Canadian Postal Union Fighting To Overturn Strike Ban

Canadian postal workers at the beginning of their strike in October
Canadian postal workers at the beginning of their strike in October

THE CANADIAN Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) filed a constitutional challenge last week to block legislation ordering them back to work, passed by the country’s Liberal government three weeks ago. The CUPW has been on a rolling strike since late October.

On November 27, over 50,000 postal workers in Canada were legislated back to work by the Liberal government after five weeks of rotating strikes, effectively removing their right to free and fair collective bargaining and their right to strike as per the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

‘You cannot legislate labour peace,’ says Mike Palecek, CUPW National President. ‘This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.’

The bill forced postal workers to return to work under their previous collective agreements on November 27, after five weeks of rotating strikes, which means that between then and Christmas: • At least 315 disabling injuries will happen to postal workers; • Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) will work roughly 250,000 hours without pay; and • Urban postal workers will work thousands of hours of forced overtime.

‘The real crisis is that Canada Post workers are having their rights trampled while their health and safety is threatened and their wages, not adequately paid,’ said Cornelia Broos, Head of UNI Post & Logistics. ‘The only just way for the Canadian government to end this strike is negotiating safe conditions and fair pay – not heavy-handed, strike-breaking measures.’

Meanwhile, over 100 protesters descended on Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Sunday morning to support workers whose jobs are threatened if they don’t accept a 33 per cent salary rollback.

Josée Dubois, the president of the union representing the airport’s white collar workers, says the employer is threatening to replace 93 clerks, administrative agents and security guards through outsourcing for no good reason Dubois said: ‘Passenger traffic keeps increasing and so do profits. There’s no financial problem here.’

The union, which is affiliated with the Quebec branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), is suggesting workers are being made to bear the brunt of expansion projects.

‘For us, it’s a lopsided saving made on the backs of employees who earn between $17 and $28 an hour,’ said PSAC-Quebec regional vice-president Yvon Barrière. He noted the expansion project that will begin next year is due to cost $2.5 billion. ‘We’re talking about at least $500,000 just to manage this new outsourcing,’ Barrière estimated.

In a statement emailed to the Canadian Press, spokesperson Anne-Sophie Hamel claimed Aéroports de Montréal was complying with the collective agreement.

She added the decision had yet to be made and no employees would lose their jobs ‘during the holiday season’. But Barrière says the airport will lose out if it outsources these positions. ‘The quality of service will definitely decline,’ he said, lauding the professionalism of the threatened workers, some of whom have been working at the airport for 25 years.

In another attack on the right to strike, the Ontario provincial government was set to hold an emergency session on Monday to introduce legislation aimed at preventing a strike at one of the province’s major power utilities.

The Progressive Conservatives were reconvening the legislature on Monday afternoon – just over a week after lawmakers rose for their winter break – to table the bill that would stop job action by about 6,000 workers at Ontario Power Generation.

The emergency session was announced in a statement last Friday evening by Government House Leader Todd Smith. The notice of a strike also came on Friday, a day after members of the Power Workers’ Union rejected a contract offer from OPG, putting them in a legal strike position as of December 26.

Earlier last Friday, Energy Minister Greg Rickford said the Ontario government was prepared to take any steps necessary to safeguard the province’s power supply.

The organisation that manages Ontario’s power system said in a statement Friday that a strike at OPG would put the system’s reliability at risk.

‘The shutdown of OPG’s nuclear and hydroelectric facilities could occur in approximately three weeks. At that point Ontario would not have the generation needed to meet consumer demand and customers would begin losing power,’ the Independent Electricity System Operator said in a statement.

‘The IESO (Independent Electricity Systems Operator) will take every action available to delay and mitigate the impact … However, these actions will not be enough to prevent significant losses of power.’

The government has said a strike could cause power outages in as little as a week.

The union, which has been without a collective bargaining agreement since March 31, said last Friday that OPG’s final offer was rejected by a nearly 60 per cent vote of its membership.

The main sticking point in talks is OPG’s refusal to grant over 300 so-called ‘term’ workers the same rights as full-time employees at the Darlington and Pickering Nuclear Plants, the union said.

‘OPG has failed to treat over 300 of its highly trained workforce fairly or responsibly,’ Power Workers’ Union President Mel Hyatt said in the statement. ‘These employees, like all PWU members, are the backbone of Ontario’s reliable electricity sector and should not be treated as second-class employees.’

The union represents over 16,000 workers in Ontario’s energy sector, including about 6,000 OPG employees. The union said previously that, ‘PWU members will continue to fulfil their responsibilities in compliance with all safety guidelines in preparation for job action.’

• The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) President says the union won’t be silenced over the Peterborough Regional Health Centre’s attempt to censor radio ads about the wage freeze it’s trying to impose on female clerical workers. Warren (Smokey) Thomas says OPSEU was informed last Thursday that hospital officials had contacted at least one radio station running the satirical ad and bullied them into pulling it.

‘The hospital is resorting to censorship to prevent our members from speaking up about sexism and injustice,’ Thomas said. ‘Well, it’s not going to be that easy. We will not let the voices of working people be silenced.’

The theme of the satirical ad was vaguely based on the children’s story ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ It points out that while the hospital’s clerical workers face wage freezes of up to eight years, CEO Peter McLaughlin’s $400,000-a-year salary has soared by 21 per cent since 2015. ‘Peter, your heart is three sizes too small while your wallet is three sizes too big,’ the radio spot concluded.

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says since 98 per cent of the local’s members are women, the hospital’s leadership is being sexist and misogynistic. He is calling on the hospital’s board of directors to fire McLaughlin immediately.

‘He treats these women with contempt and when we call him on it, he acts like an overpaid crybaby and starts bullying local radio stations,’ said Almeida. ‘This is an utter failure of leadership and this CEO should be shown the door.’

In September, an arbitrator ruled the members of Local 345 deserve a contract that includes reasonable wage increases over five years. Instead, management misused a job evaluation process in an attempt to reclassify the members’ jobs so most face an effective wage rollback.

‘We’ve been talking about quality health care at the hospital and decent working conditions for our members. All we’ve heard from them is whining about our ads and trying to gag our members,’ said Thomas.

‘It’s clear there is a need for regime-change at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues Lisa MacLeod and Premier Doug Ford need to take action.’