by David Bush and Doug Nesbitt
Canada Post management has just suspended its program of cutting home mail delivery in favour of “community mailboxes”.
This is a huge victory and it’s worth celebrating.
It all started nearly two years ago when Canada Post’s management surprised everyone with a plan to eliminate all home mail delivery over five years, slash 8000 jobs, and raise postal fees. When the NDP introduced a motion to stop this, it was defeated and the Harper majority stood up in the House of Commons and cheered on the cuts.
Since the announcement was made on December 11, 2013, thousands of people have taken part in local efforts to stop the loss of home mail delivery.
Activism has taken many forms: from town halls, pickets, to rallies and door-to-door campaigning, to sit-ins, round-the-clock blockades and occupations. Postal workers have even toured the country in a caravan drumming up support. In many areas, local residents have teamed up with postal workers and even politicians to take on the cuts. This has led to hundreds of Canadian municipalities declaring opposition to the home delivery cuts and demanding Canada Post reverse them and save jobs.
An election issue
The campaign has had its ups and downs, stop and starts, but a lot of people have continued to work together to keep the issue alive. This activism is what made the cuts at Canada Post an election issue. It forced the major parties to make the future of Canada Post part of their campaigns. The NDP said they would stop and reverse the cuts entirely, while the Liberals promised to halt the cuts and call a review on the future of Canada Post. Only the Tories favoured the cuts and this is one of the many reasons they were punished at the polls. It has only been a week since the election and Canada Post management is clearly feeling the heat.
Collective action delivers
It was us – the people doing the hard work knocking on doors, talking to local politicians, writing letters and collecting signatures – who made this possible. It was the postal workers who refused to concede defeat and spent their free time and weekends campaigning to save Canada Post.
By choosing to fight instead of throwing up our arms in defeat, we immediately set about building a movement of postal workers and community activists that has demonstrated some real power. It required engaging everyone who was even the slightest bit angry about the cuts. We had to do it with patient arguments and getting out the facts like Canada Post’s profitability, the possibilities of postal banking, the privatization agenda, the jobs being lost, and the fact that Canada Post doesn’t operate on a single cent of taxpayers money.
It was us, not the mainstream press, that kept the cuts an issue. While the papers and television news spread misinformation about Canada Post facing extinction, residents and postal workers took action, knowing full well that this public service is highly profitable and in fact a golden goose that private corporations would love to see privatized.
It was us who fuelled this change, and created a persistent and pesky political pressure that local politicians and then federal politicians and then Canada Post management could not ignore.
The struggle continues
Let’s cheer this victory. We stopped for now what a lot of people said was inevitable.
Let’s take a breath, gather ourselves and get ready.
But there are no guarantees yet. The halt to the cuts is only temporary and there are no signals as of yet that they will be reversed. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is also entering negotiations with Canada Post. Management may force a strike or lockout postal workers in an effort to dismantle this public service. Postal workers will need our support. The battle to save Canada Post from the austerity agenda and the corporate privatizers is not over.
So let’s keep this momentum going. Let’s use this moment to re-engage everyone we know once again. Let’s draw strength from this victory, and draw out the contradictions of Canada Post’s position by asking why save door-to-door delivery for some but not others? Let’s keep up the pressure on the Liberals to return home delivery to those who lost it, and install new management which respects the public mission of Canada Post, and to bring in postal banking which could strengthen and expand this valuable public service.
When the cuts were announced in December 2013, Canada Post’s management and countless newspaper editorials told us the end of home delivery was inevitable. We didn’t accept this. Workers and community activists across the country fought and won. In the process we struck a blow against privatization and for strong public services.
As the postal workers say, the struggle continues…