Cue the crickets: Where are the media warnings Canada Post bosses are ‘holding the country to ransom’?

Posted on July 06, 2016, 1:11 am
11 mins

PHOTOS: Locked out postal workers in a past dispute in Halifax (HalifaxMediaCoop.ca photo). Below: St. Albert resident’s illegal “Restore door to door” sign (CBC photo), Controversial Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra, CUPW President Mike Palecek, and St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse.

It’s funny, you know, but there doesn’t seem to have been a single mainstream media news story accusing Canada Post management of “holding the country to ransom” with the 72-hour lockout notice they filed Monday that could bring Canada’s postal system to its knees by the end of the week.

Isn’t that the accusation reflexively aimed at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers any time the labour relations S-word is mentioned in negotiations with the Crown corporation that delivers our mail?

StalbertSignYet news coverage of this important labour dispute – and it’s important in more ways than simply from a labour relations perspective – barely makes the effort to distinguish between a strike (a work stoppage by working people) and a lockout (the same thing put into effect by an employer), let alone report the union’s issues in these negotiations.

The Canadian Press story on Canada Post’s lockout notice that was used by most media outfits doesn’t even bother to mention the union’s position on the key issue of pensions, merely parroting management’s talking points with few details.

But apparently Canada Post, packed with managers put in place by the previous Conservative government who are committed to privatization of postal services and the anti-social policies of degrading workers’ pensions and blocking pay equity, feel getting their way is important enough to hold the country to ransom.

From a labour relations perspective, this hardly seems like an issue worthy of shutting down the national postal system to bring negotiations that are ongoing to an immediate national crisis.

OTTAWA, ONT.: DECEMBER 17, 2013 -- President and CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra poses for a photo at the Canada Post headquarter in Ottawa, Ont., December 17, 2013. (James Park for Postmedia News) For Andrea Hill (Postmedia News) 1218-Post-Chopra and Jason Fekete (Postmedia News). 1218-Post-pensions ORG XMIT: POS1312171053035833

So this kind of behaviour by Canada Post’s senior management lends credence to the suspicion among postal workers that these Tory-appointed executives are trying to derail the review of postal services announced by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back in May.

Since the Liberals promised during the election campaign to restore home delivery for many Canadians – as in every other advanced industrialized country – this presents a real threat to the apparent agenda of the would-be privatizers at the Crown corporation, which has posted a profit in every year in its modern history except 2011, when there was a labour dispute.

“Management will point to this lockout and say the Crown corporation is unsustainable, unprofitable and the dramatic changes it was trying to bring in were the correct ones,” writes David Bush in an analysis published by RankAndFile.ca, a pro-union website. “This will be the drum they beat in the media and dutiful columnists and journalists will run with it.”

In a news release yesterday, CUPW made much the same point: “They are sabotaging the public review of the post office,” said CUPW President Mike Palecek in the release. “They refused to negotiate fairly with us and now they’re locking the doors and will try to starve us into submission.”

“This is brought to you by the men who wanted to take away home delivery,” Mr. Palecek said. “They wanted us to sell out the next generation of Canadian postal workers for a quick deal, but we stood firm. Now they’re going to hold the public hostage until they get what they want.” (Emphasis added. Don’t look for this to be repeated very often by the mainstream media, though.)

PalecekCanada Post is led by President Deepak Chopra, appointed by the Harper government for a five-year term in January in 2011. Whether or not he is a Conservative partisan, as has been argued by many supporters of improved postal services, the former CEO of Pitney Bowes Inc.’s Canadian operations certainly seems to see eye to eye on employment issues with the former Harper Government.

In early 2015, when the Harper Government was clearly sensing harbingers of the change that brought Mr. Trudeau to power, Mr. Chopra, by now unpopular with the public because of Canada Post’s plan to completely eliminate door-to-door mail delivery, was reappointed to another five-year term notwithstanding the looming election.

After the election, the Liberals asked Mr. Chopra to resign and reapply for the job. He refused. Which brings us up to the present state of affairs.

However, the Canada Post position on pensions is part of a bigger trend in our society to transfer the costs of caring for citizens of ordinary means in their final years to taxpayers while allowing the corporate sector and especially the so-called “wealth management” industry to pocket a nice share of the benefits.

Those chambers of commerce and federations of businesses that scream about the insignificant costs to their members of necessary improvements to the Canada Pension Plan are in a sense are being asked to pay a small part of the price of the trend toward the elimination of fair pensions in society, which they also advocate.

It’s truly appalling if hardly surprising that a publicly owned institution is leading the way with this pernicious and anti-social trend, as Canada Post is doing.

Which makes this an opportune moment for our Liberal federal government – in which a great many progressive Canadians have placed their hopes, faith and votes – to remove Canada Post’s management, which appears to be both driven by the same ideology as the Harper Government and wildly out of sync with the wishes of most Canadians.

When the review of postal services has been completed, one would hope our country will again have the postal services it needs, including door-to-door delivery, and postal service managers committed to essential public services for all, as befits a modern democracy.

The Tory appointees in senior management should be sent packing. No need to feel sorry for them – one senses they will have no trouble landing on their feet in the private sector.

+ + +

Like it or not, controversy has come to clean and quiet St. Albert

Speaking of home mail delivery, a bizarre report originating in your blogger’s own Edmonton bedroom suburb of St. Albert reveals that city bylaw enforcers has taken to telling citizens with “Restore door-to-door” lawn signs remove them or face the music. We’ve got a sign bylaw here, don’t ya know?

NolanLeastways, somebody complained about one resident’s sign, and Tara Seeger has decided to refuse to surrender to the municipal edict, pointing out to in a call to the CBC that plenty of other similar advocacy signs are ignored, including one a few steps from her house reading “We vote CBC.”

In fairness, city bylaw departments most places respond to bylaw violations on a complaints basis, and this probably wouldn’t have turned into a brouhaha if Ms. Seeger hadn’t received a message from Mayor Nolan Crouse himself while she was on the phone with the CBC. (It’s a small place. They mayor does phone about stuff like this.)

Mr. Crouse explained in his message that “what we’ve tried to do is keep our community clean and not controversial. It’s a great place to live for all kinds of reasons, and one of them is, we just don’t let signs up all over the place.”

Well, we do, though, sort of, if you count the public library’s Summer Reading Game signs. But all bets are off. This is officially a free speech issue now, and I’m expecting Restore door-to-door signs to start blooming around here, if CUPW has any left. Moreover, expect many more complaints to start being made about the other similar signs that in the past have been tolerated.

Ms. Seeger told the CBC she’s prepared to take legal action to defend her right to free expression. And you know what, she might just win. Stranger things have happened.

Sometimes, it really is better just to let sleeping dogs lie.

Part of this post also appears on Rabble.ca.

12 Comments to: Cue the crickets: Where are the media warnings Canada Post bosses are ‘holding the country to ransom’?

  1. John B.

    July 6th, 2016

    I’m still waiting for the private sector solution that Harper assured us would materialize upon the removal of door-to-door by Canada Post. There was a potential startup company operating out of Winnipeg that intended to offer home delivery at $20 monthly for two deliveries per week and $30 monthly for three. I don’t know whether this company is still operating or whether it ever began to in the first place. No one in our neighbourhood, which is now serviced by the Harper Boxes, is aware of any such service.

    In any case, at an average of over 700 doors for each Canada Post letter carrier, we could afford to employ a lot more of them and perhaps even restore twice daily and Saturday service, at the potential revenue stream required to inspire the entrepreneurial instincts of this particular private sector wealth creator.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 6th, 2016

      I can neither recall nor quickly discover when the gang mailboxes were first introduced in new suburbs, but I don’t think Harper should have to wear that one. Surely it predates his government by many years. Regardless, the Harperites were certainly in a hurry to finish the job as their last term in government neared its just and merciful end. My new gang mailbox is located in an unlit area surrounded by thick bushes and tall trees, absolutely ideal for a mugging, except that many potentially muggees will already have fallen on the uncleared icy walks for the eight months of the year snow falls heavily in this province. That said, I guess that while lying there with their hips broken might make it easier for victims to have their purses snatched, the muggers had better be careful because they too could fall if they try to run away. In St. Albert, by the way, there seems to be no bylaw enforcement of this … only of illegal “Restore door-to-door” signs. DJC

      Reply
      • John B.

        July 6th, 2016

        According to postal workers with whom I’ve spoken the community boxes were introduced into new residential areas sometime during the mid-1990s. My recollection suggests to me that it was somewhat before that, but I may be confused on the timeline by the prior existence of these types of delivery centres in some semi-rural areas. Naturally, I can’t lay responsibility for introduction of the boxes on Harper or Choprak. What I will blame them for is their cynical use of the existence of the boxes in recently constructed areas as a precedent to justify expansion of the practice while welcoming support for the project from the residents of these new areas to whom the issue had been of little or no concern when they occupied their shiny new homes.

        Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    July 6th, 2016

    “…the Liberals promised during the election campaign to restore home delivery for all Canadians…” I’m not sure that’s what they promised; I had understood their commitment to be limited to restoring home delivery to addresses that had lost it in the most recent Canada Post service plan, and to halt the further abolition of door-to-door mail delivery.

    In fact, way back in the late 80s or early 90s, Canada Post stopped expanding door-to-door mail delivery to newly-built neighbourhoods, and installed the original group mailboxes instead. So, while millions of Canadians still get door-to-door mail delivery, millions of others don’t. If I recall correctly, there was some controversy about that change, but it was fairly minimal and the plan went ahead. My recollection of last year’s election campaign was that Mr Trudeau did not commit to expanding door-to-
    door mail delivery to those neighbourhoods that has never had it, only to restoring it where it was being taken away.

    As for the St Albert resident, I hope she takes the city to court and they get humiliated on Charter grounds; this is a [municipal] government limiting the freedom of expression of one of its citizens on a matter of public policy, and cannot be allowed to stand.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 6th, 2016

      Regarding the St. Albert situation, as noted in the piece, the bylaw department almost certainly works on a complaints-only basis. So someone complained, presumably because they disagreed with the message since other kinds of signs seem to be OK. Fact is, the bylaw has been mostly honoured in the breach (as in most places) because most people can’t be bothered to complain about their neighbours unless the annoyance is really pretty grievous. I for one will now be complaining every time I see a sign on someone’s lawn that I disagree with or maybe even that has a commercial purpose. Fair is fair. As for pressing the issue just because you can, the problem is that she could well win. There’s no question that under the Charter this is a limitation on freedom of expression. The city will try, but it will be hard to make a case that it’s justifiable under the Charter. If they’d just let it slide, we’d all be better off. DJC

      Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 6th, 2016

      I have amended this to read “many” Canadians. DJC

      Reply
  3. political ranger

    July 6th, 2016

    Good analysis of Canada Post, David. It’s obvious what is going on over there, but I sure appreciate the way you lay it out. I hope you get very wide coverage of this ‘thin edge of the wedge’ issue.
    And we might see the end of the Crouse dynasty too!

    Reply
  4. Dave Lindsay

    July 6th, 2016

    Free Speech TRUMPS a sign Bylaw. GET THEM SIGNS UP in St. Albert. Even if the Postal Union has to rob a few from other Communities !

    This is the same City that gave a Ticket to a Chiropractor for plowing snow with his quad a few years ago. Bunch of IDIOTS !

    Reply
  5. Sharon

    July 6th, 2016

    Good view except 2011 was a Lockout not a Strike.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 6th, 2016

      Thanks, Sharon. Good point. I have amended this to read “when there was a labour dispute.” While I don’t entirely trust my memory, and can’t immediately find a clear and exhaustive reference, I believe there were rotating strikes followed by a lockout in 2011, and I should have said so. DJC

      Reply
  6. Linda Marshall

    July 7th, 2016

    I wish this wasn’t framed as door to door vs supermailbox. I’m happy to support union jobs, but I’ve been living in small towns for a long time, and the last time I had door to door delivery, before my recent move to Edmonton, was in 1987. For people in small towns, supermailboxes are a vast improvement over going downtown and getting your mail from the post office – either from a box that you pay rent for, or from general delivery. Now I’m in an apartment, and get my mail in the lobby.

    I’m a big supporter of Canada Post. When it comes to parcel delivery, they give better service, for less money, than from something like FedEx. Maybe not quite as fast, but considerably more reliably. But door to door delivery just doesn’t seem like the hill we should be dying on – I’ve had a supermailbox for the last twenty years at least and it’s fine. Door to door is expensive and for most of us unnecessary.

    Reply

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