Local Canada Post employees picketed the Kemptville Post Office last Tuesday as part of a series of revolving strikes happening throughout the country since October 22. Rural and suburban mail carriers in Kemptville are striking to pressure Canada Post for fair wages and safer working conditions. The contracts for most postal workers in the country expired in early 2018 and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has been at the table since then, trying to secure fair contracts for their members. “Canada Post has not been willing to negotiate,” says Kemptville postal worker Olivia Enns, who was one of the 15 Canada Post employees striking last Tuesday in Kemptville.
Olivia says one of the things they are looking for as rural and suburban mail carriers for Canada Post is a wage increase of 3.5%, above the rate of inflation. Right now, Canada Post is offering wage increases at only 1.5%, much below the projected rate of inflation of 2.4% estimated for 2018. “Otherwise we are losing ground,” she says.
Another issue the CUPW is trying to negotiate is pay for all hours worked. Currently, rural and suburban mail carriers are paid based on the length of their route, not on how many hours it actually takes to deliver the mail.
“We are expected to deliver everything, even if it takes ten hours for a route that is being paid out at five hours,” Olivia says. “It is a really big issue that is specific to rural and suburban mail carriers.”
This is different from urban letter carriers, who are paid by the hour, which creates a wage gap, and it just so happens that 70% of rural and suburban mail carriers are women, while most urban letter carriers are men.
Olivia says pension negotiations are also on the table. With the influx in packages from online shopping, as well as marijuana sales, CUPW is arguing that Canada Post workers are not being compensated fairly for the extra work. Something called “variable pay” is used to cover the extra time mail carriers spend delivering and sorting parcels, but these hours are not considered pensionable, which is a problem, according to the union. “For those who have their own route, this is a big issue,” Olivia says.
Finally, postal workers are looking for better working conditions when it comes to health and safety. Olivia says it is not uncommon these days for Canada Post workers to deliver a million parcels a day, which leads to overburdening and overwork for many employees. Olivia says the vehicles that are provided for many rural and suburban mail carriers are sub par. “The vehicles that we drive are over 30 years old, don’t have snow tires or air conditioning.”
The last thing they wanted to do as Canada Post employees is inconvenience people in terms of receiving their mail. “This is a last resort to pressure Canada Post to negotiate fair agreements,” says Olivia. “I encourage people to talk to their mail carriers and ask them about the daily realities of our jobs.”
The rotating strikes last for 24 hours and are ongoing throughout the country. According to Global News, CUPW says the rotating strikes will continue until Canada Post “gets serious about bargaining.”