In Support of Posties

I don’t want to run blindly into a politicized situation, but I do want to talk about unions, specifically regarding the postal workers strike.

I’ve read and had many discussions about the conditions of this strike. It is difficult to understand any situation in full, but, if you’d like to hear it, I have developed an opinion.

This sums it up

To be honest, I’ve always been more about unions, fair wages, benefits, and worker safety than not. I believe these things are fundamental to the health of a society. If they are scaled back, a new standard could be set. Most importantly, access to these rights cannot be limited.

What I find particularly upsetting is the public opinion surrounding the strike. I’ve seen considerable support for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) in my community, but general indifference everywhere else. The common opinion being that, in the age of digital communication, physical mail is fast becoming irrelevant. Therefore, the strike poses no threat to daily life. But I don’t think that’s the point.

And with this, I come to the point of my post today. Can’t we agree that people deserve to be paid for their work? I would hope so. Everyone deserves job security and a safe work environment. I would also include reasonable retirement packages and a basic consideration of the strain of physical labour.

These benefits aren’t afforded to most workers. I see the struggle of the CUPW as a fight for fair working conditions, not just for themselves but, across the country in all vocations.

Without much in the way of facts, I have stated my opinion. Please reply.

And look over here for more from the CUPW.

10 thoughts on “In Support of Posties

  1. Go back to the USSR, Commie.

    Some people get mad about the behaviours of some members or unions (striking Toronto garbage collectors come to mind), but you can’t bin a whole system for the bad behaviour of a few participants. I am very wary of the broader war of attrition being waged on wages, benefits, and security. I am disturbed when people with job security derived from high credentials and scarcity of qualified workers get so angry over unions. I can understand why CUPW is fighting.

  2. There is quite a bit of anger out there. I’ve heard “they’re lucky to have a job” ad nauseam over the past few weeks.

    I’m preaching to the choir here, but that is not an argument.

  3. If unions can help protect their members from being screwed by corporate bottom-liners, then I think that’s a good thing. I don’t know much about the politics involved in unions, but I do know this: in 2013, when war has crippled the Earth, and technology has been erased, our only hope will be an unlikely hero.

    And what about a little bit o’ this:

  4. I hate to come across so very right wing about this, but Unions are useless.
    Take for example Volvo. They once had a factory in Halifax/Shearwater, then the workers voted to unionize. Volvo quite quickly said that that would be too expensive and let all the workers know that they would be moving the factory within a year or so. These people, who had what i can only imagine to be semi decent jobs (as decent as factory work can be, it’s not great, but it’s ok work, judging from my time at Michelin) were now out of a job by joining a group of people who promised better working conditions.
    Now the postal strike is slightly different, here we have a gov’t corporation that is quickly becoming less important. Fedex and UPS both take the vast majority of parcel delivery, leaving CP with mostly letter delivery, and email takes away a large chunk of that. They don’t even deliver flyers in Fredericton (a private company does that IIRC). So what market are they going to expand to? How do they make more money and still be competitive? The unions are asking for more hiring, and better wages. I won’t argue against better wages, but they’re still earning well above the average income. When their call centre employees make 20+$ an hour, and most call centre employees make less than 13$, how do you justify that? And when your market is disappearing, why hire more workers to do less work?
    CP wants to reduce their workforce through early retirement and attrition from what I’ve heard, not through massive layoffs.

    I hate to play the right wing, because I do believe that corporate profits should be taxed more heavily, I do believe that if corporations have rights as a person, they also have a commitment to better their community. Be it through increased taxes, mandatory donations, or legislated profit sharing with their employees. But in this situation, a crown corporation that is quickly becoming a dinosaur, i don’t see many ways for the employees to win.

  5. Hi Darren. As you can imagine, I disagree.

    In the example of Volvo, I would say that fault lies with deregulation. Unions are afforded very little power when a company can pick up and move to an area that offers cheaper production costs. This is not to demonize all companies (nor excuse them). They, we, exist in a system that is profit driven and if given the option most would choose higher margins and competitive action. It is up to government, and the strength of unions, to hold these companies to a higher standard. And it is up to us to hold government to a higher standard.

    My knowledge the Halifax-Shearwater production plant was gleaned from a Wikipedia article, but it offered some interesting tidbits. After the plant closure, members Canadian Auto Workers Union formed a blockade, demanding “…what the union considered adequate severance pay and retirement benefits to the plant’s employees.” After a time, Volvo folded and agreed to their terms. While the plant did close, the union members sought what they could and were effective in that action. I’d say that’s pretty useful.

    As for Canada Post, I do agree that its importance is shifting. But I am hesitant celebrate the arrival of private courier companies in its stead. Allowing for complete market control over a public service is dubious, at best. Canada Post offers a vital service of cheap, universal access to mail service. Efforts to expand services (with the input and approval of postal workers) have been blocked by privatization interests. The quality and extent of these services are being trimmed and further threatened by these contract negotiations. Quite recently, they laid off their entire casual/temp workforce (strikes are never pretty, but that’s a shady tactic).

    I’m not certain of the example you cited in Fredericton, but Canada Post has already privatized their call centres. It is the decision of management to shed these services. The CUPW is arguing against this trend.

    (Regarding the current wages: I would ask, how can you justify paying someone only $13 an hour?)

    What I mean to say is, I don’t think unions are dead; I think all this conservative garbage is killing them.

  6. Pat
    There is no doubt that Canada post workers are in a tough position. Obviously “outsourcing” work to the private sector is a cost saving measure from the corporations point of view but I would have to ask at what cost. Lower wages translate into less tax being paid and less consumer spending taking place. At a lower wage scale I can only assume that less benefits are in place for the “outsourced” work force (medical,dental,glasses, retirement, etc). When these benefits are not in place, an employee is put in a position that doesn’t provide any security when they or their family are sick or when retirement comes along. Lack of these benefits also promotes a very transient workforce causing a high employee turnover, increased training costs and lack of employee/employer loyalty. If there is nothing to keep an employee, why stay?
    With the ever increasing cost to live, $13.00 per hour is not much to take a person, couple or family through life. Doctors in Halifax just received a raise to increase their wage to $190.00/hr. I don’t want to compare call centers to doctors but housing,food,electricity,fuel oil and gas cost the same to everyone.
    It should be remembered that unions were the folks that fought for the 8 hour day,five day weeks,overtime,breaktimes and safety codes to name a few.

  7. […] this same idea on a much larger scale. This isn’t necessarily the greenest option, nor the most convenient for Canadians at the moment, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s always better to recycle your […]

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