Local postal workers hit picket lines

Local urban Canada Post workers are solidly on the picket line now after Canada Post locked them out Tuesday night.

That's a change from Tuesday morning when striking workers in Fort McMurray brought out the picket signs for the first time since the strike's June 3 start with the intention of only picketing two days a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That was because the corporation had cut carriers to three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — leading union members to treat the other two days as lock-out days, with picket lines set up in front of the Hardin Street and Riedel Street postal buildings.

Dana Gabriel, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 736 in Fort McMurray, said this morning that CUPW has been ready and willing to negotiate for weeks because "we've been ready to negotiate a fair agreement ... but Canada Post didn't seem to want to."

He believes Canada Post had the lock out planned all along.

Gabriel had pointed out Tuesday that the Canadian charter says that when Canada Post became a corporation, that there will be mail delivery five days a week to businesses and residences.

Late Tuesday morning, a group of about 20 workers were carrying signs and making noise outside Canada Post's main Riedel location. Numerous honks and shouts of supports from passersby earned rollicking shouts of thanks in return.

"We picketed Hardin Street this morning from seven to nine, now we have another one, 11 to one here," said Gabriel Tuesday.

He noted that support for the striking workers has been "awesome."

"A lot of horn blowing; truckers are great, getting those loud horns going on the highway this morning from all sorts of people, from company trucks, from personal vehicles, the support's been great."

Joining Gabriel and his co-workers on the picket line Tuesday was Nancy Furlong from the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"There are ongoing problems across this country with employers attacking pension plans and this is an important strike because they're holding the line in terms of pensions," said Furlong. "The same thing is happening with the current CAW strike with Air Canada and we expect to see that everywhere because employers are trying to deny workers the right to retire at a decent rate at a decent age and that's going to continue to be problem all this summer."

She said it's wonderful the Canada Post workers are standing firm on the issue.

Gabriel noted the CUPW national president Denis Lemelin, and Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra met with federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, and CUPW offered to come back under the old contract which expired in January "as long as they guaranteed we could deliver the mail five days a week.

"Canada Post basically told them no and that they were going to a three-day work week. It's sort of like the tail wagging the dog," said Gabriel.

"There is mail to be delivered. ... We want to work. We want to service our customers and the corporation isn't letting us."

On Thursday, the striking workers are holding a solidarity barbecue 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hardin Street location and Gabriel said members of the public are invited including brothers and sisters from other unions.

Meanwhile, a statement issued Tuesday by Canada Post said financial losses are mounting as the rotating strike enters its 12th day. Canada Post estimates that it has lost over $70 million in revenue, a figure that is climbing daily.

Exacerbating the problems is the fact that Canada Post is continuing to incur a significant wage bill for 48,000 members of CUPW while their union inflicts massive losses on the company through costly rotating strikes, said the announcement.

The uncertainty of where CUPW members will strike from day-to-day made it difficult for Canada Post to plan its logistics and transport network let alone the staffing levels. Tuesday's strike action in the two largest metropolitan centres in Canada — Toronto and Montreal — where over 60% of national mail volume originates will cripple the whole postal network. If rotating strikes continue to impact the business at this pace, Canada Post will not be in a position to sustain its operations across the country.

Fort McMurray Today, Wed Jun 15 2011
Byline: Carol Christian

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