About 20 unionized Canada Post mail carriers were out on foot Tuesday in Trail, not delivering mail but taking a stand against reduced letter mail delivery.
“We’ve been locked out for outside delivery mail for Tuesdays and Thursdays and we’re just letting the public know that the mail is sitting in the post office ready to be delivered and they’re keeping us from doing that job,” said Ed Evans, Local 842 president for Trail and Rossland.
An information picket line traveled down Cedar Avenue carrying the message “We want to work but Canada Post won’t let us,” referring to unscheduled and unpaid days off unionized workers are hit with twice a week now ultimately due to unsettled contract negotiations, which also suspended the employee collective agreement and benefits.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been issuing rotating strike action notices to highlight the impact of service reductions in major urban centres and meanwhile Canada Post reduced delivery days because it says fewer customers are choosing its service.
But Evans said mail is piling up at the Trail branch and the carriers are eager to get back to their regular routes fulltime.
“The rotating strike is the (Canadian Union of Postal Workers’) strategy to minimally impact businesses and our loyal customers so we can get the negotiations to finish and to come up with a collective agreement,” said Evans. “This isn’t our time to rotate, this day we want to go to work but they will not let us in to deliver your mail.”
Anick Losier, a spokesperson from Canada Post, said the company has felt a 50 per cent reduction in volume and had to act accordingly.
“What we’ve seen in the last 12 days or so is that consumer confidence has certainly been shaken by the actions of the union,” she said Tuesday. “When someone isn’t sure that their mail isn’t going to get through to Toronto or to Trail or wherever it is, they may want to use an alternative, going to online, or they may not send any mail.”
Losier said the reduction in service levels was made in hopes of containing cost, as the strike has already resulted in a $70-million bill.
“It’s really unfortunate because what it’s doing is putting us against the wall, it’s completely crippling our ability to operate our network and ultimately hurting customers,” she said.
Communication is still ongoing, though both sides agree negotiations for a new collective agreement have hit a wall.
The biggest issues include hours, sick days, working conditions, a two-tiered wage system and pensions.
“New employees starting with Canada Post will have 30 per cent less wages, reduced benefits, an inferior pension and weaker job security,” explained Evans.
The company would lower starting wages to $19 an hour for carriers, which could be worked up to a maximum of $26 over the course of seven years, rather than the current starting rate of $24 with a maximum promotion to $26 achieved after five years.
“We are trying to save money so we can reinvest in the company in the future,” said Losier, adding that Canada Post is looking to reposition itself for the future. “Out of the people who have chosen to go online, what we’re afraid of is that we might never see these people again.”
Evans is passionate about leading unionized employees in a movement, which he hopes will provoke positive change, and at least give residents information on what is occurring at their local branches due to what’s happening on the national scale.
“Look at our city here, we have just lost our post office, it’s been reclassified as an installation and under the Canadian postal charter we were supposed to get public consultation before it happened,” he said. “But the Canada Post management team went in and pulled the blanket over everybody’s eyes in this town and it’s not only happening here, it’s happening everywhere across Canada.”