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?
Yet 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.
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.)
Canada 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.
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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?
Leastways, 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.