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LETTER: Local postal workers union frustrated over flawed negotiations

Dear Editor

On behalf of the women and men who process and deliver your mail and serve you at the Castlegar Post Office, I want to thank the public for your participation in the postal review and especially for your ongoing support during our difficult negotiations with Canada Post.

You may remember that on July 2nd, Canada Post indicated that they intended to lock out their 50,000 employees across the country because we will not give in to the major concessions they want to impose on us. They withdrew that notice, mostly because Canadians did not support that kind of aggressive approach and want the parties to negotiate a new contract that protects decent jobs in our communities and protects and expands services for residents and businesses in urban and rural areas across the country.

As a result, for the past month the negotiating committees have been meeting, but it quickly became apparent that management has no intentions of seriously working towards an agreement. Even on the tiniest of issues on which the corporation say they agree, they have stalled on the details. And on the major issues of equal benefits, protecting our pension, pay equity and protection and expansion of services for the public – the corporation has not budged one bit, so talks have come to a virtual halt on substantive matters that might lead to a new contract. They are still determined to eliminate the provisions that currently protect 490 corporate offices, which could seriously impact Castlegar, Nelson, Trail and Rossland. Without that protection, these retail offices could be closed.

Part of the problem is that the CEO (Harper appointed and renewed) Deepak Chopra, is still wed to the previous government’s agenda of eliminating jobs and postal outlets and ceasing door to door delivery. Despite the fact that the newly elected Liberal government campaigned to stop the cuts and asked for his resignation, he and his 22 Vice Presidents still cling to a narrow agenda that will undermine the public post office. That is why postal workers have been going to the offices of Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister in recent days – to remind them that they are in fact Deepak’s boss and they should tell him to negotiate in good faith instead of playing games with the process.

Canada Post has been profitable for 20 of the last 22 years. CPC management know that they are not in compliance with the law of the land by not implementing pay equity for our predominately female rural bargaining unit but they would rather spend millions of dollars going through the courts for the next 20 years like they did with 2 of their other unions before eventually having to pay up instead of treating them fairly now. We want our rural members to see justice before they die instead of having the ultimate settlement paid to their estates.

As for our pensions – despite a misinformed minority that claims they are not affordable or that most companies no longer have them, the fact is that nearly 75 per cent of private pensions are defined benefit plans, and a healthy pension is a very strong deterrent to poverty in a worker’s old age. The CPP is the nation’s defined benefit pension plan and the government recognized its value recently by proposing increases in the benefit to retired Canadians. Our pension plan is healthy as a “going concern” and our suggestions to create new services will make sure Canada Post is viable for many years into the future so our pension will remain stable. Postal workers can not and should never sell out future generations of workers in order to protect the plan we have been investing in for our whole careers but Canada Post believes otherwise.

So, despite all our efforts and our hopes, nothing much has changed since July 2, but time to get an agreement is quickly running out. There is a time limit for the union to use its strike mandate even though the corporation has no such limit – they can lock us out anytime by only serving their 72 hour notice again. CUPW has remained determined to negotiate a collective agreement that looks to the future and includes expanded services for our customers, but it takes two sides to negotiate. We wanted to keep our neighbours and customers up to date with information because you may have thought everything was settled when we did not get locked out last month. Far from it.

For up to date information you can check out CUPW’s website www.cupw.ca. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Cindy McCallum Miller

President, CUPW Castlegar Local