On October 29, at 10:30 p.m., 6,000 Canada Post employees in Montreal walked out from their jobs as part of the rotating postal worker strike across Canada. Over the past two weeks, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has organized walkouts in many provinces, including Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Quebec. The CUPW has also issued an “overtime ban,” calling on workers to refuse to work longer than their mandated eight hours per day. The ban and nationwide strikes are a result of Canada Post’s failure to reach a labour agreement with CUPW on October 28, following 10 months of negotiations.
The CUPW outlined major issues affecting their workers, including forced overtime, lack of job security, wage inequality, and crucial health and safety measures that need to be taken. CUPW national president Mike Palecek said that workplace injury rates have “skyrocketed” recently. Moreover, 50,000 CUPW members have been working overtime without a contract since their overtime agreement expired. Canada Post has proposed wage increases to the CUPW, but they were not nearly enough to account for the increased cost of living for workers. Canada Post’s proposals have not addressed the working conditions that led to these injuries. “We outlined our major issues to Canada Post at the very beginning of the negotiation process […] and clearly stated that we would not sign any agreements that don’t address overwork and overburdening, equality and full- time jobs,” stated Palecek.
After the strike action began, Canada Post announced its decision to unilaterally cut disability and sick-leave benefits. Canada Post alleges that this action is legally justified due to CUPW failing to pay premiums, insinuating that the cuts are CUPW’s fault. However, it has never been CUPW’s responsibility to pay premiums. The cuts have forced some workers with physical or mental illnesses to immediately return to work, and will also have an effect on workers with short-term disability claims filed before the strikes began. In an email addressed to Canada Post’s CEO, the president of the Union of Postal Communications Employees, François Paradis expressed solidarity with CUPW. “[The decision is] brutal and fails to meet the threshold of basic human decency. The fact that there’s a labour dispute does not make this horrendous and cruel decision morally palatable.”
Although the strike in Montreal ended on October 30, it is important to recognize that other provinces are still on strike, as Canada Post has yet to make a final negotiation with CUPW. Canada Post has put out a statement relating to how they are going to make up for delayed deliveries, which shifts the attention from the strikers’ requests to the consumers’ needs. “[Canada Post’s proposals] don’t address a single one of our major issues,” Palecek said on Wednesday in a statement on CUPW’s website.
Caring for consumers’ needs should not serve as a way to deflect from a conversation on workers’ rights. As students, limiting our discussion of the Canada Post strikes to the inconvenience of delayed mail strengthens Canada Post’s disregard for its workers’ demands. It is vital that we push Canada Post to compensate for their lack of care for their employees’ health, safety, and livelihoods, and that we support CUPW in their fight for fair treatment in the workplace. While we cannot directly influence the outcome of the negotiations, you can follow the union’s updates on the strike at facebook.com/ cupwsttp or cupw.ca. You can also send this editorial to Canada Post’s Facebook Messenger @canadapost or call them at +1 (866) 607-6301.