This negotiation looks at a current industrial conflict occurring in Canada, involving workers at Canada Post and includes the crucial intervention of the state.
The following articles present both sides of the argument.
Firstly, the workers and their union the CUPW who after striking against work conditions, were locked out of the workplace, and eventually forced back to work by a government ruling. However, they say the battle is not over and are planning future action.
Second, the employer – Canada Post – a government owned organisation, is fighting rising costs and budget constraints. There is also some opinion that postal workers already enjoy higher pay and benefits than many other workers.
Then egotiation – each group will take on the role of either the workers/union or the employer in debating their point of view.
Lockout: Was Canada Post right to lock out its employees?
|Canada Post locked out its workers Tuesday night and suspended all operations following 12 days of rotating strikes.
Workers at the Gateway Postal Facility in Mississauga, Ont., were handed a lockout notice when they showed up to work Tuesday night. (Tony Smyth/CBC) Mail delivery across Canada has been stopped.
Canada Post says that the rotating strikes had caused losses approaching $100 million as of Tuesday’s strike in Toronto and Montreal and that the figure was climbing daily.
The corporation also cites “several incidents” that led to concerns about moving the mail while keeping employees and customers safe.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said the lockout is an attempt to get the federal government to pass back-to-work legislation.
Robert Mulvin, president of the Vancouver CUPW local, said the rotating strikes had been effective in drawing attention to the postal workers’ cause without overly disrupting mail delivery.
On Tuesday, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt suggested that back-to-work legislation was not yet an option, unlike for the Air Canada strike, because the postal strike was not national in scale. The lockout now raises the possibility.
CUPW sees danger in bill to end lockout (FROM THE CUPW WEBSITE)
Posted 11 days ago
Proposed legislation that would force an end to a lockout at Canada Post is a “precedent-setting” move by the Harper government that could affect contract negotiations for years to come, says the local head of the union of postal workers.
“People in Canada better start waking up because if we’re going through this now, it’s not just us. It’s going to be everybody,” Peter McHugh, president of Local 582 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said Tuesday, the seventh day of a lockout by the Crown corporation.
“To me, this is a big story because this legislation is not just about postal workers, it’s about everybody. I think in the future you’re going to see more and more of this where the government’s going to keep going and going.
“I see it happening — city workers, ambulance workers, provincial workers. It’s precedent-setting that they’re taking away our rights to negotiate a fair collective agreement. They’re the ones that locked us out.”
The Conservative government introduced a back-to-work bill in the House of Commons on Monday to end the labour dispute between Canada Post and CUPW. The legislation, which could take several days to pass, calls on both sides to submit a final offer on non-wage issues and requires a minister- appointed arbitrator to choose one or the other in its entirety.
It also sets out annual salary increases to 2014, which the union says are lower than those offered by Canada Post.
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told reporters that Canada Post and the union still have ample time to reach a settlement before the bill becomes law, according to media reports.
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Conservative MP Larry Miller said if the two sides fail to hash out an agreement over the next few days, he can’t see “any other way” to solve the labour dispute aside from the back-to-work bill.
“Is it the best way? Yeah, I think it is. Other than — I guess I should put an asterisk on that — the best way is for them to sit down and get this resolved. This is a time with a recession, or what have you, where everybody should be making concessions, not outrageous demands. Ultimately, that’s the best way, but up until we tabled this legislation, nobody seems or appears they want to sit down and discuss this,” he said.
Miller said rotating strikes by the union, which he said “forced” Canada Post to lock out its employees, could ultimately, albeit unintentionally, “force the end of rural mail delivery” as we now know it.
He said the longer the lockout lasts, the more it will drive down mail volume and prompt small businesses and others who depend on Canada Post to find other ways to deliver mail.
“The more you drive down mail volumes, in turn what that does is Canada Post can come back and say, see, our mail volumes are down so much we’re going to have to make drastic changes. And I’ll tell you where they’ll propose to make those drastic changes first will be in rural Canada and not in the large urban centres where they’ve got to answer to more people,” he said.
“And that’s exactly what I’ve been fighting to save for seven years and I’ll be danged if I’m going to let either the union or Canada Post get in the way of that and that’s why I support this forcing them back to work.”
The union says the back-to-work bill “penalizes” postal workers and “rewards” Canada Post for locking out its employees and stopping mail delivery nationwide.
“The bill legislates wage increases that fall significantly below Canada Post’s last offer. Canada Post’s last offer was 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 2% in 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation. The Tories’ bill would lower that even further with 1.75% in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014,” the union said in a news release.
“The bill would take $875.50 out of the pockets of an average full-time postal worker during the four years of the agreement. All told, it represents a theft of $35 million from postal workers and their families.”
Canada Post says both sides remain “divided on a number of key bargaining issues — including wages, pension and sick leave.
“The union continues to have too many demands that would drive up costs, limit operational flexibility and restrict Canada Post’s ability to address fundamental problems such as declining mail volumes, competitiveness and a $3.2-billion deficit in the pension plan,” the Crown corporation said in a news release.
Copyright © 2011 Owen Sound Sun Times
The Canadian Press – Mail to flow Tuesday, but could be a mere trickle in Toronto
June 27, 2011
Marc Dionne of Halifax, pictured on June 20, 2011, delivered federal pension and social assistance cheques during Canada Post’s lockout of letter carriers across the country.
ANDREW VAUGHAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Canada Post workers will begin reporting to mail sorting plants this afternoon and customers can expect delivery to resume Tuesday following the passage of back-to-work legislation.
“We’ll follow first-in, first-out approach,” said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton. “Anything in the system will be prioritized.
“On Tuesday morning, our letter carriers will report to the depots and get their mail and deliver it.”
He cautioned that customers in the Greater Toronto and Montreal may not see much mail on Tuesday, given the union’s rotating strikes had hit those centres just before the lockout on June 14.
“There is a bit of backlog on unprocessed mail,” Hamilton said. “We do have our work cut out for us in Toronto. People in Toronto might not see a lot of mail tomorrow, but we’ll get out what we can.”
Canada Post will also start unlocking or unsealing 25,000 street letter boxes and community mailboxes, so people can begin mailing items. Post offices that were closed because of the lockout will reopen on Tuesday at their regular hours.
Even though the Harper government announced plans to introduce back-to-work legislation on June 15, after Canada Post locked out its 48,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, it still took some time to implement.
The New Democrats opposed the legislation, which uses a final offer selection process where the two parties submit their final offers and an arbitrator, appointed by Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, chooses a winner.
As well, the NDP MPs, who staged a 58-hour filibuster, are upset with the legislation that imposes a lower wage settlement than one offered by Canada Post during the bargaining process. The legislation passed the House of Commons on Saturday night and then the Senate on Sunday.
Customers who may have been holding off on sending out wedding invitations can immediately pop them in the mail, Hamilton said. Canada Post will work with its larger business customers on a schedule.
“I know our customers have shown us a tremendous amount of patience, but we’re asking for a bit more as we get the system up and running and stabilized,” he said.
In a bulletin, national president Denis Lemelin said the union’s executive board voted unanimously to return to work. Unlike previous disputes, union officials had defied back-to-work legislation.
“The legislation provides for enormous financial penalties for individuals and union representatives in the case of defiance,” Lemelin said in the bulletin. “We believe that this government would use any excuse to destroy the union should we defy the legislation, and we will not give them any opportunity to do so.”
He added: “We are returning to work, but we are not defeated. CUPW has been legislated back to work in the past and that has not stopped us from continuing our struggle for justice and dignity.”
Article from Union website below:
Roll-Backs, Lockout, Benefit Cuts, and Now They are Happy to See Us
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June 28, 2011 – 18:45
Urban Postal Unit Negotiations (2011) / Bulletin
Negotiations Bulletin no. 78
After 12 days of one-day rotating strikes and 13 days of a full-scale national lockout, CPC CEO Deepak Chopra and CPC Chief Operating Officer Jacques Côté are happy to see us. Or so they say in their latest message to employees. Chopra and Côté claim to know that this has been a “very difficult and stressful time” for us and our families. They should know, they did everything possible to make it difficult and stressful.
First, they came with a massive program of rollbacks including the elimination of top-up pay for injured workers, an attack on retiree benefits and the elimination of our sick leave plan. Then, after we had no choice but to issue our 72-hour strike notice, they cut off all drug benefit coverage for everyone including workers on disability insurance. Then, after a period of one-day rotating strikes, they initiated a national lockout to provoke the Harper government to attack our rights with back-to-work legislation. Yes, they have been very successful in making this time difficult and stressful for us.
Change in Delivery Policy Delays Resumption of Mail Delivery
Not content to attack postal workers, CPC has also initiated a change in delivery policy which will adversely affect the public. In Montreal, Windsor, Hamilton, Scarborough and Kitchener and many other locations, letter carriers reporting for duty were instructed to return all their undelivered mail to their originating office after eight hours of work. This new policy will further hold up mail delivery, which was shut down by Canada Post on June 15th.
Time for Truth and Responsibility
It is time that senior management of Canada Post admits that their entire negotiations strategy was a complete and utter failure. From the beginning they made demands for rollbacks that no union could agree to. Their refusal to accept CUPW’s offer to return to work and their decision to initiate a national lock-out has cost CPC millions of dollars and many parcel delivery contracts. They issued public statements that distorted our bargaining positions and lied about the costs of our demands. Their decision to cut off drug benefits to all workers including those on sick leave and disability insurance caused enormous hardship and stress. Now they say they are happy to see us back at work so we can make them more profits. It is time they started telling the truth. It is time they take responsibility for their actions.
Bulletin no.: 2008-2011/454
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Opinion piece from Canadian press – Will Canadians go postal over a CUPW strike?
Tasha Kheiriddin May 31, 2011 – 10:30 AM ET | Last Updated: May 31, 2011 2:50 PM ET
Quick quiz: Identify the employer whose 50,000 workers enjoy these conditions:
- They can retire after 30 years’ service, as early as age 55, and collect a full pension.
- New employees receive wages of $24 an hour, three weeks’ vacation, and can eventually build that up to seven weeks’ vacation a year.
- Employees can bank sick days.
If you answered “The government of Greece”, “GM”, or “IBM circa 1975”, you’re dead wrong. The right answer is: Canada Post Corporation, 2011.
At the same time, Canada Post’s business, like that of postal services around the world, is in steady decline. Since 2006, the volume of letters it delivers has dropped by 17%, despite the fact that each year 200,000 new addresses (or supermailboxes, depending on where you live) are added to its list of must-serve clients. These households are making greater use of the internet to do basic transactions, such as paying the bills, while making less use of the mail.
Ian Lindsay/Postmedia News
Canada Post has set a strike deadline of Thursday at 11:59 p.m.
Naturally, Canada Post’s management is trying to find a way out of this squeeze. In its contract negotiations with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), it is proposing to create two tiers of employees, grandfathering current hires and offering new ones a cheaper (but still sweet) deal: wages of $17.50 an hour and six weeks’ vacation and the possibility of retiring at 60, instead of 55. It is also offering all employees wage increases of 1.9% for the next three years and 2% for the fourth year, while seeking to end the practice of banking sick days.
- Kelly McParland: Tell the posties their raise is in the mail
- Chris Selley’s Full Pundit: Post-Canada Post
- Matt Gurney: ‘Successful’ unions end up eating their young
The union’s response? Return to sender. CUPW wants to not only maintain the status quo, but also obtain fatter pay hikes – 3.3% in year 1 and 2.75 % in years 2-4. They’re also fighting a bid by Canada Post to end the practice of banking sick days. Since they are not getting their way, they are readying their members for a strike starting June 1.
CUPW is playing a dangerous – and obnoxious – game. Many Canadians are struggling to get by with no raises, little job security and few days off. In an era of both austerity and declining use of Canada Post’s business, CUPW’s demands make little sense and engender little sympathy from a public, which is already replacing envelopes with email.
And therein lies the greatest threat to Canada Post’s business – and the jobs of its employees. The last Canada-wide postal strike, in 1997, threw both businesses and individuals for a loop – but that was before the internet, cellphones, and the proliferation of cheap parcel delivery services. Today, many Canadians, especially in urban centres, won’t miss the mail – and will learn to live without it to an even greater extent than they already do, further jeopardizing the profitability of a company already staggering under a $3 billion pension obligation.
Those who will be most affected by a postal strike will be people in rural communities, especially those who are still using dial-up internet. They are not able to transact effectively online and depend solely on the mail to pay their bills and receive correspondence. If anything, though, this will likely boost demand not for the mail, but for broadband access, which will put a dent into Canada Post’s business model as it continues to spread into smaller communities.
Other countries’ postal services have already seen the light – and realized that it is a train coming at them full speed. According to a fascinating article about the troubles of the U.S. postal service in Bloomberg News,
“In the late ’80s, the European Union set out to create a single postal market. It prodded members to give up their monopolies and compete with one another….
Many countries closed as many of their brick-and-mortar post offices as possible, moving these services into gas stations and convenience stores, which then take them over… Today, Sweden’s Posten runs only 12 percent of its post offices. The rest are in the hands of third parties. Deutsche Post is now a private company and runs just 2 percent of the post offices in Germany.
Some of these newly energized mail services used the savings to pursue new business lines. Deutsche Post bought DHL, a package deliverer that competes with FedEx and UPS….Many used their extra cash to create digital mail products that allow customers to send and receive letters from their computers. Itella, the Finnish postal service, keeps a digital archive of its users’ mail for seven years and helps them pay bills online securely. Swiss Post lets customers choose if they want their mail delivered at home in hard copy or scanned and sent to their preferred Internet-connected device. Customers can also tell Swiss Post if they would rather not receive items such as junk mail.
Sweden’s Posten has an app that lets customers turn digital photos on their mobile phones into postcards. It is unveiling a service that will allow cell-phone users to send letters without stamps. Posten will text them a numerical code that they can jot down on envelopes in place of a stamp for a yet-to-be-determined charge.”
According to CUPW, other countries, including New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, the UK, and Austria have diversified their operations to include banking and financial services,
“as of 2008, there were 44 countries in which the post office banking services comprised more than 20% of the total revenue of the post office.”
In an interview given May 29 on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010, a CUPW representative stated that the union would like Canada Post to enact similar reforms and become a type of “unbank” for people who do not have accounts, or access to regular banking services – something Canada Post did until the 1960’s.
But such diversification and new product lines only make sense if they are competitive. And if Canada Post’s workers are overpaid in comparison to their private sector equivalents in those businesses, they will not be. Which brings us right back to the starting point: wages and benefits need to be trimmed for the corporation to survive. Since it appears that cannot be done in the current Crown Corporation unionized environment, then the federal government may have no other choice but to consider other options — including privatization — and let the stamps fall where they may.