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Disillusioned with the Conservatives, Canada Post and CUPW

For a moment it seemed as though American politics had moved North. People all over our great nation asked, what on earth is a filibuster, why is the NDP sleeping in the House of Commons, and are the Bloc really allowed to drink scotch there?

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Date Posted: July 12, 2011
Print Edition: July 7, 2011

By Sean Evans (Contributor) – Email

Image by Jack Brown

For a moment it seemed as though American politics had moved North. People all over our great nation asked, what on earth is a filibuster, why is the NDP sleeping in the House of Commons, and are the Bloc really allowed to drink scotch there?

Over one weekend, the NDP staged an epic 58-hour filibuster (think delay-of-game penalty), the Conservative majority approved back-to-work legislation, and postal workers were sent back to work with a great deal less than they had hoped for. This put an end (seemingly) to an unfortunate situation for Canada Post, the CUPW, and the Conservative government. Summing up the situation, a close friend of mine and Canada Post Employee updated his Facebook status thus, “Disillusioned with the Conservatives, Canada Post and CUPW but that’s life…”

For those standing on the sidelines and those personally affected by the labour dispute, the situation has been handled poorly by all three parties: the CUPW, Canada Post, and the Conservative government.

It is hard to understand the demands made by CUPW: a wage increase of 3.3 per cent in the first year, followed by an increase of 2.75 per cent for the next three years. It is simply perplexing to think that Canada Post Workers need a raise of 11.5 per cent over the next four years. With the dawn of that new fangled electronic-mail and online billing, the CUPW should be aware that the mail system has quickly become antiquated. It seems to me that the only thing the strike/lock-out has produced is a realization in many citizens that Canada Post is a non-essential service.

Since 2006, the amount of mail delivered by Canada Post has dropped by 17 per cent, and Canada Post projects a 30 per cent decline in the next 5 years. At the same time, approximately 200,000 new addresses are added each year in Canada, resulting in an increased number of carriers needed. The result is less profit and increased operating costs. Generally, when a business (yes, Canada Post is a business) sees profit margins falling and operating costs increasing, it is an inopportune time for an employee to ask for a raise. If I were a member of the CUPW, I would be more concerned about the future of my job than a pay raise.

At the same time, Canada Post has handled the situation poorly. In a rapidly changing marketplace, Canada Post has failed to diversify their services. Many other national postal services have adapted, yet Canada Post has fallen behind. For example, Deutsche Post in Germany designs and prints flyers and advertisements for customers, and even sells stamps online that can be printed at home. In South Africa the post office can accept payment for auto-insurance and traffic tickets. The Israeli postal service offers foreign exchange and simple banking. These examples are just a few ways in which foreign postal services have diversified in the midst of a decline. Why hasn’t Canada Post done the same? It is no wonder that Canada Post is in a downward spiral and faces the difficult decision of cutting wages and benefit packages. On the other hand, the situation is not all too horrid for Canada Post; they have still managed to turn a yearly profit over the last 15 years. So the question is are they being financially responsible or just plain stingy with their employees?

After 14 days the Conservative government ordered the CUPW back to work. One has to wonder why the Conservatives would take such a heavy-handed approach. Sure, the strike has had a financial impact, but was it so detrimental to the economic health of the nation that it was necessary to intervene? The government had many other options available and should have encouraged further negotiation. It seems to be that the Parliamentary Summer recess played a role in the decision made by the Conservatives. It is likely that if nothing had been done and the work stoppage continued while the MP’s were enjoying an 87 day break (following a lengthy 34 day session), there may have been a need to recall Parliament (horrors!). It seems that the Conservative government just wanted the situation to go away, and was willing to sacrifice fair process, cooperative mediation, and workers rights.

It seems as though there is no black and white answer to the problems facing Canada Post and the CUPW. Unfortunately, it is likely that we have not heard the end of this situation.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Sick of Spin

    July 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I only wanted to disect this one paragraph of yours.

    Since 2006, the amount of mail delivered by Canada Post has dropped by 17 per cent, … and Canada Post projects a 30 per cent decline in the next 5 years. At the same time, approximately 200,000 new addresses are added each year in Canada, resulting in an increased number of carriers needed. The result is less profit and increased operating costs. Generally, when a business (yes, Canada Post is a business) sees profit margins falling and operating costs increasing, it is an inopportune time for an employee to ask for a raise. If I were a member of the CUPW, I would be more concerned about the future of my job than a pay raise.

    this is true in the fact that it is measured per houshold.
    Let’s round that number to 20%. If each house in Canada recieved 5 pieces of mail in the past, they now would recieve 4.

    I fail to understand the reasoning of dropping mail volumes, when Canada Post is in fact handling more pieces of “mail” than they ever have.

    If you actually took the time to read or at least skim over the corporation’s 2009 report.(the last one available), you would see that not only have revenues dropped, profits are at record highs. This is accomplished not by increasing the workforce, but with the increased workload.

    In fact if you look at the downtown area of Vancouver, the number of points of call is dramatically higher than a decade ago, yet virtually the same workforce completes the duty.

    Please investigate all you facts before publishing. The “Spin Doctors” at CPC are fabulous with crunching numbers in thier favour. And I would request that the media stop making the issues about raises, that was a very minor thing.

    The fight was over MASSIVE ROLLBACKS. something you or anyone else wouldn’t expect from a crown corporation, that has been profitable to the tune of over 1.5 billion in the last fifteen years. Tell me, how many other branches or operations that are federal are profitable.

    I’m sure someone can come up with a spreadsheet.

    I Am,

    Sick of Spin

  2. Sean

    July 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Sick of Spin,
    Canada Post may indeed be handling more “pieces of mail” than ever, however, they are delivering mail to “approximately 200,000 new addresses” each year. So, if I took Logic 101 (better register soon…September is coming!), I would know that with more addresses and less mail to deliver, operating costs are increasing and profits are decreasing. So, even if Canada Post is turning a profit, that profit is at risk in the long run (think the next 20 years). I believe that was clear in the article.
    Talk to anyone on the streets (as I have). The biggest realization to come out of the strike/lockout was that we really do not need Canada Post. Most did not miss junk mail and the occasional bill that has yet to switch to a much more efficient online version. It seems as though the CUPW is simply in a state of denial. The very existence of Canada Post and the CUPW is at risk (in the long run).

    We in the media make an “issue” about the raises because the average Canadian is not in a position to demand a raise from their boss in the current economy, especially if their employer is facing increasing operating costs and sliding profits. The raises are certainly not a “very minor thing”, and to call it so is ludicrous. Canada Post workers may deserve a raise, but that is not for me to decide. The fact is that Canada Post workers already earn more than the average “un-skilled” worker and receive benefit packages. There are many who need a raise, not all can call a strike.

    I tried to take a balanced approach to commenting on the situation, and I am no expert on the matter. It sounds to me like you’re closely tied to the dispute.
    All the best,
    -Sean

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