A 72 hour lockout notice has been issued by Canada Post.
Here is what is really happening. Canada Post is refusing to bargain. They have only tabled one offer during negotiations and routinely issued misleading statements that the union is asking for $1 billion in demands. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is trying to negotiate for pay equity for the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers, which is a heavily female dominated occupation. They also have been trying to resist massive rollbacks to their rights and benefits, especially for new hires.
Canada Post’s management wanted this to end up in a strike or lockout (though they preferred the former).
Why you ask? Quite simply they want to sabotage the review of Canada Post set up by the new Liberal government. The review, launched this past May, is looking at the cuts to Canada Post and the prospect of home mail delivery. During the election the Liberals signalled they would restore door-to-door mail delivery, however, the fine print of their platform only promised a review. It is clear the Liberals are using the review to diffuse anger over the cuts without committing to do anything about it. Nonetheless management at the Crown Corporation sees the review as a threat.
The Crown Corporation in making the case for cutting services have routinely pointed to a decline in letter volume and the loss of profits. This is usually based on numbers from 2011 – the year of the strike/lockout. That year and 2013 are the only years in its modern history Canada Post has failed to turn a profit. With any sustained work stoppage Canada Post is likely to lose money and even long-term business.
Management will point to this lockout and say the Crown Corporation is unsustainable, unprofitable and the dramatic changes it was trying to bring in were the correct ones. This will be the drum they beat in the media and dutiful columnists and journalists will run with it.
There is no love lost between the Liberals and Deepak Chopra (and his upper management team at Canada Post) as they tried unsuccessfully to remove Chopra this past fall.
This is not because of a fundamental political difference between the Liberals and Chopra, but rather that he is seen as a creature of Harper. He is a Conservative partisan who was appointed to another term as President and CEO of Canada Post before his current term even expired, by a Conservative party that was on its way out the door.
Upper management of Canada Post, many of whom have links to private postal companies like Pitney Bowes, are in the business of destroying Canada Post in its current form. They are not rational actors in these negotiations. Their best bet to keep their jobs in the current climate is to drive the corporation into the ground and saying they were right to cut services all along.
The Liberals could solve this problem immediately by permanently halting the cuts at Canada Post and reversing the cuts to door-to-door. They could also promise to not raid the pension fund and pay back the money that was raided in the 90s and the 2000s in order to balance the budget.
But the Liberals are not going to do this of their own free will. They are letting this all happen with stoney indifference.
CUPW and its allies must hold firm. We must draw on the networks of solidarity built up from the last strike/lockout and the fight to save door-to-door. We need to have strong picket lines, but also do community outreach. We must also direct our fire at the Liberals, call on them to step in and force the hand of management or fire them.
For more information about the issues at Canada Post please read: Seven Myths about Canada Post