Postal workers decline binding arbitration, file complaint against Canada Post

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Canada Post is extending its lockout deadline to Monday. 

The Crown Corporation issued a statement last night announcing that its previous 72-hour deadline, originally set to expire tomorrow, would now last through the weekend.

Earlier in the day, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) announced it had filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) over the corporation's behaviour during negotiations. The complaint alleges Canada Post has been communicating directly with members, making threats and bargaining through the media.

"Canada Post management has failed to negotiate in good faith and is interfering with the union's right to represent its members," CUPW said in a statement.

In the past two weeks, bargaining disagreements between the parties have made headlines across the country with Canada Post warning businesses and customers to prepare for a possible work stoppage. Canada Post took the step of issuing a 72-hour lockout notice on Tuesday, while CUPW have remained firm on its stance to avoid a strike.

CUPW said its complaint to the industrial relations board covers both the urban and rural and suburban mail carrier bargaining units.

"CPC [Canada Post Corporation] has refused to negotiate on their global offers which were submitted one week prior to the parties obtaining the right to strike or lockout.

"[Canada Post] has also circumvented the bargaining process by negotiating through the media," CUPW said.

A principle point of contention between the union and management is Canada Post's proposal to switch new employees to a defined contribution pension plan, resulting in less security in retirement for those workers. Canada Post has stated that extending the current defined benefits plan to new hires would cost $1 billion over the next three years -- however, it has refused to show the union and the public how it calculated this cost.

Canada Post has also repeatedly cited that the plan's solvency deficit of $6.2 billion. CUPW have rejected this solvency measure as inappropriate as Canada Post would only ever need to fund it should it cease to exist.

As the federal government has stated it has no intention of privatizing the corporation, the pension plan's solvency deficit does not matter, the union has previously said.

"Instead of bargaining, the employer has simply tabled offers that it knew would be totally unacceptable to the union," CUPW said in its statement.

"Finally, management representatives have been communicating directly with union members, making threats and spreading disinformation."

CUPW have requested CIRB consider its complaint immediately.

Meanwhile, Canada Post said in its statement that it had agreed to binding arbitration, following a request from federal labour minister MaryAnn Mihychuk.

"While negotiated settlements are always the preferred option, it has become clear that after seven months of negotiations, the parties remain far apart on key issues at the bargaining table," the corporation stated.

In a statement this morning, CUPW said it would not engage in the process of binding arbitration as fighting for gender pay equity amongst its members was too important to leave to a third party.

"We appreciate the offer to help, but paying women equally for work of equal value is the law of the land," CUPW president Mike Palecek said in a statement.

"It's not something that can be awarded or withheld by an arbitrator."

CUPW want an hourly wage created for rural and suburban posties to address pay inequality for women in this group. Of the 8,000 rural and suburban mail carriers, 70 per cent are women. On average, these women earn 30 per cent less than their male counterparts in the larger suburban group for doing the same work, the union said. About 43,000 workers make up the urban mail carrier group.


Editor's note: An earlier version of this piece stated about 43,000 workers made up the suburban mail carrier group, not urban carrier group. This has been corrected.

Teuila Fuatai is a recent transplant to Canada from Auckland, New Zealand. She settled in Toronto in September following a five-month travel stint around the United States. In New Zealand, she worked as a general news reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ News Service for four years after studying accounting, communication and politics at the University of Otago. As a student, she had her own radio show on the local university station and wrote for the student magazine. She is rabble's labour beat reporter this year.


Photo: flickr/Alexei & Verne Stakhanov

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