Day to day operations at the post office have been quiet on the home-front since Canada Post workers were ordered back to work by the government just before Christmas two years ago.
Which leads to the question, “Did unionized workers ever reach a new agreement with their employer?”
Simply put, the answer is “no.”
Even as the volume of parcels, in particular, processed through West Kootenay postal offices continue to escalate year after year, unionized workers have been working without a contract since 2018.
“We are proud to provide our communities with exceptional postal service,” began Luc Julien.
“Despite all of the postal workers’ frustration, that we have been working two years under expired collective agreements, and that we are waiting for the arbitrator’s decision to hopefully resolve outstanding issues such as the precarious working conditions and inequalities for RSMCs.”
Julien is president of the Columbia River Local for CUPW-STTP (Canadian Union of Postal Workers), representing members in Trail, Rossland and Castlegar, including rural and suburban mail carriers known as RSMCs.
“Last year Canada Post claimed a record number of parcels delivered, and this year (2019) was even busier,” Julien said.
“The difference between the two years is the state of negotiations.”
Looking back to the fall of 2018, Julien says little movement from the employer at the bargaining table led to postal workers across the country, as a last resort, holding rotating strikes in October and November.
“This struggle was not against Canadians and we did not want to penalize the public,” Julien said.
“It was reported that the rotating strikes and the overtime ban had minimal delays in the operations and deliveries. For example, the members of our Local were only called out for a day on two occasions,” he explained.
“Canada Post refused to negotiate in good faith with CUPW and attempted to scare the public by saying that the labour dispute would jeopardize the postal service during the Christmas season.”
Ongoing rotating strikes had the House of Commons holding a special session in late November, wherein legislation in the form of Bill C-89 was passed, ordering Canada Post employees back to work.
“(Thereby) cancelling our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to free collective bargaining, even though the Union had just won our argument in the Supreme Court against the 2011 illegal back to work legislation,” Julien said.
Since then there’s been little movement.
“Unless the employer decides to return to the bargaining tables to negotiate in good faith, we will sadly have to wait until this summer for the arbitrator to render the rulings, which we don’t know if it will benefit postal workers or the employer,” Julien said.
“The struggle continues.”
According to a news report from Canada Post released in November 2019, the corporation recorded a loss before tax of $135 million in the third quarter, “as ongoing declines in mail volumes were only partially offset by parcels volume growth.”
As far as the West Kootenay mail service operations, Canada Post incorporated the Trail, Rossland and Castlegar post offices into one entity that they call the “Castlegar Post Office.”
The Columbia River Local represents all the workers in those locations.
Trail has five inside workers, 14 letter carriers and one RSMC.
Rossland has four clerks who serve the entire Rossland community with the Post Office Box system and retail. Rossland businesses receive to-the-door parcel and packet delivery as well.
Fruitvale also has one rural carrier, but this position is not part of the Castlegar Post Office.
There is a six-worker night shift operating Sunday through Thursday in Castlegar, and on weekdays, this locale has three inside workers along with 12 letter carriers and three RSMCs on shift.
At any given time there can be a dozen workers listed as temporary Canada Post employees who are called in when the employer decides to augment regular staff, especially during high mail volume periods like Christmas.