Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Last month the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) voted to end its almost 20 year old call for the public to boycott private postal outlets. If you are like 99.99% of the Canadian population your immediate question would be "what boycott ?". That says pretty much about the infinitesimal "success" of CUPW's campaign. Nowadays the actual Canada Post post office is a rare and endangered bird. To its credit CUPW has seen, even if only belatedly, that something just isn't working and given new conditions is even something of an absurdity . In that they are far superior to the average leftist organization.

The new reality is postal outlets in convenience stores and pharmacies, staffed by minimum wage workers, and CUPW sees an opportunity in this reality...to organize such low wage workers to better their condition. As an union with about 54,000 present members CUPW has resources for this even though the task is undoubtedly difficult for many reasons (small size of the workforce at each workplace, transience of employees, well practiced anti-union tactics of the chain stores,etc.). CUPW already has a small contingent of organized members (536) who are actually not connected to postal service at all, and in 2003 they managed to finalize their organization of about 6,000 rural and suburban mail carriers. This was difficult as said carriers were defined not as employees of Canada Post but as "contractors". It worked however.

One certainly wishes CUPW all the best in their new direction. It is certainly needed. One hopes that this also means drives to organize other workers in this sector such as couriers and other communications workers. Here's how CUPW put their new direction in their website.
Private postal outlet boycott ends
– Campaign to organize private outlet workers begins

The National Executive Board (NEB) of CUPW unanimously voted in June to end the two-decade old boycott of private postal outlets and franchises.

The union believes this move is necessary for a variety of reasons.

Many communities do not have public post offices. They only have private outlets. It is very difficult for people to boycott private postal outlets and franchises when it is the only service they have.

Also, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the union to organize workers at private outlets if we continue the boycott. These workers are not likely to want to join a union that wants to put them out of work.

The union's decision to end the boycott does not mean we support the privatization of postal services

But private postal outlets are a reality. And allowing the employees who work in these outlets to make less than us does not help us.

Organizing will help us

As you know, the union’s main job is to negotiate collective agreements for its members. Most members expect the union to negotiate better wages and working conditions. Most employers resist union efforts to make improvements. Canada Post, for example, constantly compares our members’ wages and working conditions to the less favourable wages and working conditions of similar workers.

During negotiations, management negotiators say “You don’t need an increase or a break. You’re already doing better than most workers.” Or they say, “We'd like to contract out because it’s cheaper.” But if we raise the wages and working conditions of workers who are employed at franchises and private postal outlets, we will be able to eliminate the comparisons that hurt us at the bargaining table and we will also take away Canada Post’s incentive to contract out.

In short, organizing is the right thing to do and it is also the best way to protect members.

CUPW is currently organizing franchise workers in Montreal and elsewhere.

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