Our National Executive Board has prepared this paper to facilitate a discussion with members – a discussion that will develop collective bargaining demands for the 2017-2018 negotiations. Currently the Urban Postal Operations unit (UPO) and the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) are under two distinct Collective Agreements (CAs). CUPW will eventually unify these units. Some sections below will lead to demands that either affect one CA or the other (should we not to gain unity in this round), or else create classification-specific language in a unified CA.
Our first step in negotiations with the Canada Post Corporation (CPC) is to adopt proposed negotiations demands at the Local level. It starts with you – each and every member. CUPW’s negotiations process is democratic, transparent, and participatory.
Members propose demands at Local general membership meetings (GMM).
The ones that are adopted by the GMM are then submitted to regional conferences, where delegates debate them and vote. The regional conferences forward the resolutions that they adopt to the National Executive Board (NEB). Locals can also submit proposed demands directly to NEB even if they are not supported by Regional Conference.
Then the National Directors (as a sub-committee of the NEB) review all of the demands and prepare a national program of demands that they submit to the whole NEB for discussion and amendments. Once they adopt the program, the NEB submits the whole program to the membership for ratification by secret ballot.
Later, if a strike vote is necessary, members vote whether or not to accept the National Executive Board’s recommendation to give the leadership a strike mandate. And at the end of the process, members vote to accept or reject the tentative agreement.
All of the votes are tabulated nationally. Every member’s vote is equally important and equally weighted.
The Union bargains with CPC based on several important principles.
The 2017-2018 negotiations are beginning at a moment of great uncertainty. Thanks to a magnificent level of mobilization by CUPW members and our allies we have effectively thwarted the efforts of Canada Post management to eliminate door-to-door delivery, close post offices and attack the pensions and security of postal workers. Instead of accepting the CPC’s cutbacks, we worked to harness public support for improved and expanded postal services. The public’s strong support for postal services shows in the Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO) released in December 2016.
Still, despite many positive indications in the report, we can’t predict Parliament’s response to its recommendations.
What we do know is that many aspects of postal operations are changing.
As we’ve known for some time, the postal service’s future relies increasingly on products that are not protected by the exclusive privilege – which are therefore subject to competition by private sector providers. This reality is one of the main reasons why CUPW has long and relentlessly campaigned for Canada Post to enter into new, revenue generating services such as postal banking.
We also know that our upcoming bargaining comes at a time of considerable economic and political uncertainty:
All of these factors will contribute to a difficult bargaining climate for all unions including CUPW.
Canada Post Corporation will likely face some additional pressures in 2018. Depending on our level of success in obtaining pay equity for 8,000 RSMCs, pay equity will, and should, come at a considerable cost to CPC. The reality is that much of the profits reported by CPC during the past 20 years were achieved by exploiting RSMCs. Proper pay and benefits for these workers will be a substantial cost. When we achieve pay equity, CPC will have to make retroactive payments to January 1, 2016 and implement new wages and benefits for the future.
It is important to note that Canada Post is prohibited by law from reducing the compensation of other employees in order to meet its new financial obligations to the RSMCs.
When RSMCs finally receive the compensation they are entitled to we should all celebrate together. Achieving pay equity for RSMCs will ensure that CUPW can focus its energies to negotiate one Collective Agreement to cover all operational workers with improved wages and benefits for everyone.
In every round of bargaining we face a dilemma: We have many problems and issues that must be addressed and negotiating is our only opportunity to change our Collective Agreements. However we must focus our demands on our key priorities and not bring hundreds of proposals to the bargaining table – as we have often done in the past.
In the upcoming round of bargaining, it is very likely that we will end up in a major dispute, either a strike or a lockout. If we have a long list of demands it will take a long time to negotiate. Most of our issues – especially with respect to work rules, staffing and rights – are complicated to discuss and resolve.
Negotiating complicated issues takes time: It takes time for internal discussions, time to write and re-write contractual language, time for the negotiating committee to consider and endorse proposals, time for the NEB to discuss any changes in position, and time for discussion with CPC. During a full-out strike or lockout our members collectively lose more than $8 million every day. The more demands we have, the longer it takes to achieve them, and the easier it becomes for CPC to pick and choose which ones to address. In this way management ends up determining the priorities.
The NEB is urging that, as much as possible, Locals only submit demands to the Regional conferences that reflect the key priorities of the Local membership.
Time is just one reason why we should restrict the number of demands. Another reason is tactical: If we bring hundreds of demands to the bargaining table it is likely CPC will do likewise. This can create a real problem if we are legislated back to work and have to go before an arbitrator with hundreds of demands and hundreds of employer rollbacks on the table.
These questions can get complicated, which is why it’s important to have clear, direct and specific demands.
The NEB and the committee will be best able to advance demands that
a) address a specific problem head-on,
b) solve a problem that is not already addressed in the Collective Agreements, and
c) do not create new issues while solving others.
Our Urban Postal Operations (UPO) Collective Agreement staffing rules and job security provisions not only give postal workers security, but also ensure that CPC continues to offer postal services staffed with knowledgeable regular employees. The most effective way to protect jobs at Canada Post is to ensure that high quality postal services are provided daily to the public. Fighting against closures and contracting out, and struggling for expansion of services are the best ways that postal workers can protect our jobs and also ensure that CPC continues to provide universal public service.
As it is important that Canada Post provide high quality services to the public, we need to ensure that the service is delivered by full-time regular workers with proper training. In recent years, Canada Post has consistently violated the terms of Appendix P, which requires a minimum ratio (nationally) of full-time Group One workers. These contract violations have deprived hundreds of temporary and part-time Group One members of their right to obtain full-time regular positions.
We have to strengthen the current staffing provisions to better organize the work so that temporary and part-time workers can obtain full-time employment. In addition to adding an effective enforcement mechanism to Appendix P, we also need to add a staffing formula to make sure full-time jobs are created and filled. This could involve negotiating a minimum ratio of full-time positions to part-time positions in larger facilities. We can also consider adding a conversion formula that would require the creation of full-time positions once a threshold is reached in hours worked by part-time employees in a particular Local. Another similar formula could make sure regular part-time positions are created once a threshold of temporary hours is reached.
Staffing in smaller facilities must also be addressed. Too often, management relies on part-time and temporary labour when there is enough work to justify creating full-time positions.
The preambles to clauses 39.02 and 39.03 in the UPO Collective Agreement also make it impossible to enforce staffing at the Local level, because Canada Post can simply use these clauses to avoid enforcement by claiming that they have satisfied the national ratio.
Also regarding job security, wherever possible, we need to keep local mail processing in the local community. From an environmental perspective, it makes no sense to transport mail to larger communities and back when local processing would be quicker. It’s time to keep decent jobs in struggling communities.
The biggest threat to jobs in Groups 3 and 4 is the reduction in planned maintenance of equipment. Technical Services of Canada Post began implementing a new model of “just in time” or “condition-based” maintenance on the MLOCRs in Toronto and Edmonton, and they plan to extend it to other facilities. Instead of performing maintenance according to time or volume of use, equipment will be monitored, and maintenance triggered when certain diagnostics reveal the need. On machines where this maintenance regime is being used, there is a huge build- up of dust. This puts operators and technicians both at risk when particulates, especially tiny deadly opioids like Carfentanil are routinely processed by our mail sortation equipment.
With fewer maintenance hours on the machines, CPC plans to delete MAM 11 positions through attrition.
We need to have an effective role in establishing maintenance requirements for all machines, based on manufactures’ guidelines that keeps all our members safe and allows us to have a role in establishing adequate staffing levels and secures our maintenance jobs. We need access to the data from Maximo to inform and monitor staffing.
During the 2016 round of bargaining, CPC proposed that all plant maintenance workers be scheduled for twelve-hour shifts and all members would be required to work on every weekend. CUPW believes that if there’s a problem, it’s due to insufficient staff, not the hours of work. The Union successfully resisted this proposed rollback, and we must be prepared to resist if we see it again in 2017.
CUS: Parcel delivery is contracted out in some communities and in areas with Combined Urban Services (CUS), as is the shuttling of mail over short distances between plants, airports and postal facilities. This is part of our core work and should be integrated into in-house operations.
Vehicle Maintenance: Canada Post’s fleet has grown since the introduction of postal transformation, but the number of mechanics in the garages has not. Despite protections in Appendix I, maintenance work on the light fleet is regularly contracted out in many cities – even where we have garages. Also, the repair and maintenance of the heavy vehicles – the 5-ton trucks and tractor-trailers – is all contracted-out in many cities. In many cases, this work can be brought into existing garages with modest changes to the workspace. In other cases, new garages may be needed. Work on heavy vehicles is considered to be a separate trade in all provinces and should be reflected in our CAs as a new work classification.
By contracting-in much of the light and heavy vehicle repair, we can create new mechanic positions and save the corporation money.
Electric Vehicle Maintenance: If existing corporate vehicles are to be converted to electric or hybrid drive systems, our members could be doing this conversion. Members have already performed refurbishing work on step vans and Right-Hand-Drive vehicles. We have to make sure that we have the mechanics and the skills to convert and maintain the green fleet of the future.
In the 2016 round of bargaining we were able to turn the corner away from concessions, and to negotiate modest benefit improvements and a wage increase that mirrored the national rate of inflation.
In 2018, we hope to increase real wages and improve benefits. It would be useful if Locals could identify specific needed improvements within the Extended Health Care Plan and the Dental Plan. General statements about improving our benefit plans do not provide the NEB and the committee with workable demands. It should also be noted that the retiree dental plan and the life insurance plan are not currently included in the UPO CA. That should be corrected.
With respect to the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), the current formula governing the amount to be paid is satisfactory. However, the trigger threshold (currently 2.67%) should be reduced to the percentage of the negotiated wage increase.
The 2016 negotiations resulted in an agreement to conduct a pay equity review for RSMCs. The review is based on the Canada Human Rights Act and the Equal Wages Guidelines 1986. Under the agreement a Joint Pay Equity Review Committee does the work, composed of three members from each of CUPW and CPC and two consultants, one appointed by each party. Thirteen months is given to establish the Review Committee and conduct a pay equity study. Following the study, the agreement provides for a three-month negotiation period between the parties. If there the parties don’t reach an agreement, there is a 90-day period for an arbitrator to hear the parties and render a decision. At any time during the process if the parties cannot reach agreement on an issue, such as the comparator group, methodology, job profiles etc. the arbitrator will render a binding decision. The entire process will take no more than 19 months from September 1, 2016 unless both parties agree to an extension or ordered the arbitrator orders an extension.
CUPW remains very confident that RSMCs will achieve pay equity through the review process. However we do not know if we will be able to resolve all of the RSMCs’ major problems and inequities. For this reason it is necessary to include demands on many issues even though some of them may be resolved in the negotiations or arbitration decision resulting from the pay equity review.
Important issues that must be resolved include:
We still have some problems to address with the short-term disability plan. Namely, there should be no restriction on carry-over of personal days from year to year. Many members find seven personal days to be insufficient. The amount paid through the plan should increase – currently the plan pays only 70% of regular wages.
The health and safety of CUPW members must become more of a priority during negotiations and between rounds of bargaining. Despite many improvements in the UPO contract we have not been able to significantly reduce our injury rate. In fact, recent information has revealed that during the life of the previous Collective Agreement, the injury rate of CUPW members actually increased, while public statements by CPC management claimed the opposite.
There are a number of changes that are required in order to reduce injuries and improve the overall health of postal workers.
The abuse of compulsory overtime by management must be addressed. The 2014 CUPW Survey of the Impact of Postal Transformation showed a direct correlation between excessive overtime and ill health, fatigue, stress and deterioration of family relationships.
We need to improve the current “right to refuse” provisions in the UPO CA, and add language for RSMCs beyond the current Labour Code provisions, to ensure that workers can effectively exercise their right to refuse unsafe work.
Overburdening of letter carriers due to the increase in parcel volumes must be addressed. It makes no sense for letter carriers to get less time to deliver parcels than in the existing Mail Service Courier (MSC) system, especially considering that letter carriers generally have smaller vehicles which are less suited for parcel deliveries.
The time given for parcel delivery should be calculated using the MSC Workload Structuring System, and flex part-time letter carriers should be structured to help with heavy parcel volume days.
The two-bundle delivery system introduced as part of Postal Transformation has cut the time letter carriers are given for work inside the depot, and replaced this with more delivery time outside. However, inadequate time was added for the extra work required to manipulate the two bundles while delivering to the door. No extra time was added for the extra work required to handle householders with multiple bundles of mail. Delivery is much simpler, faster and safer when all the addressed mail and householders for an address are combined into single bundle. Currently we are pursuing this issue at arbitration. In the meantime we can demand that the Collective Agreement allow letter carriers to prepare their mail at the case to create single-bundle delivery.
Group 1 workers should be entitled to fatigue mats on request. We would also be in a better position to implement the Burkett arbitration decision if we add provisions in the CA for the ergonomic study of work methods and rotation of duties.
The rest pods in major plants should be enclosed and protected to reduce exposure to the noise and atmosphere of the work floor.
Management must stop treating injury reports as part of their public relations campaigns and start providing accurate information to Labour Canada. CUPW should be furnished with all injury and health and safety reports prior to their submission to Labour Canada.
New employees, often brought in as temporary workers, do not receive the training or mentoring they need to do their job efficiently or safely. This lack of proper training and mentoring is reflected in the high rate of new hires quitting their jobs. This high turnover rate means that staff is often not available to cover absences, leading to involuntary overtime by other employees. A proper nationally-standardized and jointly-run (union and management) training and mentoring program, using peer-trainers and peer-mentors, would reduce turnover. It would increase job satisfaction, reduce injuries, cut overtime and save Canada Post money that is currently wasted hiring and training new employees only to have them quit.
We did not have any demands in the last round of bargaining to improve the pension plan. We held the line and were able to defend our defined benefit plan, but CPC will attack the plan again in the coming round.
CPC’s excuse for cutting or restructuring our pension benefits has been that the pension has a solvency deficit. To clarify briefly: the plan’s performance is best represented by its going-concern balance, which is currently in surplus. But there is another evaluation, to which some pensions are subject, called the solvency balance. Because of economic conditions – primarily, low interest rates, which lead to low yields on long-term investments – the plan currently has a solvency deficit. If nothing changes, in 2018 Canada Post could be required to make large special payments to pay down the solvency deficit, but does not have the cash flow to afford them. Currently, Canada Post has a temporary exemption from these payments, but it regularly raises the threat of these payments to justify coming after our pension.
The report of the federal government’s review of Canada Post has recently suggested that the government and Canada Post find a way to get out of the solvency payment obligation permanently. The union has been actively lobbying the government to act on that recommendation so that it isn’t hanging over our pension plan as we go into the next round of bargaining.
Until the solvency deficit issue is resolved it may be wise to postpone any proposals to improve the pension and concentrate instead on improvements to our Extended Health Care Plan and the Dental Plan.
There must be a significant increase to the Education Fund.
The Union’s education program reaching a crisis point. It is essential to ensure that CUPW remains a strong union capable of enforcing the CAs and defending the human rights of all members. Around 1,000 members attend the three-day weekend seminars each year, and about 350 members attend the five-day courses. An educated CUPW membership benefits the whole union, the entire labour movement, and our overall society.
The three-cents-per-hour-paid formula for the contribution to the Education Fund has been in place for over twenty years. This formula was applied to the urban unit in 1995 when letter carriers and postal clerks were earning $17.06 per hour. Since then the wages of letter carriers and postal clerks have increased by 56 per cent, while the amount per hour paid to the Education Fund has not increased.
Imagine running your household on 1995 dollars with 2017 prices! This is both alarming and unsustainable. It has already caused serious impact on what the union can accomplish. An increase could be through an increase in cents per hour, a percentage of some kind some kind, a lump sum, or a combination.
Other funds, such as the International fund, the Childcare fund, and Appendix T, should be indexed to the rate of inflation.
Fair and Inclusive Workplaces Benefit Everyone.
The goal of employment equity is to change the workplace to better reflect and represent the community by putting an end to the systemic exclusion of certain groups. Through employment equity programs, designated group members get fairer access to jobs, they also benefit from a work environment that encourages them to stay and advance. Measures such as training and career development opportunities for all designated group members and accommodations for persons with disabilities, will ultimately build all members’ power to fight discrimination, not only in the workplace but in every aspect of our lives.
Canada is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its legally binding covenants. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that workplaces are free from discrimination. However, inequalities may often be entrenched in the workplace as a result of years of hiring practices that have excluded certain groups.
In Canada, we have both federal and provincial Human Rights Tribunals to which people can appeal if their human rights are being violated. However, this can be a difficult and costly process. By incorporating anti-discrimination measures into collective agreements, unions such as ours play a key role in the struggle to uphold basic human rights. Some collective agreement language addresses discrimination directly - for example, employment equity and the duty to accommodate. Other language advances human rights by applying an equity lens to broader issues such as pensions or health and safety.
Canada Post is required under the UPO collective agreement to conduct joint training with the union in accordance with Appendix HH, which lays out processes for Human Rights training and Aboriginal hiring. However, it has been an uphill battle to get any real change or movement on these crucial issues. While new workers are supposed to get four-hour joint human rights training sessions, there is a significant backlog. We need more time and resources committed to our human rights training.
The Mail Volume Index is used when restructuring routes to adjust the volume count information to match the average mail volume experienced over the previous year.
When Postal Transformation was introduced, with its two streams of mail (sequenced and non-sequenced), Canada Post neglected to split the Mail Volume Index into two – to match the two streams of mail. Instead, the time given to the letter carrier to obtain and sort the mail is based on the non-sequenced mail volume adjusted by a Mail Volume Index of both the sequenced and non-sequenced mail. Letter Carriers would have better working conditions if there were both a Sequenced Mail Volume Index and a Non-sequenced Mail Volume Index, so that the Letter Carriers would be given accurate credit for the mail they must sort.
The percentage of coverage formula also must be addressed: The ongoing drop in amount of addressed mail per address has had a huge negative impact on the percentage of coverage. Since letter carriers do not have mail for every address on every day, the percentage of coverage formula is used to calculate the number of addresses on a route that the letter carrier should be given time to deliver to on an “average day”. The steep drop in addressed mail volume per address has made this already flawed formula much worse. Also Postal Transformation has created much longer routes and unaddressed ad mail is not included when calculating the percentage of coverage. The end result is that there is simply not enough time to deliver the mail. Letter Carriers would have much better working conditions if the percentage of coverage formula were corrected to reflect the reality of their work.
We need a fair and equitable system to measure the workload of RSMCs.
This is a fundamental issue as it affects health and safety and work/life balance. The current Route Management System (RMS) does not sufficiently measure the work RSMCs do. The RMS does not allow for any recognition of variables such as Personal Contact Items (PCIs), admail or lock changes. It is sadly inadequate, especially considering the values it produces for high-volume routes.
It’s time to have a system that will be a proper Route Measurement System rather than a management system. Such a system must also include the right to challenge the evaluated time established by Canada Post.
In recent years, RSMC have been also been affected by route reorganizations with reduced hours and an increase in per-piece payments.
After the pay equity committee has completed its work, there will be no excuse to withhold rights from RSMCs that are currently held by letter carriers – both are doing the same job. While we believe in the pay equity process, we still have to address the same issues in our bargaining demands. We simply cannot wait given that the committee’s results will not be available before we go into bargaining in 2017. We should demand an hourly rate for RSMCs, and payment for all hours worked. RSMCs should not have to find their own replacement when they are unable to report for work. They should not be at the mercy of Canada Post’s whim to change vehicle requirements. They should have a minimum number of hours for a full-time route. We need as many full-time RSMC routes as possible for the overall amount of work.
When CPC reorganizes Letter Carrier routes, we have a right to have a Union representative present to ensure the new routes follow the rules of the CA and the Letter Carrier Route Measurement System (LCRMS). In 2007, CPC introduced a new computer program that automates and accelerates most of the reorganization work that was done by Route Management Officers. Since then, CPC provides less information to CUPW, which makes the union observer’s work much more difficult.
Badly built routes that union observers cannot verify and correct lead to overburdening that hurts letter carriers. CPC keeps relevant data from our Union – information that could be used to make sure that restructures are done properly according to the rules in the CA. We need all the relevant data to ensure better routes and better working conditions for letter carriers.
We need regular, current, detailed staffing information for Group 1 workers so that we can identify improper staffing practices quickly, while we still have a chance to do something about it.
We also need access to the information used to develop Canada Post’s health and safety reports.
We need access to information on total hours worked by temporary and part-time workers, to the individual level, so that we can enforce staffing provisions within Locals.
We also we need all relevant data pertaining to the maintenance of equipment in the Maximo system.
Better information is needed to keep in touch with members. A review of Article 6.02 and Appendix B-1 would help. They are not clear on what changes trigger a notice to the union with new data. It would be helpful to add an agreement to the CA on when the Union is entitled to current information – for instance once per quarter – on all active members, including all the data described in Appendix B-1, with phone numbers and emails added to B-1.
We should establish a maximum rate per pay at which CPC can recover money, when a member is in arrears for pension or benefit premiums.
A post office that offers a range of different services and constantly experiments with new roles is one that broadens its potential for revenue generation. Many post offices are taking on the challenge of declining revenues from lettermail and have started generating new revenues by leveraging their retail and delivery networks.
Postal banking, the provision of government services, broadband and mobile phone services, and renting out space in our outlets are all ways to make more use of Canada’s largest retail network.
We also have the largest delivery network in the country that could be used to deliver everything through the last mile including groceries, other companies’ parcels and more. Carriers could also have expanded services roles, as in France, where they check-in on seniors.
Through partnerships, Canada Post could also equip its fleet with sensors and technology to collect data – a key component in the development of smart cities – in order to help third parties like governments and others make smarter, real-time decisions based on live empirical data. Data gathering could also open up new streams of revenue for Canada Post.
CUPW has also been campaigning to have Canada Post provide broadband Internet service to rural and remote communities. The report by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates supports expansion of services using the postal network, especially for rural communities. The Appendix T Committee should be used to its full capacity to research and implement innovative and expansionary initiatives in rural and urban areas.
At the Appendix T working group and steering committee, Canada Post must assign truly visionary forward-looking innovators with an emphasis on the possibilities created by new technologies, ensure that a minimum number of technologically cutting-edge projects are continuously under pilot and jointly monitor what is happening in other countries’ post offices for best practices and lessons learned which the parties could apply to Canada Post.
With the largest retail network and delivery fleet in Canada, our public post office can have a big impact in transitioning to a more sustainable economy.
In the 2011 round of negotiations, CUPW made a comprehensive proposal for both our union and management to work together to promote and protect the environment. With the Harper government in power, this proposal went nowhere. Through Appendix T in the urban CA, we have also proposed environmentally sustainable initiatives to Canada Post. Unfortunately the corporation has either dismissed our proposals, or agreed to make superficial changes instead of taking the bold steps needed to move forward.
It is vital to have clear demands that explain how the post office can shift to sustainability so that we can make that shift happen. Ideas like an electric delivery fleet or electric charging stations available at post offices affect more than just Canada Post. They are ideas that can inspire public support because they affect us all.
Some ideas for sustainability are already in the public mind. In February 2015, CUPW joined with allies in the labour, indigenous, and environmental movements to launch Delivering Community Power. The initiative proposed a vision of the 21st century post office that helps fight against climate change and expands services to Canadians.
Since the launch we have met with MPs, engaged the public, and made submissions to the recent governmental review of Canada Post. The report by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO) agreed with our suggestion to provide broadband service to rural and remote communities.
The federal government says it is showing leadership on climate change through public policy and regulation. However, we need the government to act directly, with its own institutions, to implement and adapt to a sustainable economy and way of life. Canada Post is the biggest federal presence throughout the country and is their best opportunity to show leadership and not just talk about it.
The number of retail outlets is protected under Appendix I of the urban collective agreement. Retail outlets continue to have their hours and staffing reduced because nothing currently stops franchises from opening near our outlets. Additional protection in the collective agreement could help us resist this pattern.
We know we are going into another very difficult round of bargaining. We may well end up across the table from representatives of the same management that has already cut back retail services, attempted to eliminate door-to-door delivery, and violated the staffing provisions of the Collective Agreement. It is also the same management that locked us out in 2011, took advantage of the unconstitutional back-to-work legislation, and served a notice of lockout during the 2016 negotiations.
Faced with such an anti-worker employer, it is vitally important to develop a program of demands that will be strongly supported by the entire membership. In 2017 your National Negotiating Committee will need the support of a membership that is strong and united.
Thank you all for being a part of our union’s core work.