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CUPW obtains Cease and Desist Order!

On December 4, 2008, Canada Post picked up where it left off in October by threatening button-wearing employees with suspensions.

Weeks earlier, CUPW members were encouraged to participate in a nationwide Union campaign by wearing buttons or affixing stickers carrying the message, Peace, joy and universal public postal service. CUPW members were encouraged to wear the buttons and stickers on December 4, 2008. The message articulated on those buttons and stickers is clearly positive and advocates for a public postal service. By most standards, the message conveyed by those buttons and stickers would not be considered derogatory or defamatory. After all, peace and joy are words that appear on most Christmas cards. Further, a recent Ipsos-Reid poll indicated that most Canadians are in favour of a universal postal service. Indeed, as a crown corporation that provides a universal public postal service, it is difficult to understand how Canada Post’s reputation could be damaged by advocating for its continued existence. Nonetheless, on December 4, 2008, Canada Post supervisors were instructed to threaten employees with discipline.

  In many locations throughout B.C., CUPW members were directed to remove the stickers and buttons under threat of suspension. In Terrace, supervisors threatened to fire an employee who refused to remove his button. In Vancouver, unidentified members of the Business Zone Management Team, advised employees by way of an unsigned letter that progressive discipline would be applied to employees who dared to adorn themselves with such logos.

There are numerous arbitration awards that deal with the issue of the freedom of expression. In nearly all cases, it has been held that an employer does not have the right to infringe on an employee’s right to participate in legitimate Union activities, although there are a small number of isolated cases wherein it has been established that the expression of those views had a detrimental effect on the reputation of the employer. A brief summary of some of these awards can be found at www.cupwpacific.org (Back to the future: Canada Post attempts to put a muzzle on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - November 25, 2008).

The Corporation’s approach towards the Union and its rights since the signing of the Collective Agreement has been relentless. In early December 2008, the Union applied for a Cease and Desist order to address Corporation’s ongoing over-the-top disciplinary approach in dealing with buttons and stickers.

On December 5, 2008, Arbitrator Claude Lauzon granted the Union’s request for a Cease and Desist order. Arbitrator Lauzon found that the evidence disclosed a prima facie case of a contravention of Article 5.01 of the Collective Agreement. Article 5.01 proscribes discrimination, intimidation, restriction, and/or coercion on the basis of membership or activity in the Union. Arbitrator Lauzon specifically made the following order:

The Court allows the Union’s request and orders that the Corporation and its representatives stop prohibiting employees in the bargaining unit from wearing the buttons or stickers described above, and stop imposing disciplinary sanctions on the employees who wear them.

As a result, Canada Post has been effectively stopped from threatening or otherwise coercing its employees from wearing Union buttons and stickers  entitled, Your public post office delivers… for now or Peace, joy and universal public postal service. The Cease and Desist order will remain in effect until a hearing on the merits, which has yet to be scheduled.

At the time of this writing, the Canada Post Strategic Review Panel has yet to release its recommendations regarding the future of Canada Post. Please support a public post office by wearing Union buttons and stickers during the month of December.

Your public post office delivers for now,

Ken Mooney
Grievance Officer
CUPW Pacific Region