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Danny Cavanagh to Nova Scotia Members of Parliament: Get Canada Post back to the bargaining table

Open letter to our Nova Scotia Members of Parliament – all Liberals.

Bill Casey, Geoff Regan, Scott Brison, Rodger Cuzner, Mark Eyking, Andy Fillmore, Darren Fisher, Colin Fraser, Sean Fraser, Bernadette Jordan, Darrell Samson

I am shocked that our Liberal government has initiated back to work legislation for the workers at Canada Post who are represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). Remember that union members are your constituents. The members of CUPW and others are severely impacted by your vote to support this Bill, and are at a loss to understand why you would vote against our Charter rights to collective bargaining, including their right to strike.

Bill C-89 was imposed even though mediator assisted negotiations were still going on. Your government by doing this chose to undercut the union’s bargaining power.

We condemn the legislation as a deceitful act by a government that promised to defend workers’ rights, that claimed to stand for equality for women and for expanding and defending the middle class. It’s unacceptable for any government to violate workers’ Charter rights, especially a government that said it would work to improve labour relations with its unions including at Canada Post.

It is even more astounding that our MP’s have agreed with this action last week given that after Stephen Harper legislated CUPW back to work following a strike/lockout the courts ruled that the back to work legislation was unconstitutional because the Right-To-Strike is protected by Section 2(d) of the Charter.

Our government knows full well that this back to work legislation is unconstitutional because that’s what the Supreme Court ruled in 2016, just a couple of years ago. Really just two years ago and now back to the courts they will go and waste vast amounts of money and time, shame on them for not upholding the law.

It is not often that workers exercise their right to strike but when they do, it is because they are standing up to injustice in the workplace. In this case, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) are taking a stand at a great personal sacrifice, a stand for stronger health and safety protections, gender equality, and the preservation of decent full-time, middle class jobs.

The reality is that working conditions of postal workers have deteriorated over the last decade partly because Canada Post has failed to properly address the significant increase in parcel volumes and the subsequent burden it has placed on workers.

Shame on any government that will not address workplace injuries, which over the last two years, have increased by nearly 45 percent. Today, the injury rate for a letter carrier is eight times the average of the rest of the federal sector.

Doesn’t it seem legitimate that government should ensure worker safety or is it simply good enough that our MP’s sit back and watch injury rates climb. The cost alone for increased health care, benefit plan costs and workers compensation all rise with the high rates of injuries and our MP’s sit back silent watching this.  

Why is it OK to have so many Canada Post workers work excessive overtime, have any of our Nova Scotia MP’s even questioned this aspect and the cost? Canada Post is a profitable corporation and has consistently made a profit year after year. Isn’t it better to hire more workers and end forced overtime?  Work life balance issues and worker safety are important issues for workers and they should be for our MPs.

Equality for rural and suburban mail carriers, like getting paid for all hours worked, guaranteed minimum hours, and job security, must be addressed. Governments must do more then simply pay lip service to such issues and as MPs you must stand up and do the right thing.

Other key demands of our postal workers include job security, but instead of addressing these systemic issues, Canada Post and by extension our MPs have proposed solutions that will perpetuate and entrench insecure employment, an inadequate and unfair wage structure, and the discriminatory treatment of female rural and suburban mail carriers.

The Liberal government has an opportunity to do the right thing, to help build vibrant communities by expanding postal services, to preserve decent working conditions, and to serve the future needs of residents across the country by building on this important public service.

Instead they follow their leader and sit silent, not exactly the kind of government we need.

It is important to recognize that decisions made today will not only affect the working conditions of postal workers across this country, but it will also define the working conditions of every worker in this country for generations to come.

As MPs you can wonder no more why people are so cynical and apathetic about politics. Wasting taxpayer dollars in the courts all over again is really shameful. Even our senators are now questioning the move by your government and the constitutionality of poorly thought out back-to-work legislation.  

In closing calling the delivery of mail an “essential service” is a massive overreach against the backdrop of the Supreme Court of Canada’s reference to the ILO definition in SFL v Saskatchewan: “clear and imminent threat to the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population”. Even a full-blown strike and company-wide shutdown of Canada Post would not meet this definition. The series of selective and temporary rotating strikes isn’t even remotely close.

Your government has stated publicly many times that they support workers’ rights and are committed to a more equal and fairer society.  Prime Minister Trudeau made it a priority to improve labour relations at Canada Post. Back-to-work legislation seriously damages that effort.

Legislating an end to “rotating strikes” seems to be more about pandering to the corporate and business community, than it is about providing “essential services”.

Perhaps government could be more concerned with action that would force Canada Post Corporation to comply with the law, get back to the bargaining table, and settle this dispute.    

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour


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