Rural mail carriers earning up to 25 per cent less than their urban counterparts is at the heart of a longstanding dispute between Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post. Unable to settle the matter after more than a year and a half, the two sides this week went to arbitration.
The move follows a dispute in findings from a 19-month investigation into the pay equity process for rural and suburban carriers, including 11 based in Elmira.
At the end of collective bargaining in 2016, CUPW and Canada Post reached a separate agreement to expedite the pay equity process for rural and suburban mail carriers (RSMC). From there, a joint committee was established to study RSMC pay equity issues and implement the changes within a 19-month timeframe.
Fast-forward to today, and the findings are still in dispute – leaving the two to go to arbitration to settle the matter.
Beyond geography, the union argues it’s no coincidence that the gap reflects the fact rural carriers are predominantly women, while the majority of urban posties are men.
At the heart of the dispute, CUPW has reported that nearly two-thirds of RSMCs are women, and they make approximately 25 per cent less per hour than their equivalent urban counterparts, the majority of whom are male. RSMCs in general receive fewer benefits.
“We have always taken the position that they do the same work as letter carriers and they should be compensated the same, so last round of bargaining we pushed forward on the issue,” said Cathy Kennedy, pay equity committee member for CUPW. “They do agree that its work of equal value, but they didn’t agree on the wage gap and so part of the memorandum of understanding we had a negotiation phase that’s over with and now we are heading into the arbitration phase.
“They say there is no wage gap, but when you look at the paycheques of an RSMC and a letter carrier, you clearly see a wage gap.”
CUPW has been pushing the issue since 2004, but Canada Post disputes the union’s assertions.
“Canada Post believes in providing our employees with fair and equitable compensation, based on the value of the work they do, regardless of gender,” the corporation said in a statement to The Observer. “We have been and continue to be fully committed to this process.”
It dismissed the union’s allegations, but offered little further comment due to the pending arbitration hearings.
“A joint committee worked diligently with the help of third-party expert consultants to fully analyze and study the issue. Following the analysis, the findings were shared with the committee members and discussed thoroughly. The process is ongoing and will soon include a third-party arbitrator to help bring resolution. We respect the role of the arbitrator and therefore will not offer further public comment.”
Each side will be presenting its case, with the hopes of having the hearings done by mid-April. From there the arbitrator will issue a decision, expected by the end of May.
The hearings that began on February 18 in Ottawa are not open to the public.