Monday, November 22, 2010


After weeks of frustration and gradually building tension workers at several Winnipeg Canada Post depots walked out today. The precipitating cause is a new mail sorting and delivery system, actually a wild management scheme that pushed the concept of speedup to the point of disastrous confusion in terms of service and heights of injury on the part of the workers. At the Wilkes depot one worker was disciplined for refusing the new system and sorting his mail in the traditional fashion. The other workers walked out in solidarity with him. On the radio today management a spokesman gave his version of the dispute, basically totally ignoring both the complaints of the workers and the chaos in mail delivery (or non-delivery) that the scheme has caused. His line was "change is always difficult, and some people have a problem with change". I kid you not ! That is the sort of psychobabble that they teach in schools of management in lieu of actually having any useful skill to impart to order givers.

Here's how the strike was reported by the Financial Post.

Canada Post face wildcat strike in Winnipeg

Don Healy/Postmedia News
In implementing its modernized methods of sorting and delivering mail, part of the corporation’s transformation project, Canada Post has been facing resistance from employees in Winnipeg, the first city to operate under the new “two-bundle” system.
Tim Shufelt, Financial Post · Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010

Dozens of letter carriers walked off the job in Winnipeg on Monday in protest over a new mail delivery method they call unsafe.

In implementing its modernized methods of sorting and delivering mail, part of the corporation’s transformation project, Canada Post has been facing resistance from employees in Winnipeg, the first city to operate under the new “two-bundle” system.

When one worker refused to follow the new rules, he was cited for insubordination and immediately suspended. Dozens of other carriers from the mail depot — 76 in total — then walked out in solidarity.

About 15% of the city’s routes were affected, said Jon Hamilton, a spokesman for Canada Post.

The new system requires the employee to carry a second bundle of mail on their forearm. But that method obscures the feet from view, causing falls and injuries, and results in back and neck pain, said Bob Tyre, head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ Winnipeg local.

“Our letter carriers tell us it’s absolutely and completely unsafe,” Mr. Tyre said, noting that after just a month in use, the two-bundle system is much hated among employees. “The number of injuries have skyrocketed since then.”

Mr. Hamilton said the delivery process is currently subject to arbitration.

“There are other avenues where the union could address their concerns, make their views known without hurting or impacting service to Canadians and the businesses that depend on us,” he said.

And he insisted that Canada Post needs to evolve to improve efficiency and to reflect the changing behaviours of Canadians when it comes to mail. In the last four years alone, mail volume fell by more than 11% in Canada, he said.

“We need to make changes in order to maintain the service that Canadians depend on and also be able to secure the future for employees in terms of their pensions and job security and their wages,” he said. “This isn’t just a change for change’s sake.”

But Denis Lemelin, CUPW’s national president, said the union and the corporation have a responsibility to ensure the safety of letter carriers.

“We’re telling the employer they have to stop this new method and maybe sit with the union and find a new way to address the issue,” he said, noting that complaints are also starting to come in from employees in other parts of the country, as Canada Post rolls out the new system to Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and, eventually, the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, it’s unclear how long the mail disruption might continue.

Mr. Tyre said his colleagues will not abide the two-bundle system any longer. “They’re pretty irate. I don’t know what they’re going to do tomorrow.”

Read more:

Here's how the walkout was reported by the CBC.
Canada Post employees walk out

About 40 Canada Post employees walked off the job Monday to show solidarity with a worker who was suspended for flouting the new mail-sorting methods. (CBC)
Dozens of Canada Post employees in Winnipeg walked off the job Monday to protest a change in the mail-sorting procedure.

Canada Post's website says the corporation is undergoing a "postal transformation," and Winnipeg is the first location rolling out new sorting equipment and delivery methods before they're implemented across the country.

The new, automated way results in postal carriers having to carry three bags along their routes. Under the old sorting method, done by hand, carriers ended up with two bundles because the sorters were able to combine flyers with mail destined for each place of delivery.

A man sorting the mail the old way on Monday at the Wilkes Avenue facility was suspended, according to Bob Tyre, head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' Winnipeg local.

That prompted 40 other employees at the facility to walk out in solidarity.

"They [Canada Post] suspended him on the spot. And the other carriers decided that that was the line in the sand and they left, too," Tyre said.

About 60 carriers at the downtown sorting plant then left their jobs for similar reasons, but only walked out for about a half-hour, said Tyre.

He noted seven carriers at the Transcona plant were also threatened with suspension for sorting mail the old way.

Workplace injuries
Tyre said the new procedure is causing an increase in workplace injuries and slowing down mail delivery.

Carrying the three bags "makes walking treacherous [and is] hard on their necks and their backs," he said, adding "there's been a skyrocketing increase in injuries.

'They've gotten nowhere with Canada Post, so they just decided that they can't work that way and they went home.'
—Bob Tyre, Canadian Union of Postal Workers"And [the carriers] have tried to, and the union has as well, talk to Canada Post about the delivery method, how it's causing injuries, and it's not safe and it slows the delivery down on the streets, so they're all working overtime. They've been working that way now for about six weeks.

"And they've gotten nowhere with Canada Post, so they just decided that they can't work that way and they went home."

Canada Post spokesman John Hamilton said the corporation is still working out the bugs on the new sorting equipment and hopes employees will adapt to the change.

"The simple fact is that this is a big change, not everybody likes change, and there are going to be some issues from time to time," he said.

He would not discuss whether any disciplinary action would be taken against the workers who walked out.

Last week, Winnipeg Liberal MP Anita Neville said she has been inundated with complaints from people in her Winnipeg South Centre riding because mail has been arriving late or not at all.

One seniors residence with 183 units had no mail for three days, she said.

Read more:

Two local blogs here in Winnipeg are following these events closely. One is the Winnipeg Wobbly Blog, the local organ of Winnipeg's IWW. The other has been featured here before. The Workers' Struggle With The Modern Post is a blog set up by members of CUPW here in Winnipeg, and it has been reporting the problems with Canada Post's weird little experiment for the past month. This blog is the best source for up to the minute news about what is happening with the post and the struggle that Winnipeg posties are fighting. Unfiltered through the mass media of course.

The Workers' Struggle blog has received numerous expressions of support from both other postal workers across the country and members of the general public. Even internationally. Feel free to send them your greetings of solidarity. Winnipeg is a "test case" for a management scheme backed by a government that would be more than happy to see the public postal system destroyed entirely.If the Winnipeg posties lose than postal workers across the country lose, and in the end the general public loses as well.

Here's a report on the job actions today from the Workers' Struggle blog. Make sure to check in there tomorrow as the struggle continues.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Here is a more detailed look at today's actions
After weeks of struggling to work under the employers' new delivery model, Winnipeg letter carriers have reached the breaking point. The multiple bundle delivery method imposed by the boss has resulted in many members sustaining injuries and has made the work dangerous and unsafe.

Over assessed routes and the refusal to provide proper time values for all of the work performed has resulted in many carriers being forced to work overtime to complete delivery. So far, the employer has refused to take any concrete measures to resolve the concerns of the membership.

This morning at the South West Depot, wave 1 letter carriers decided that the safest way to perform their work was to sort the sequenced mail into their cases and deliver with 1 bundle on the street. Members were ordered by the boss to cease the sequenced mail sortation and when 1 temporary letter carrier refused to comply, he was advised that he was being suspended. Other members in the depot left the work floor in support of the disciplined worker and refused to work as dictated by the boss. After a brief coffee meeting in the parking lot, the members then went home.

The second wave for South West reported for work and learned of the earlier events and made the decision to support one another, refuse the dangerous work method and go home for the day.

Meanwhile, in the other corner of the city, wave 1 letter carriers in the Transcona depot also made the decision to sort their sequenced mail into their cases. The employer did not prevent them from doing so and those workers then left and commenced their delivery. When wave 2 reported for duty, they attempted to sort in their sequenced mail and were advised by the employer that they could not do so and would face a 5 day suspension if they disobeyed. These members then invoked their right to refuse the unsafe work method and are still in the office. The employer has not issued any further instructions or orders to them. Our stewards are working with those members in the article 33 process.

Will the employer escalate the situation and respond with heavy handed discipline or will they realize that its time to put the health and safety of workers ahead of the unworkable new delivery model?

It's time for all us to stand up and demand a safe workplace and a 1 bundle delivery method.

An Injury to One is An Injury to All.


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