On July 4, Canada Post announced a lockout will be effective as of Friday, July 8, at 12:01 p.m. The Free Press spoke with post officer and president of the Elk Valley local and representative of Canadian Union of Postal Works, Bernie Podrasky about the current state of negotiations as of the morning of July 5. She notes that while it is a lockout, the doors to the Sparwood and Fernie offices won’t be locked.
“So far, they won’t lock the door on Friday. As far as I know as of this morning, we will be at work on Friday. The only thing they will be doing on Friday is making some changes to the way we work,” she said. “So as of Friday, we will no longer be covered under our medical and dental plan except for people who are on lifesaving drugs. They have not yet said what else they are going to change as of Friday, but as of Friday we no longer have a collective agreement.”
She added that while she had yet to talk to anyone from national or regional offices, all indications led to the employees continuing to work as usual on Friday.
According to Podrasky, the biggest concern locally for the union is that there is no moratorium on post office closures.
“Canada Post has to maintain 493 corporate retail outlets. Fernie and Sparwood are both on that list, and they are trying to have that removed – to close whatever post office they want. That is a big deal for the valley,” she said. “We have already lost quite a lot of services in the valley already and the post office is just another.”
Podrasky believes that no one wants a lockout or strike, however if work were to halt, there are some fail-safes in place for vital mail.
“All the post offices would close. We know how much it is already affecting our customers with the uncertainty, we do not want this and we have never wanted it. We want to negotiate a fair settlement,” she said. “We have volunteers in place to make sure the pension and social assistance cheques go out. No matter what happens we will be going in to sort those down and get those out. Otherwise the doors will be closed in the event of a strike or lockout. So far, no one is doing anything either way so it is business as usual for the time being.”
The 2011 postal lockout was stopped by Back-to-Work legislation and, according to Podrasky, it was unlawful.
“The last time, in 2011 we were locked out after rotating strikes. We were mandated back to work and a collective agreement was forced on us. That was completely illegal and we just won a court case saying they cannot do that. We have the right to negotiate a fair collective agreement,” she said.
Canada Post said in a press release dated July 5 that, “As of Friday, July 8, 2016, the terms and conditions of the current collective agreements will no longer apply. Under the new terms and conditions, employees will continue to receive their regular pay and some benefits such as applicable prescription drug coverage. Other items will be cancelled in line with the statutory minimum conditions established under the Canada Labour Code. The Corporation will also have the flexibility to adjust staffing according to the amount of work required.”
It went on to say, “On July 4, 2016, Canada Post informed CUPW that the offers the Corporation presented on June 25, 2016 are considered final, as they represent a fair and reasonable framework for settlements. The company also informed CUPW that the union’s more than $1 billion in demands were unaffordable and therefore rejected.”
All information was correct as of press time. For updates on this ongoing story, go to Thefreepress.ca.