warning they may shut down the postal service, blaming the move on its workers.

“This is brought to you by the people who wanted to take away home delivery,” added Mr. Palecek. “They wanted us to sell out the next generation of Canadian postal workers for a quick deal, but we stood firm. Now they’re going to hold the public hostage until they get what they want.”

In 2011, Canada Post locked out postal workers following failed negotiations for their contract renewals at that time. The Conservative government forced workers back to work using legislation that has been called by some experts unconstitutional, imposing a four-year collective agreement on CUPW.

“We will not be bullied by a corporation that is supposed to be providing people with a public service, that is raking in millions of profits every year, and that is wilfully and needlessly waging war upon tens of thousands of workers and their families,” said Mr. Palecek.

According to Canada Post, the union’s demands are unaffordable, costing it more than $1 billion. In sticking to its June 25 offer it cited “rapidly deteriorating volumes and the financial impact” to the business as the basis for the lockout.

“Customers are already looking to avoid the risk of a work disruption,” it said. “Examples of the impact are being felt across the network.”

These examples included a decline of at least 75 per cent in parcel volumes as a result of them being moved to other carriers, creating too few parcels to last through an entire processing shift, as well as letter mail being down by at least 50 percent over the weekend.

In an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning radio show, Mr. Palecek blamed the decrease on Canada Post’s warnings of the possible labour dispute.

“Canada Post has been out in the media for weeks saying there’s going to be an interruption and now they’re complaining there’s no mail or parcels in the system,” he told the host of the show. “Jeez, I wonder why?”

While Canada Post says it cannot maintain a profit and meet the demands of the postal workers, its president and CEO, Deepak Chopra, won a new five-year contract from the Conservative Government in 2014, giving him a salary of $500,000 a year. It is estimated he also receives upwards of $400,000 in bonuses annually, with other upper-level management also receiving six figures a year.

In a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Palecek disputed claims the dispute was about pensions, citing the lower earnings of female employees and the fact that workers responsible for delivering packages are not paid beyond 6.5-hour shifts, even if the parcel volume is far higher.

Rather than being paid for their actual time on the road, CUPW says, the workers are paid $1 per package delivered outside of the set shift hours.

“They have been lying to the public,” said Mr. Palecek.

He added that another lie is about the profitability of the Crown Corporation. Despite claims by Canada Post that profits are decreasing, outside critics have said the company has seen an increasing profit over the past 22 years. Last year, Mr. Palecek says, the company turned a $100-million profit, and appears to be expecting higher profits. So far, Canada Post has refused to open its books to the union.

CUPW says they are unsure at this point what the Liberal Government will do about the current situation. So far, the Liberals had asked Mr. Chopra to resign, which the CEO refused.

At a press conference in Quebec on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government did not intend to take action on the impending lockout.

“We do not feel, unlike previous governments, that it is the immediate responsibility to be heavy-handed,” he said. “We respect labour. We respect the need to come to terms at the bargaining table and that is what we are going to continue to work on.”

At press time, Canada Post had not provided warnings of an impending lockout to customers on their website’s homepage, or anywhere other than its media page.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday evening, MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce, Development and Labour, requested that Canada Post and the CUPW submit to binding arbitration in order to resolve the negotiation impasse.

“While negotiation settlements are always the preferred option, it has become clear that after seven months of negotiations, the parties remain far apart on key issues at the bargaining table,” Canada Post said via a press release announcing that they would be submitting to the arbitration. “The uncertainty caused by the prolonged negotiations is having a severe impact on the business, our employees, and our customers.”

While Canada Post added that they hoped the union would also agree to the arbitration, CUPW announced earlier today that postal workers had politely declined the suggestion as a matter of principle.

“We appreciate the offer to help, but paying women equally for work of equal value is the law of the land; it’s not something that can be awarded or withheld by an arbitrator, ” said Mr. Palecek.

Mr. Palecek noted in the CUPW’s statement that Canada Post fought against a major pay equity claim for 28 years, until the Supreme Court ordered the Crown Corporation to pay an estimated $250 million settlement in 2011 to its female employees. Some of the women have not received the settlement, and are assumed to have passed away before they could receive their payments.

One of the biggest complaints from the CUPW is that the negotiations have not been successful because Canada Post has both refused to negotiate on any of their terms, as well as has refused to conduct investigations or studies to determine whether they are in compliance with pay equity legislation. Despite claims of profit loss, Canada Post has also consistently refused to show the financial numbers to back their statements.

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