Today Sunday May 26 2013.
It is not possible to write this Sunday’s e-mail without discussing the very serious problems affecting all the workers in our section, whether they be labelled as “permanent partially disabled” (PPD) or whether they be labelled as “abled bodies” by the local management. This is not only discriminatory in nature but it also reflects the type of attitude that management cultivates towards the workers and their utter contempt for the dignity of labour.
WHAT IS REQUIRED IS A UNION LEADERSHIP THAT FIGHTS FOR THE RIGHTS OF ALL AND UPHOLDS THE MOTTO THAT AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!
About one month ago, local Union/Management consultations took place at the OMPP. The result of those consultations was a total loss of 31 positions. Of these, 22 were on day shift. Before the consultations began, we had a total position establishment at the OMPP of 460 positions and this included the 21 LTA positions (Long-Term Absence). We now have a total position establishment of 429 including the 21 LTA positions. In November of last year, just six months ago, during another round of local Union/Management consultations, a total of 40 positions were abolished from the OMPP.
If we do some quick mathematics, we have suffered a net loss of 71 positions in about six months. All these positions have been eliminated through attrition and by having surplus workers floating here and there within the Plant. These figures are for the inside workers only. If we deduct the LTA positions, the OMPP is now operating mail processing with only 408 workers in Ottawa.
We all have to keep in mind that the current staffing levels stems from years of continuous decreases in the number of full-time and part-time positions throughout the Plant as a result of adjustments made by management, thus keeping the staffing on the various shifts to a bare minimum resulting in the workers having to constantly do more work with fewer workers.
This is giving rise to a lot more work related injuries and accidents at the place of work. It is also giving rise to employee burn out and exhaustion. This situation is also drastically affecting the movement of full-time workers from night and evening shift onto day shift and affecting the movement of part-time workers to full-time employment and preventing the temporary workers from entering into regular employment.
It is the explicit aim of Canada Post Corporation at this time to cut as many positions as possible throughout the country as a result of greater automation and also because they want to shift the burden of the 2011 postal deficit of $327 million onto our backs. It is this explicit aim which the local management was seeking to satisfy with the most recent local Union/Management consultations.
According to the minutes of the local consultation meetings, the Union leadership did not raise any opposition to management’s proposed changes to the position establishment and to the job bookings at the OMPP but rather spent their entire time working out how they will implement those changes through shift bids. According to available information, the Union has not challenged the employer on the minutes either.
In the summary of the study which we prepared for the local executive committee before the consultation meetings took place, we wrote: “It is our position that the Union must fight against the further erosion of our position establishments by actually seeking an improvement in the overall number of full-time positions throughout the Plant and this for every shift. This should be our main objective during the consultation process to be held with management.”
We also cautioned the Union that “in the current circumstances, it is important that the Union avoid a situation whereby the workers will be fighting amongst themselves for the crumbs that management is throwing at them while keeping the plant severely understaff thus creating an untenable situation for the workers at the place of work.”
The views of the membership were not sought prior or during the consultation process by the local executive committee. Even when we managed to give our views, those views were not taken into serious account. The local executive committee went to the local consultation meetings totally unprepared and without the full strength of the workers behind them and without sufficient knowledge of what is actually going on at the Plant.
The local executive committee even went further. They also held consultations simultaneously with the management regarding article 54 (duty to accommodate) and together with them, created a serious division of the workers at the place of work.
The article 54 committee comprised of Union/Management agreed to organise the shift bids in violation of the seniority provisions of the contract by imposing that the bids be done on the basis of the workers “abilities or disabilities” to perform the work of the positions opened up for bid. By doing so, the management succeeded in imposing its most narrow-minded and retrogressive conception of the workplace. This was done with the blessings of the National Director of the CUPW for our region.
The labelling of the workers in this manner is nothing but an attempt by local management to create divisions amongst the workers at the OMPP and have them fight amongst themselves for whatever assignments are left after years of continuous staffing and job booking cuts so as to divert us all from dealing with the crucial question as to which way is the way forward for Canada Post at this particular time and which direction should the Canadian economy take if we want to satisfy our most profound aspirations for a society that is truly fit for the living of all human beings.
In this way, the management is seeking to cause enough turmoil within our ranks that we will not see the urgent necessity for us to unite in action in defense of the rights of all so as to defeat the corporate agenda which they want to impose on us and the Canadian people with all their might and government artillery.
The outcome of the consultations held on article 54 by the Union/Management committee is that throughout the Plant, 26 positions have been “reserved” for the “PPD” workers. Of these, 13 are on the night shift, 8 on the evening shift and 5 on the day shift. These positions are all in the short and long section of Transaction Mail since management considers that there should be no accommodation work available in Parcels and in Direct Marketing. The oversize section of Transaction Mail has been depleted so much that no “PPD” positions were assigned there.
The 26 “reserved” positions can be used to accommodate workers whether or not their seniority allows them to obtain such a position. This is not only in violation of articles 13 and 54 of the work contract but is also a precedent which is being set at the OMPP by the employer, a precedent which I believe has to be vigorously opposed.
Since May 12, 2013 when the changes took effect, and especially in the conditions of an aging workforce where the workers have been suffering from years of deteriorating working conditions which have also taken its toll on the younger workers, many workers have been set at each other’s throat fighting for assignments that they could do within the Plant.
Since that time as well, management has also significantly decreased the number of available work accommodations they were providing before, confining themselves now only to the 26 positions. Nonetheless, the management is claiming to be satisfying the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act and their obligations under the work contract. They also claim to be fulfilling their responsibility under these alleging “undue hardship” when it comes time to accommodate the rest of the workers who have sustained work related injuries or other types of injuries.
This is giving rise to management sending the workers home who require an accommodation claiming that there is no available work for them to do and that they have already accommodated the workers up to the set limit of 26. Yet, management on certain days has even offered 4 hours of overtime after the shift, extending the work day to 12 hours for those assigned to the manual sortation, an assignment which was being performed before by several “PPD” workers and which has now been severely restricted.
The mail volume has been accumulating there and we have recorded anywhere between 150 to 200 tubs of mail to be sorted at 8:00 hours every morning since the date of implementation. Practically, there is no sortation of mail there until 16:00 hours, the time the evening shift reports for work.
Yet, management is sending people home on that shift claiming “undue hardship” to accommodate. The 150 to 200 tubs already there is just one portion of the mail that has to be sorted and those figures do not take into account all the mail which will have to be sorted from the street collections which arrives at around 18:00 hours.
Another horrible feature of this situation is that the workers with work restrictions cannot bid for positions on day shift in accordance with their seniority rights but have to bid on the basis of whether or not they can perform all the functions of the position. With the 4 positions on day shift being “reserved” for particular “PPD” individuals regardless of their seniority, only one position is left open for bid on the day shift and this for all of the “PPD” workers throughout the Plant.
As a result, workers with over 36 years of seniority who were on day shift before as per their seniority rights are being bumped back to the evening shift even though they are in need of an accommodation themselves.
For all intents and purposes, workers who have been labelled as “permanent and partially disabled” by the corporation cannot bid for any day shift positions despite their many years of seniority. This is pitting the senior and junior workers also at each other’s throat as it is only through this type of situation that a junior worker can obtain a day shift position and by proving that he can do all the related duties of the position. A division between so-called “disabled and abled bodies” occurs.
This entire situation is having the effect of creating fear amongst the workers that if they report a work related injury or any other types of injury that they will have to forfeit a day shift position and remain on evening or night shift for the rest of the time they have to work at the post office. And that is if the article 54 committee decides to accommodate them in the first place. This is deliberate by management as it is trying to deter workers from reporting their injuries so that they don’t have to assume any responsibilities towards them.
Furthermore, before the changes, we had a total of 70 full-time and 12 part-time day shift positions. With management’s changes, this was decreased to 60 full-time and 0 part-time positions, a total loss of 22 day shift positions. This is in clear violation of the collective agreement which mandates the management to maximize the number of day shift positions as opposed to shifting more positions onto the evening and night shifts at postal installations.
We also wrote in the summary of our study regarding management’s changes which were depleting the position establishment at the Plant, that “within this situation, it will be extremely hard to have a comprehensive program of rotation of duties as per article 14 of the contract. To offset the pressure coming from all the workers demanding a proper system of rotation of duties for the day shift compliment, the management is suggesting that the problem is not with the lack of staff but with having too many workers with restrictions.
In this way, they try to pit the workers against each other also creating a stigma against the workers with restrictions, who for no fault of their own cannot do all of the work in their compliment. This is why the employer is in the process of reviewing the restrictions of all the workers they are currently accommodating.
On this point, it is important to keep in mind that management is duty bound to accommodate injured workers to the point of “undue hardship”. This means that they must provide adequate staffing to meet its obligations towards these workers and to also fulfill their obligation to provide the workers with a proper program of rotation of duties as per the contract.
This also means that a significant increase in the position establishment of the day shift compliment is in order and that it has been in order for a long time. The Union should actually seize the moment and push for an immediate solution to this problem. It is absolutely not true that the problems of staffing and of rotation of duties exist because some workers are incapable of doing all the work of the compliment and are being accommodated in their own position. This is just another attempt by management to divide and conquer and in this way prevent a just solution to this problem.”
We also emphasised the following:
“. It is very important that the Union fights for a genuine and significant increase of the position establishment for the day shift compliment in the short and long which will give job security and peace of mind to the workers with restrictions and which will answer the concerns of the other workers who are constantly being burned out on the machines or lifting on Plan Mail.
In this way, the union will be acting as a real defense organisation of the workers and will be fighting for the rights of all. We should always remember our proud motto that of an injury to one is an injury to all.”
Canada Post and local management should be condemned for having caused so many work related injuries and for having encouraged through the years the flourishing of a discriminatory stigma against the workers with injuries. Everything should be done to look after the well-being of all the workers and everyone should fight to put an end to the division of the workers on the basis of disability and ability.
It is abundantly clear now that what is required at this time is a Union leadership that fights for the rights of all and that upholds the motto that an injury to one is an injury to all. In an attempt to reverse the situation currently prevailing at the place of work, the workers are in the process of preparing grievances against the management and if the Union decides not to take them, then the workers are seriously considering going to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to force both the Union and the Management in redressing this untenable work environment.
POSTAL WORKERS IN FORT McMURRAY WALK OFF THE JOB OVER OUTSOURCING.
According to a press release by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), more than 50 postal workers in Fort McMurray, Alberta walked off the job last Wednesday morning to protest contracting out delivery of parcels.
It is being reported that by this action, the striking workers are trying to bring attention to how the government has undermined services at the post office. The strike was apparently precipitated by an announcement that parcels would be delivered by outside contractors, a decision the workers say, could lead to nine workers losing their jobs.
Dana Gabriel, President of Local 736 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is being reported as having said: “This isn’t a cost-cutting measure. It’s a failure by the local management to retain quality staff. The public needs to know what Canada Post is doing to services.”
The AFL also points out in its press release that the post office in Fort McMurray has seen higher turnover because of a botched route restructuring that has many workers working 10-hour days. The AFL also points out “that the new starting wage of $19 has made it difficult for the post office to retain new staff in the high-wage, boom economy of Fort McMurray.”
“It’s never an easy decision to walk out. This is something our membership takes very seriously”, said Dana Gabriel who represents more than 100 postal workers. “People on the picket line are worried—we’ve already been threatened with five-day suspensions, management was out here reading workers the riot act”, he also said.
The AFL president Gil McGowan is also being reported as having said “Contracting out parcel delivery doesn’t make sense. It’s going to cost the post office more, service is going to deteriorate, diligent and responsible postal workers are going to lose their jobs, and it won’t solve any of the problems with delivery. This is just bad all around”.
According to Anick Losier, spokeswoman for Canada Post, workers will not lose their jobs. She is being reported as saying “that with the increase in parcel volumes over the past few years and the difficulty in retaining staff in Fort McMurray, there are not enough postal workers to cover all the routes. This has resulted in overtime for employees and lack of daily service to some addresses”.
According to news reports, Dana Gabriel sent a list of demands to Canada Post, including that workers be given the Northern Allowance and a living wage. “You have to make $25 an hour just to pay your rent up here, that’s the only way you’re going to attract people, better working conditions and more money to live”, said Gabriel to reporters.
Note that the new $19 starting wage was arrived at following contract negotiations after the Harper government passed back to work legislation ending the last postal conflict where postal workers resisted Canada Post’s attempts to create a two-tier wage system by significantly lowering the starting wage for new employees. Now, it seems that Canada Post is having trouble retaining staff.
The Sunday e-mail salutes the courage and determination of postal workers in Fort McMurray for standing up for their rights and in condemning the new $19 starting wage imposed by both the Harper government and the CEO of Canada Post through blackmail and extortion.
It is only by waging resolute struggles in defense of our rights and the rights of all that we will make any headway towards achieving some level of security.