The current MLOCR’s at Canada Post have been installed in mail processing plants across the country as part of the corporation`s “Postal Transformation Initiative” to create a “modern post”, an investment of $2 billion, and are the latest generation of this type of machine. They have been in operation in Ottawa since June 2012.
They have a capacity of processing 55,000 pieces of mail per hour and are marked by a greater efficiency rate than the previous ones. The new MLOCR’s do twice as much mail as the older ones and this in a lesser amount of time. Another feature of these machines is the capacity to sequence the mail ready for delivery by the letter carrier. Only three workers are assigned to each machine.
The people working those machines are there for the most part all the shift and very seldom have any respite. Because of the speed of these machines and their length, the workers working them are always near exhaustion and are feeling all kinds of aches and pains which results in more injuries at the place of work.
The introduction of the new MLOCR’s constituted a significant technological change in the mail processing activities of the post office. The workers fought very hard to have the corporation eliminate all the adverse effects onto the workers before it introduced the new machinery as per article 29.02 of the work contract which reads as follows:
“In carrying out technological changes, the Corporation agrees to eliminate all injustices to or adverse effects on employees and any denial of their contractual or legal rights which might result from such changes”.
However, the post office went ahead with the installation and refused to allow the union’s request for an independent ergonomic study of the MLOCR`s. Workers were complaining that the machines were not suitable to their health and safety and carried out actions to make their views known. The Union filed a grievance as an Interest Arbitration and the case was referred to Arbitrator Keller.
During this arbitration process, which required 28 days of hearings, spread in a 30-month period, the Union had to prove all the adverse effects caused by the implementation of the new technologies used by Canada Post as part of its Postal Transformation Initiative. In my opinion, it should have been the other way around. The onus of proof that the new MLOCR’s were compatible with the health and safety of the workers should have been on the employer and an independent ergonomic study should have been made prior to its introduction.
On May 30, 2013 well after the MLOCR’s had been introduced in the workplace, Arbitrator Keller rendered a 23-page decision on several issues the Union had identified as adverse effects on the workers. He ordered Canada Post “to commission an independent third-party ergonomic assessment of the MLOCR`s”. This is to be done under the aegis of the National Joint Health and Safety Committee. It is to be completed within six months of the award.
For the workers, this is unacceptable as they know from working the new MLOCR’s that they are harmful to their health and well-being and they are already feeling the suffering from having to work them. Canada Post should have been forced to pay the workers compensation for having not carried out the ergonomic assessment in the first place. They should have been ordered to create a fund specifically to deal with the problems that the new MLOCR’s are causing the workers.
The workers know very well that the machines cannot be modified from their present state and that Canada Post has introduced them at a cost of millions of dollars and that they are not about to give them up. The workers think Canada Post is getting away with sabotaging their health and that the independent ergonomic study comes a bit too late.