CUPW members pitch in to bring gift of festive cheer!
With Christmas just days away, all is definitely not festive between Canada Post and the Union of Postal Communications Employees (UPCE). The UPCE, Canada Post’s smallest bargaining unit, is a predominantly female workforce that performs clerical and administrative duties.
Now into the sixth week of their strike against Canada Post, UPCE members have firmly stood their ground in a dispute that began when the Corporation demanded to eliminate current sick leave and family leave entitlements and introduce a Short Term Disability plan (STD) that would be solely administered and controlled by Manulife Financial.
UPCE picket lines have remained solid since the onset of the strike but Canada Post’s current leadership regime has thus far shown more interest in applying for court injunctions than in returning to the bargaining table.
On Friday, December 5, 2008, striking UPCE members received a gift of festive cheer from CUPW members. At approximately 8:00 a.m., third floor Letter Carriers from Depot 74, Station K, and the Mountainview Delivery Center took a break from their duties and exited the Vancouver Mail Processing Plant en masse to assemble with the striking workers on West Georgia Street.
On three previous occasions, third floor CUPW members similarly departed from the VMPP to march around the building in support of striking UPCE members.
To the sound of bagpipes, over two hundred employees gathered and watched as Vancouver Local President Robert Mulvin and Depot 74 Shop Steward Kay Matheson presented UPCE Local President Sharon Tieman and Vice-President Neil Brown with a Christmas slush fund in the amount of $1,500.00.
The fund had been collected during the preceding week after third floor CUPW members, in a gesture of solidarity, decided to take it upon themselves to create a little seasonal cheer for the striking workers.
After a brief prsentation, it was back to work for CUPW members but the gesture of their support meant a great deal to UPCE members.
There were no confirmed Grinch sightings although certain management representatives were seen lurking in the shadows at a safe distance.
“Imagine cutting sick leave in half!”
Although Canada Post has publicly denied that it seeks to roll back sick leave benefits, an email that was reportedly authored by Mary Traversy, Senior Vice-President, indicates quite the contrary. As observed in an article that appeared in Canadian Business (“Canada Post has serious credibility issues” December 8, 2008), Traversy’s email makes the Corporation’s intentions crystal clear: “The change we are trying to make with psac (sic) could be the biggest driver of improvement we have ever seen at CPC. Imagine cutting sick leave in half!”
In most circles, “cutting” sick leave benefits would hardly be cause for celebration. However, Chief Executive Officers are far removed from the reality of workers. This is particularly underscored by the fact that Canada Post CEO Moya Greene currently stands to reap a handsome 33% performance bonus. Given the context of the UPCE strike, we cannot help but consider whether Moya Greene’s bonus payment will be in any way contingent on Canada Post‘s success in stripping UPCE members of their sick leave entitlements. Further, what type of bonus payment does Mary Traversy stand to receive should Canada Post be successful in eliminating sick leave entitlements? While Moya Greena and Mary Traversy may have reason to rejoice, Traversy’s email has put the current stike into context and confirmed what UPCE has been saying from the beginning; Canada Post has provoked a strike by attempting to cut sick leave entitlements. Traversy’s email also paints a rather unsavoury picture, one in which Moya Greene and other senior Canada Post executives stand to receive additional remuneration for “cutting sick leave in half”.
Since the onset of the dispute, the CUPW has recognised that Canada Post is trying to bully its smallest union into accepting the STD. If implemented into the UPCE Collective Agreement, Canada Post will unquestionably try to roll out the program to other Canada Post bargaining units, most notably, the CUPW. This is why it is important to support UPCE members in their stand against employee cutbacks.
CUPW members throughout Canada have provided much-needed support to striking UPCE members. With the benefit of that support, UPCE members were able to maintain much stronger picket lines than what Canada Post likely expected. Mail operations have been seriously impacted, although Canada Post has publicly claimed otherwise. Contrary to its public assurances, Canada Post has specifically cited service disruptions when filing for its various court injunctions. As a result of injunctions, picketing activities have now been restricted in Vancouver, Victoria, New Westminster, and the Fraser Valley West Local, and in many other locations in British Columbia. In Toronto, Canada Post not only initiated an injunction against PSAC (the UPCE is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada) but it targeted individual CUPW officers for their role in supporting UPCE strikers. Aside from seeking the usual limitations on picketing activities, Canada Post actually went so far as to request $1 million in damages! Notwithstanding, picket lines have remained in force.
At Canada Post’s request, the UPCE put the Corporation’s final offer to a vote. On December 14, 2008, more than two out of three UPCE members throughout Canada voted to reject Canada Post’s offer.
Please take a moment to offer your encouragement and support of these workers.
CUPW Pacific Region