Tag Archives: Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Toronto Rally Defends Postal Services

IMG_6210Over 400 people rallied on Saturday, September 20 outside the uptown Toronto constituency office of Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver to demand a halt to Tory and Canada Post Corporation plans to eliminate home mail delivery and set higher prices for postage.
Participants came from as far away as Vernon, B.C. and Charlottetown, P.E.I. They included retired auto workers from Oshawa, and a group of posties who hired a bus in Hamilton, Ontario.

Elizabeth Byce - Chairperson
Elizabeth Byce – Chairperson

Rally chair Elizabeth Byce, a proud retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, past Secretary of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and a leading member of Socialist Action, welcomed the crowd. In the breezy, warm sunshine she led-off the proceedings with a few chants: “1,2,3,4, mail delivery door-to-door, 5,6,7,8, stop increasing postal rates”, “Stop the Cuts at Canada Post”, and “They say Cutback. We say Fightback”.
“I say to Finance Minister Joe Oliver, you can hide, but you cannot escape our anger, and you cannot avoid our determination to hold you and your government accountable for cuts to the postal service that Canadians hold dear. Keep your bloody hands off our public services!”, Byce told the gathering.
“Many organizations have endorsed this rally. They are listed on the newspaper ads and the leaflets you’ve seen. New endorsers include: the Workers’ Action Centre, York Region Catholic Teachers, United Steel Workers – Toronto Area Council, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). We thank them all.”

She then introduced the rally speakers as follows:

Denis Lemelin, President of CUPW

“Denis Lemelin, the leader of the fight to save vital postal services and good jobs, is the President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. His involvement in the union began in 1979 when he started as a postal clerk in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Marie Clark-Walker, VP CLC
Marie Clark-Walker, VP CLC

“Marie Clark-Walker comes out of CUPE-Ontario. She celebrates her Jamaican heritage, and is a Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, is a past-President of CUPE-Ontario, and is former Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak’s worst enemy.
“Sharon DeSoussa is the Regional Executive Vice-President in Ontario for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“Barry Weisleder is the person who organized the rally from scratch. He is a teacher, union activist, journalist and the federal secretary of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste. (See the text of his speech below.)
“Mark Brown is the Education and Organizing Officer for the Metro Toronto Region of CUPW, and is also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

“Hockey has its Hall of Fame, and so does Labour.  Buzz Hargrove is a past President of the Canadian Auto Workers. He speaks today on behalf of Unifor, Canada’s newest and biggest private sector union.

“The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, which generously contributed to the publicity tools that made this rally a success, is represented by a Vice President of OPSEU, Myles Magner.

Fred Hahn - President CUPE Ontario
Fred Hahn – President CUPE Ontario

“The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario played a key role in promoting the protest. Fred Hahn is the President of CUPE-Ontario, and a long-time fighter for LGBT rights and dignity.

“Liz Rowley is the Ontario leader of the Communist Party and a former school board trustee.

“Carolyn Egan is President of the United Steetworkers’ Toronto Area Council and a member of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council executive.

“Chris Clay is a leader of CUPW in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

“CUPW Union Rep Mike Palecek, based in Ottawa, is here today to sing his new anti-austerity, anti-Stephen Harper song, which debuted on Parliament Hill at the People’s Social Forum rally on August 21.”
The rally chair reminded everyone that the campaign to Save Canada Post continues, and called on people to attend a meeting of the Toronto Organizing Committee to plan the next steps.
Extensive coverage of the Toronto protest featured prominently on that day’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcast of CITY-TV.




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“We Can Win This Issue”

The following is the text of the remarks of rally organizer Barry Weisleder:

“Sisters and brothers, it’s great to see such a large crowd here on this beautiful day. Did you enjoy the summer? I did. I spent much of it organizing this rally, and I’d like to tell you why.

“Firstly, I’m sick and tired of Tory lies. Canada Post is profitable. And it could be even more profitable if we had postal banking. We need good jobs. Killing over 8,000 letter carrier jobs makes no sense — unless you are a corporate vulture planning to dine on the dismembered parts of a vital public service.
Secondly, I love the postal workers’ union. The first picket line I walked was with posties in 1972 when I was still a student. CUPW is a militant democratic union – one of the best. It has always led the way. With a wildcat strikein ’65 it won the right to collective bargaining for all public sector workers. It won big wage increases with strikes and walkouts in the early 70s. It gained job security in the ’70s the face of new technology. In 1981 it struck to win maternity
leave for its members, a gain that spread to all organized workers. CUPW has been in the forefront of solidarity campaigns with workers’ struggles, at home and abroad, for generations. That’s why it has legions of allies.
Now is the time to returnthat solidarity, and to stopthe onslaught against public services and workers’ rights. It is also a golden opportunity to boot the Harper Conservatives from office, and to bust up the bosses’ offensive.
That brings me to the third reason. We can win this issue. How do I know? Look at the doctor’s note fiasco. Deepak Chopra made that brainless suggestion because he and Harper are on the defensive.
“They’re feeling the pressure. The plan to terminate home mail delivery is possibly the most unpopular policy of the Tory government. But it’s tied to many others. Like undermining pensions and E.I. Gutting health and safety in the work place. Promoting dirty oil pipelines. Plundering aboriginal lands. Victimizing migrant workers. Sending troops to Iraq. Backing the seige of Gaza. Giving tax breaks to big corporations. Watching our cities descend into the despair of grid-lock and homelessness.
We in Socialist Action believe that the common denominator of global social misery is the destructive and dying capitalist disorder.
There’s a funny saying: “Capitalism is just a phase we’re going through.” Unfortunately, this phase is killing the planet and its inhabitants. Its stale date is well over a century old. We need ways to break the grip of the 0.1%.
The fight to keep our valued postal services, is just such a way. This issue is Harper’s achilles heel. If, together, we can drive this campaign forward, there’s no telling what we can achieve.
“We can bring down the Tories. We can restore and expand public services. Broaden the battle for social equality and a genuine economic democracy. And perhaps, we can shake this rotten system to its core, and bring to birth a cooperative commonwealth in our time. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s fight to win, in solidarity.”

Defend the Postal Service! Defeat the attack on the public sector!

120118- Stdup Cold.jpgby Barry Weisleder
The scheme to curtail home mail delivery is part of a plan to gut the federal public sector, to shrink postal workers’ pensions, to break a progressive, democratic union, and to sell-off lucrative remnants of Canada Post Corporation (CPC) to private sector vultures.
This attack must be stopped. It is a watershed moment for the workers’ movement across the Canadian state. The need for mass resistance is urgent.
The first step is to expose the many lies of the Stephen Harper Conservative government and CPC management.
One lie concerns the present postal service. CPC disingenuously claims that the further shift to community boxes is no big deal because only 25 per cent of residences now get their mail at home. The truth is 58 per cent do. Denis Lemelin, President of the 55,000 member Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), set the record straight. Citing CPC’s own 2012 report, he told a House of Commons committee on December 11 that one third of the population gets mail delivered to their doors, 25 per cent to their apartment lobby mailboxes, 12 per cent at general delivery counters, and 5 per cent at rural mailboxes. That means 25 per cent rely on the outdoor super-mailboxes, which is already far too many. CPC proposes to double that number by 2018, to deprive over five million people of home delivery. It would make Canada the only industrialized country to abolish door-to-door mail service.
postCPC President Deepak Chopra is not a geriatrician. But he actually stated that seniors would benefit from the exercise of walking a distance outdoors (regardless the weather) to retrieve their mail. The danger this poses to people with mobility challenges is no joke. And in addition to the gross inconvenience, there is the garbage. Disgusting piles of litter accumulate around these boxes. Canada Post profits from delivering junk mail but won’t put paper-recycling bins at its mega-box locations. And instead of improving postal security, the outdoor boxes are known to attract thieves and vandals.
Soon to be sorely missed is the essential role postal delivery workers play as part of the social fabric that keeps people safer and in touch with one another.
Canada Post announced, also on the eve of the holidays, a whopping increase in the price of stamps—up 35 percent for booklet purchases or a 59 percent hike for individual stamps (it will cost $1 to mail a letter). The impact on small businesses will be severe. Paying more, for less service – that seems to be the formula designed to make the postal service increasingly unpopular and seemingly expendable.
Another lie is about the burden of postal workers’ pensions. CPC claims that the problem is that “people are healthier and living longer,” and that “long-term interest rates have been chronically low.” A much bigger factor is that CPC, like many other public and private corporations in Canada, grossly underfunded its employee pension plan – to the point that it is $6.5 billion under the water line, according to the Toronto Star. Twice over the past six months, Canada Post unilaterally raised the pension contributions paid by its workers.
The federal government has condoned the decisions of many of Canada’s major public and private corporations to violate their legal obligations to fund their pension plans. General Motors and Air Canada are among the many firms that have received special dispensation. The government is now intervening to ease Canada Post’s obligations. CPC spokesperson Jon Hamilton said the intention to cut door-to-door delivery is part of a plan “to transform the company and transform the pension plan”.
Then there is the cost of running the post office itself. Its letter mail volumes may be shrinking. But it has posted a profit every year, except one, since 1994. It still has more retail outlets across Canada than any other company. Why has CPC spent more than $2-billion in the past few years to modernize mail processing and delivery if the post office is failing? The opposite is the case. The profits of UPS, FedEx, Pitney Bowes and other giant corporations in the communications sector have been steadily rising. (Deepak Chopra was recently a top executive at Pitney Bowes.) 115469wc649
The demand for the privatization and deregulation of Canada Post is not due to its failure. To the contrary, the elimination of the public post office is a potential source of super profits for the private sector.
CPC is moving into new areas of business. CUPW argues that one of those new areas should be banking. A research paper published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives last Fall shows that postal savings banks are money makers world-wide. New Zealand’s postal banking system, which was revived eight years ago, now accounts for 70 per cent of the profit earned by that country’s post office. The comparable figure for Italy is 67 per cent. France’s postal savings bank accounts for 36 per cent of its postal service’s pre-tax earnings. Even though Britain is privatizing mail delivery, it is not privatizing its system of post offices and postal savings banks. They’re too lucrative.
The present assault on the postal service occurs in a broad anti-worker context. The disappearance of thousands of full time, decent paying jobs puts pressure on unions to grant wage and benefit concessions. The layoffs at Electro-Motive Diesel and the planned closures of the Heinz and Kellogg’s plants in southern Ontario, add to the malaise – as will the elimination of 10,000 letter carrier jobs if home delivery is cut.
Laws hostile to the rights and conditions of education workers, Bill 22 in British Columbia and Bill 115 in Ontario, roused student protests and broad public dissent, but union leaders gave way to the governments’ will.
In 2011, the first year of the Stephen Harper majority government, there was a flood of back-to-work legislation against postal workers, Air Canada service workers, flight attendants, ground crew and pilots, and Canadian Pacific rail engineers. Wild cat actions by Air Canada ground crew in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec City in March 2012, and the following month when Air Canada pilots organized a “sick-out” not sanctioned by their union, did not generate an anti-worker backlash, despite the best efforts of the business media.
The Canadian Labour Congress, confronted by a staggering array of legislative attacks, responds with feel-good TV ads (the Fairness Works campaign). But the assault continues and deepens: the restrictive changes to Employment Insurance; the expansion of the highly exploitative, racist Temporary Foreign Worker program; Ottawa’s ongoing resistance to Canada Pension Plan reform; and the punitive anti-union Bills C-377 and C-525, and C-4 with their arbitrary rules on financial disclosure to harass unions, their obstacles to union organizing, and a dramatic rollback of federal health and safety regulation.
Desperately needed is a cross-country rallying cause to be the pivot for turning back this tide of reaction. Defence of postal services can be that pivot. Here’s why.
CUPW is renowned as one of the most militant and democratic unions in the Canadian state. By means of an illegal wildcat strike in 1965 it won the right to collective bargaining for all public sector employees. It won above average wage increases with strikes and walkouts in 1969 and the early 1970s. Further strikes in 1974 and 1975 succeeded in gaining job security in the face of new technology at the post office. In a 1981 strike it won the right to maternity leave for its members, a gain that eventually spread to virtually all organized workers.
Oct 28.CUPWbanner2CUPW has been in the forefront of solidarity campaigns with workers’ struggles domestically and internationally for generations. It has legions of social allies, and a personal presence in every city and town.
Now is the time to return the generous and exemplary solidarity of postal workers, and to stop the onslaught against public services and workers’ rights. It is also a golden opportunity to chase the Harper Conservatives from office, and to bust up the employers’ offensive.
The dire need, and the very real possibility of turning this attack around on the corporate elite is posed. This is the occasion to convene meetings across the country, in every work place, school, labour union, NDP district association, social justice movement, neighbourhood and community. Urgently needed is a massive information campaign. It should be accompanied by mass rallies, picketing at federal buildings, petitioning at public squares, the occupation of government MP offices, walk outs at work places and schools, and rotating strikes, leading up to a general strike.
The choice is stark: Defend home mail delivery and public services, or watch the descent into the hell of capitalist austerity accelerate.