Canada Post workers in the Comox Valley joined their colleagues across the country Wednesday morning by taking to the picket lines.
Union workers in numerous Canadian communities, including Campbell River, Nanaimo and Port Alberni, have walked off the job since rotating strikes began Oct. 22.
“We don’t want to inconvenience the public, but we do want Canada Post sitting at the bargaining table,” said Mike Bryan, education officer for the Courtenay Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
Major issues include pay equity for rural routers, job security and over-burdening in terms of parcel volumes.
“We have members that work regularly two or three hours of (unpaid) overtime,” Bryan said, noting the injury rate for local carriers is significantly higher than the national average.
He also notes the two sides have been bargaining since last November.
“Our contract’s been expired since January, and we still haven’t had any significant talks with the corporation about our major issues. The wages they’re proposing are less than the cost of living.”
Meagan Goudreault, president of the CUPW Courtenay Local, said Canada Post is looking at a 1.5 per cent increase. She notes the proposed inflation rate for the short-term is over two per cent. Under a two-tier system, she said new employees earning $18/hour can be stuck at the starting wage for many years.
“There’s no filling of full-time positions since they slashed all those jobs (in 2011),” Goudreault said. “With all the parcel growth, they haven’t re-introduced any new jobs, so they’ve had the same amount of people working, but every year parcels are going up, like a million parcels being shipped per day.”
In a statement, Canada Post says it’s been working hard to minimize the service impact to Canadians. However, the union’s escalating strikes have shut down its three largest processing facilities in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal for up to 48 hours.
“Combined, these three plants process a million parcels and packets a day for communities across the country, and are key to our national, integrated delivery network.”
A special mediator appointed by the federal government joined the parties at an offsite location Wednesday, and is working to help them reach a negotiated settlement.
“Canada Post remains committed to the bargaining process,” the statement said. “The corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return. We value the relationship with the union and have been able to find common ground on some issues. We have also committed to work together to address employees’ workload concerns caused by parcel growth, additional financial services, and going beyond pay equity for rural and suburban employees by extending job security and moving to one uniform for all delivery employees.”