A Decent Collective Agreement in 2016

And we just might save our public postal service in the process, despite the actions of Canada Post management.

Make no mistake. This is a tough round of bargaining. Canada Post has been saber rattling and scaring away mail for weeks now. They have been trying to turn the public against us and to turn worker against worker. Canada Post’s first and final offer was designed to divide urban and rural workers, regular and temporary workers, senior and junior members. They’ve threatened to change working conditions and to lock out postal workers if we refuse to give up on our demands for equality and for decent pensions for future members.

We’ve Been Here Before.

We’ve heard these threats before and we’ve seen Canada Post carry out similar threats in the past. Bargaining has never been easy for postal workers. We fought some long bitter strikes over the decades. Members sacrificed their income and stood their ground on sometimes violent picket lines. They did so to improve wages and working conditions; especially for workers who had fewer rights and benefits at the time, like part timers, temporary workers, or rural and suburban mail carriers.

Postal workers have effectively used the right to withdraw our labour, or the threat that we would exercise that right, to make gains around things like technological change, paid maternity leave, health and safety, job creation, service expansion, reduced work time, wages and benefits, bargaining rights for rural workers, and job security. Although we lost some important contract language when back to work legislation ended our strikes and imposed arbitration, we were still able to make some important gains and resist the worst employer roll backs.

Public Postal Service Still Matters…Thanks to Postal Workers and our Allies

Postal workers have never fought just for our own interests at the bargaining table. For decades we fought to protect and expand public postal services and create decent jobs in communities.

The result is that, despite the competition and challenges, the post office is still an important part of every community. And it can play an even greater role if Canada Post is open to some of our viable and sustainable ideas.

Despite slowly declining volumes, many individuals and small and home businesses still rely on letter mail to some extent.

Canada Post recently proclaimed they are “Number 1 in parcels!”, and this, in a highly competitive market.

Our public post office still provides the cheapest, most economical and reliable shipping service across the country and across the world today.

And it consistently makes PROFITS.

This public sector success story is all due to the efforts of postal workers. As the song goes, without our brain and muscle, not a single wheel would turn.

We’re not going to let Canada Post management’s short sighted bargaining strategy destroy the post office that we’ve built. Neither will our allies, especially the people and communities who rely on their postal service.

We’ve saved the employer from their mistakes before. In 1989 they thought it was a good idea to contract out parcels.

In 2003 we finally negotiated to have all parcels brought back in house. And now, Canada Post is a major player in the parcel industry and parcels are a huge source of revenue.

Two Parties are at the Negotiations Table

Both parties at the bargaining table are trying to get the best deal possible with the least amount of pain. The Union doesn’t want a work disruption because of the impact on the membership and on service. And Canada Post shouldn’t want one either. Disruptions in postal service always have consequences.

We just know that sometimes it has to happen. The ability to withdraw our labour is the power we have as workers and a Charter right upheld by the courts. Canada Post also has the right to lock out. The difference between us and Canada Post is that we respect the right to strike, as a tool to be used carefully and strategically.

Canada Post uses their right to lock out as a weapon. They use it to undermine postal workers and the Union. And they are willing to risk the entire postal service when they do.

In the past the employer has had the upper hand because they could rely on punitive back to work legislation to end work disruptions.

This is not the case in 2016. The courts have ruled that the 2011 back to work legislation violated our Charter rights. And the Liberal Government has stated they will not intervene in our negotiations.

Both parties are going to have to really negotiate, with a work disruption or not, to reach a negotiated agreement they can both live with.

Real negotiations require both parties to make choices and to make compromises. The Union’s response to the employer’s offer indicates we are willing to do both.

We’ll see if Canada Post is also willing to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement without a lockout or strike.

Let’s Stay Strong and United

Now is not the time for second guessing our negotiators and indulging in arm chair quarterbacking all over social media sites. Nor is it the time to turn on each other. Let’s stick together, support our negotiators and let them do their jobs.

Let’s show that solidarity is more than just a song we sing.


Pat Bertrand
Vancouver Local Grievance Officer