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The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) alleges Canada Post is practising union-busting, after the Crown corporation dropped its contract with the unionized temporary agency that had been staffing its international parcel intake plants.
“Canada Post makes the decision as to who gets the contract, and we believed they deliberately went to a different company to avoid CUPW and to avoid having a unionized group of workers processing the parcels,” said CUPW 3rd Vice-President George Floresco.
Roughly 60 workers, working at plants in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, had been hired through the temp agency Adecco to assist with the customs processing for international parcels. They worked alongside customs agents, who are themselves unionized by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
But early this month, those workers, many of whom had been working at the plant for over a decade, were informed by the temp agency that Canada Post had not renewed their contract.
“This is the story of a group of workers who were making minimum wage for a number of years and the only reason Canada Post went to a temp employment agency was to go to cheap labour,” said Floresco. “It’s part of the cheap labour strategy that Canada Post and frankly the federal government have. Their approach is to make the most profits they can at the expense of the workers.”
After speaking to workers at the Toronto Gateway Plant in 2005, CUPW initiated a unionization campaign. After a protracted legal battle, the Canadian Industrial Relations Board ruled in 2012 that the plant workers were employees of Adecco, not Canada Post, and then shortly after that, the Board granted union certification.
“It dragged on for a number of years,” said Floresco. “We finally had to prod the labour board into making a ruling.”
The bargaining process then took two more years before the workers won their first collective agreement. During the contract negotiations, Adecco created SQR, a subsidiary, to act as employer for the unionized employees. The contract, ratified in November 2014, included a 20 per cent wage increase for most employees, seniority-based schedule bidding, and protection from unfair discipline, among other things.
“There were some improvements and we were hoping for more improvements in the next round of bargaining,” said Floresco.
But that collective agreement went out the window when Canada Post tendered the staffing contract to two different temporary agency and not to SQR. Some of the 60 workers employed through SQR may keep their jobs, but most are looking for work.
Floresco said that he has heard that the contracts were awarded to Kelly Services and another unknown temp agency, but since Canada Post has not contacted the union to officially inform them of the switch, he cannot confirm this information.
“We’ve contacted them, we’ve demanded that they offer all the workers jobs and inform the new contractors that we want the collective agreement recognized. If they are not willing to do that, we want to start a discussions about contracting-in the work, along with the workers. And they haven’t responded to that request,” said Floresco.
In other circumstances, when a unionized company is sold or transferred, union-busting is prevented by the labour code under what are called successor rights provisions, which insure that a collective agreement remains in force and workers keep their jobs during the transition. But when a unionized subcontractor loses a contract, which is what has happened in this instance, the same protections do not apply.
Floresco says that the union is weighing their options and evaluating next steps, which may include filing an unfair labour practice complaint with the Industrial Relations Board against Canada Post.
Canada Post did not respond to rabble.ca’s request an interview in time for publication of this article.
Ella Bedard is rabble.ca’s labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People.