Postal workers stamp strike trail – Customer service, benefits, salaries on the line

  • Jun. 2, 2011 3:00 p.m.

All indications are that by the time you read this, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have hit the picket line after seven months of failed contract negotiations.

Contract talks have stalled over several points, including wage hikes, pensions, sick leave and entry level salaries.

“Hopefully they [Canada Post and CUPW] are still negotiating to get a settlement,” president of CUPW local 816, Thailan Grenon said.

“But at this point it could go either way.”

Negotiations between the Crown Corporation and the CUPW with about 55,000 members, 49 of which work in the Quesnel area, have stalled around several points. One of those issues is customer service. CUPW would like to see Canada Post invest in house-to-house delivery and move away from centralized boxes.

Grenon points to some streets in Quesnel where residents on one side of the street have their mail delivered directly to their homes, while residents on the other side of the street are obliged to pick up their mail at a superbox.

“They [Canada Post] have been making money for years,” Grenon, who has been with Canada Post for 31 years, said.

“We feel that money should be going back to the public.

“It is a public service, it belongs to the public.”

Thus far, it appears the public are in full support of CUPW.

“We’ve been getting a lot of positive comments,” Grenon said.

Canada Post disagrees with that assessment and claim their revenues from letter mail have dropped by 17 per cent over the last five years.

“The reality is it has gone down seven per cent,” Grenon said.

Grenon added Canada Post is not including increased revenues from their parcel services when calculating revenues for the purpose of contract negotiations.

Compared to years gone by when Canada Post dealt with very few parcels except during the Christmas holidays, Grenon said the volume of parcels Canada Post deals with has increased tremendously.

“We have large volumes of parcels every day now,” she said.

CUPW has also, for the moment, drawn a line in the sand with regards to entry-level salaries.

Currently, the average starting wage for Canada Post employees is $23 an hour and the Crown Corporation would like to set the entry-level wage at $17.

This does not sit well with CUPW Grenon said.

“We don’t believe in two-tier,” she said.

“Nobody should be paid less for doing the same work.”

Grenon said the union was not willing to go back to a two-tier system, alluding to the gender-biased salaries in the early days of Canada Post, a battle the union fought and won in the 1970’s.

Sick leave benefits are another sticking point.

Canada Post would like to eliminate the current sick leave benefits plan and replace it with a short-term disability program administered by Manulife.

“They want to give us something that isn’t at all adequate,” Grenon said of the proposed changes to sick leave benefits.

The current sick leave benefits have been in place since 1968 and Grenon wonders why the Crown Corporation has decided to change the sick leave benefits program.

“It hasn’t been a burden on them since then, so why do they want to take it away from us?” she questioned.

Grenon described the current offer from Canada Post surrounding sick leave as, “inadequate.”

CUPW, in most provinces, has agreed to maintain delivery of pension and old age security cheques.

However, the Liberal government has opted out of having social security cheques delivered during the strike, Grenon said.

For further details of contract negotiations visit www.cupw.ca and www.clients.infopost.ca/en/.

For breaking news on the postal strike visit www.quesnelobserver.com.