ARBITRATOR KELLER ORDERS AN INDEPENDENT ERGONOMIC STUDY OF THE MULTI LINE OPTICAL CARACTER READER (MLOCR).

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.

In Solidarity,
Danielle Desormeaux

3 comments

  1. Melody says:

    This is so true, and when the obvious point that given the increased size and speed of the machine more staff should be working them. They are approximately 2x the length of our old machines as well as being 2x the speed. The old machines were run with 2 to 3 people, and they want the same for the new machines. A minimum of 5 people should be working them full time to minimize injuries. When management was assigned to work these machines for 1/2hr it nearly killed them. We had to managers nearly collapse from the strain and they expect our people to run them for 8hrs! This is all done in order to save them money, so they don’t have to hire more workers. However it is backfiring in spades as so many workers are becoming injured; so now they have to pay the injured workers, as well as someone to replace them.

  2. TJ says:

    I think that CPC should have to prove that these machines are really saving money and prove that service standards are still being met , and release the dollar figures that they are paying the suppliers and software companies instead of investing in and training employees….I bet it really cost them as much if not more and these costs will continue to increase as these suppliers will be able to name their price as there will be no trained people to fall back on to do the work. There is no plan “b” or safety net being built in to the system and therefore if the machines halt so does all of the production….very very bad management.

    Technology should and could compliment manual sort, not replace it as the physical product of mail has not changed since inception and a letter is still a letter and a package is still a package so there was no real need to change the sorting cases etc….except to purposely create huge unnecessary debt for this corporation and to enhance the beauty to privitaze this portion without the legacy costs of many employees…Is it really justified business sense to spend billions on a product that is REALLY reducing….I don’t think so….Something does not seem right here !

    I can see the community mail boxes and new parcel box locations being delivery points shared by more than just CPC….probably, Purolator, UPS and Fedex

    This Government is very confusing…they want us all to get a job or a couple of part time jobs, work longer, retire,collect your pension and go back to work and contribute to CPP, retire later…..yet their own crown corporations are not setting a good example of creating jobs and keeping people working in a tough economy…but they expect other businesses to do as they say…but not as they do…Where are all of these jobs going to come from as we are losing them daily in huge numbers without much new creation.

    Let the truth be told !!!

    This is a global push to shove electronic services and digital mail upon us as it is more of a benefit to the establishment ( Government, Legal Authorities, Canada Revenue Agency, etc) as electronic leashes on Canadians…they lure us with fun and convenience , when in the long run it is to our detriment….the grave loss of true privacy
    and teaching our young to accept it with a smile….crazy or what ! Future generations will never truly know what they have lost.

  3. Danielle Desormeaux says:

    I appreciate the feedback. Thanks for posting your comments.
    Danielle Desormeaux

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