Canadian postal strike on hold while talks continue
(Updated 5.30pm) Canadian postal workers will not strike before Saturday (May 28) as negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers continue regarding a new wage deal. The union sent a fresh set of demands to the Crown Corporation on Sunday, three days after Canada Post had set out its “final offer” for a new four-year collective bargaining agreement.
The CUPW said its new “comprehensive” offer continues to oppose Canada Post’s proposals to reform sick leave entitlement as well as rejecting a 22% cut in starting salaries for future employees.
Wednesday (May 25) had been the earliest that the union could officially call a work stoppage in the bargaining process, following last month’s 94.5% vote by the union membership in favour of industrial action.
But, under the rules a strike or lock-out requires at least 72 hours’ notice, which has not been given.
- Update: The CUPW said this afternoon that Canada Post has indicated it is now preparing a reply to the union’s latest offer. The union said: “In this context the CUPW National Executive Board has decided not to submit a 72 hour strike notice today. Consequently there will be no strike activity on May 27.”
Canada Post said in a statement issued yesterday that it would be “business as usual” across its network. The terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement with the CUPW remain in place until a new deal is agreed.
The Crown Corporation stated: “Canada Post remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement that will protect postal services, minimize future postal rate increases, and improve employee wages.”
The two sides have been negotiating for a new collective bargaining agreement for the CUPW’s urban unit since October 2010, with the bargaining turning into a conciliation process back in January.
Disagreement has focused on Canada Post’s need to respond to continuing declines in the mail volumes by cutting its costs and improving efficiency. The union has consistently argued that the Corporation’s 16 consecutive years of profitability should not mean cutting staff wages or benefits.
Canada Post’s final offer to the union on Sunday included higher annual wage increases, of 1.75% in each of the first two years, followed by a 1.90% rise before a 2% rise in the final year of the deal.
Sick leave would be replaced by the Short-Term Disability Program that has been unpopular with the union. This would allow staff seven “personal days” off each year for any reason, but also a seven-day waiting period for an employee to qualify for disability, after which up to 30 weeks could be claimed during which 70% of wages would be paid.
There were also adjustments to future employee conditions, with new staff to start on $18-per-hour wages, rather than $17.50 per hour, though still reduced from the current $24 per hour.
Other proposals in the latest Canada Post offer included renewed protections against contracting out work, new triggers for creating new full-time and part-time positions, doubling birth and adoption leave, and a $2m fund for “human rights and workplace conflict training”.
Canada Post said it had dropped proposed changes to post-retirement benefits and a Defined Contribution pension plan. It also dropped a “competency-based” hiring process for retail outlets and changes to vacation entitlements for current regular staff.
Proposals to eliminate a half-hour lunch break for future employees was also dropped.
Sunday’s offer from the union saw a demand for a wage increases starting at $0.84 per hour from February 2011, rising to a $0.94 per hour increase in the final year of the four-year deal.
The union also called for cost-of-living allowances to cover inflation and for extra support for temporary workers.
The CUPW represents around 50,000 Canada Post workers including from mail carriers to postal clerks, mail handlers and despatchers, technicians, mechanics and electricians. The current collective bargaining agreement is for urban workers, so does not include the 7,000 or so rural-based members.
The last postal strike in Canada was in 1997, when operations were shut down for a period of 14 days. Canadian businesses warned last week that a new postal strike could damage the long-term health of the mail in Canada.