Canadian postal workers buy time

by Elizabeth Byce

In late August, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post Corporation (CPC) reached two separate tentative agreements – lasting only two years — covering CUPW’s 50,000 members, both the urban workforce, and the rural/suburban mail carriers.

The union, which wanted one agreement for both its bargaining units, said in a public statement that key bargaining points — like the protection of its defined contribution benefit plan for current and future members — were secured.

Throughout 10 months of negotiations Canada Post insisted on a two-tier pension plan that imposed on all new hires a defined contribution plan, leaving the defined benefit plan for current workers only. CPC said this was needed to halt the escalation of pension plan costs.

The tentative agreements, subject to ratification by union members in September, show the union also prevented more closures of Canada Post outlets.

“We went into this round determined to achieve new collective agreements without rollbacks and we succeeded,” CUPW said in a statement.

Despite this, pay inequity chiefly for women members remains. The union did, however, secure a review of the pay structure.

“We negotiated a pay equity review process that will not get tied up for decades in the courts,” the union said in a statement.

“This pay equity process will be completed in 19 months and our RSMCs [rural suburban mail carriers] will know the results quickly.”

According to CUPW’s research, Canada Post’s pay system — which allocates compensation for suburban and rural workers according to the number of packages delivered — disproportionately affects its female members. About 70 per cent of the rural and suburban group are women. On average, they receive nearly 30 per cent less than men in the urban unit for doing the same work.

Wage increases for rural and suburban workers — which make up about 8,000 of CUPW’s members – would rise 1.5 per cent this year, and 1.5 per cent next year.

For the larger urban group — which covers about 42,000 mail sorters and carriers — a one per cent wage increase was agreed for this year, followed by a 1.5 per cent increase next year.

Other key improvements for rural and suburban mail carriers include the recognition of seniority from the date of hire for workers who began before 2004, as well as the extension of the unit’s health-care plan, ensuring RSMCs are entitled to the same paramedical services as their counterparts in the urban unit.

Essentially, the two-year agreements buy time for postal workers, while the Canadian government completes its review of the future of the postal service, and the CUPW continues its popular campaign for postal banking, and a new fleet of electric-powered vehicles. For details see www.CUPW.ca/CanadaPostReview.

If the latest agreements are ratified, postal workers will soon be back in bargaining, still facing a belligerent management. During the summer Canada Post twice issued, and withdrew, lockout notices. The federal government appointed two mediators. CUPW twice extended a 72-hour job action notice. So, the struggle continues. Solidarity with postal workers remains a top priority for all who want to replace capitalist austerity with greater equality and good environmental stewardship.

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