Elmira sees rotating postal strikes

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The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been carrying out rotating strikes across the country for three weeks, with posties in the region getting the call Nov. 2. Local strike action included picketers outside the Elmira post office. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

If you noticed a slight delay in your mail delivery last week, that is because the Canadian Union Postal Workers (CUPW) rotating strike hit the Elmira location November 2.

The picketers outside the Arthur Street facility were part of some 750 Canada Post employees taking part in protests in Waterloo Region.

“The aim is we’re trying to put pressure on Canada Post to return to the negotiating table and negotiate in good faith,” said local union president Steven Hinschberger. “That’s the first thing. It’s also to slow down mail that is moving within the system to try and put that pressure on Canada Post.

“Because it costs the company money when they don’t meet their time commitments. So, in reality, we’re trying to hit them in the bottom line to try and force them to come back to the table. Because they’re refusing to address any of our issues that we’re having.”

The purpose of the rotating, rather than a collective strike, is to reduce the effect on the public while putting the heat on Canada Post specifically.

“We’re trying to limit the impact on the Canadian people by not doing a specific area for ten days,” said Hinschberger. “With the rotating, they do it at one location first, then a day or two later they go to a different location. They’re consistently moving around.”

Their main concern is health and safety, specifically the overburdening of letter carriers. With cannabis becoming legal last month, this has significantly increased the number of parcels and packages being handled.

Another health and safety concern is the use of forced overtime on current workers rather than recruiting new Canada Post staff to take on the increased workloads.

“In our previous collective agreement, there was a clause that allowed for forced overtime,” explained Hinscherger. “Canada Post, rather than staffing positions and creating new positions due to the workload, decided just to use the forced overtime. We had members that were working 10-12 hour days. They never saw their families; there was no home life. And Canada Post just refused to address that problem.”

This is not just impacting local areas – employees across the country have participated in the rotating strikes from St. John’s to Victoria.

CUPW has been carrying out rotating strikes for three weeks, with no indication of when the action might cease. Previous deals offered by Canada Post have been unsatisfactory, the union says.

“Canada Post has offered us a 1.5 per cent increase for this year,” said Hinschberger. “And a 1.5 per cent increase each year for the next four years. With inflation running at about 2.6 per cent this year alone, it’s not even matching up to inflation.

“It makes it so difficult to try to support your local businesses when we have to make up for just inflation alone. That’s what I try to get across to people – ‘hey, we’re human beings too; we live in our communities; we spend our money there.’ Why should we not be able to get a pay raise that is at least equal to inflation?”

The local picketers outside the Elmira post office said they have not been getting advanced notice of who’ll be striking next.

“We don’t know if we’ll be back to work Monday,” said Wendy White on Friday, a postal worker at the Elmira location. “We only know at 12 a.m. the night before who’s going to be on strike. This way, the mail is still moving throughout the country, but not here.”

CUPW encompasses some 750 members across the region, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Elmira, Ayr, St. Jacobs, St. Clements and Wellesley.

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