THE SUNDAY E-MAIL
Ottawa Postal Workers’ News Bulletin
February 23, 2014
The Difference Between Two Slogans Which Ostensibly Say The Same Thing
At a time when the Harper government is pursuing a policy of destroying public assets and is doing everything in its power to hand over all profitable public services to the private sector, how the workers provide themselves with orientation to defend their rights and the interest of society is of great significance.
In this regard, the slogans the workers put forward must have a cutting edge which advances their fight to defend public right and the rights of workers to proper wages and working conditions. Let us look at the two slogans “Save the Public Post Office” and “Save Canada Post.” They seem to say the same thing but in fact are quite different. The most significant difference between the two becomes clear when we go deeper into the two very different agendas which are being presented for the post office; one by Canada Post and the government of Canada and the other by the postal workers and people of Canada. In this context “Save Canada Post” or “Save the Public Post Office” take two very different directions.
Postal workers know from years of experience in the struggle for their rights that every demand for concessions and roll-backs, every step towards further privatization and deregulation of postal services has been done on the basis of the perverse logic that to save the corporation it was necessary to attack the workers’ livelihood and security.
In the last round of negotiations in 2010, Canada Post’s theme for negotiations was, “Some things have to change so others don’t.” In their document “Opening Comments and Proposals” released in October 2010, the corporation stated, “the individual security of each and every one of our employees is intimately tied to the success of the company.”
This was a clear threat that the workers must accept a two-tier wage system, loss of sick-leave benefits and the gutting of the contract or even more would be lost. The corporation’s theme was intended to impose their agenda on the negotiations process that “protecting the financial viability of the Corporation,” was a shared responsibility with the union. Postal workers rejected this vicious attack of the corporation and after negotiations broke down they prepared to organize rotating strikes across the country.
Workers insisted that they gave rise to their defence organization not to “protect the financial viability of the Corporation,” but to fight for their rights as workers. Workers also pointed out that “financial viability” was a bogus issue. For the past ten years, Canada Post had not only made profits each year, but also handed over hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends to the government. It was precisely during this period when hundreds of retail post offices were closed and the plans for Postal Transformation and more cut-backs in services were hatched.
The results of the last round of negotiations are well known. Canada Post locked out the workers, the Harper government passed legislation criminalizing the struggle of postal workers and used blackmail and intimidation until the leadership of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers agreed to recommend, albeit reluctantly, that postal workers accept many of the main roll-backs and concessions originally demanded by the corporation.
Ratification meetings were held across the country, and postal workers voted by a narrow margin of 57 per cent to accept the contract. Significantly, the turnout for the vote was one of the lowest in the union’s history. This showed that the workers need an alternative they can believe in and fight for because, whether or not the union leadership was convinced that accepting the roll-backs was the only way to protect the defined-benefit pension plan and “job security,” is not the issue. The facts prove otherwise.
We have seen that the drastic concessions and roll-backs has not been enough for Canada Post. A few short weeks after the signing of the contract in December 2012, the corporation announced the closure of mail processing plants in Windsor, North Bay and other cities. This was part of their plan to concentrate mail processing in four main plants across the country resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs, cut-backs in service and damaging the economies of many large cities across the country. Canada Post has also continued to sell postal franchises to Shoppers Drug Mart and other national retailers with the result that many of their own Retail Post Offices have been closed down.
Canada Post is also behind the recent speculation about the financial crisis facing it. Reports like the one by the Conference Board of Canada and the Fraser Institute are being used to justify further attacks on the public post office; and the corporation’s claims that it cannot wait for the next round of bargaining to make drastic changes to the pension plan.
This is all part of the drive of the Harper government for privatization and deregulation. They have fully adopted neo-liberal globalization and are selling public institutions like the Post Office and Atomic Energy Canada Limited to the highest bidder and are trying to hide this truth from postal workers and all Canadians.
What this shows is that an alternative can only be found on the basis of the fight of the workers for their rights and the rights of all.
At this time the workers cannot permit the slogan “Save Canada Post” to mean that the workers should give up the agenda of defending the public post office. The slogan “Save Canada Post” must not be permitted to undermine the struggle of postal workers as it goes counter to the many years of experience of struggle and their instinct to wage their struggles based on their own agenda and needs. These have always been represented by their slogan to “Save the Public Post Office” and this is what has exposed the government and the managers of Canada Post who are intent on wrecking the public post office.
Despite how hopeless the situation is made to look, there is no need to surrender to the demands of the corporation that “protecting the financial viability of the Corporation is a shared responsibility with the Union.” This is very damaging to the struggle of all workers who know that our security lies in our organized ability to fight for our rights and the rights of all!
The slogan of the government and Canada Post to save the post office is a ruse to make believe that the solution lies in finding some compromise at a time the corporations and governments are refusing to participate in negotiations of any kind. They merely impose their dictate and through blackmail and extortion they demand that the workers’ organizations accept this, or they resort to government legislation to impose it.
This is what is happening in all sectors of the economy and it must be brought to an end. The Corporation must be forced by the workers to negotiate contracts on the basis of upholding what belongs to the workers and the public by right — their wages, working conditions required to do the job safely and humanely, and the services required by a modern society.
Only the struggle of the workers and their allies to defend the rights of all Canadians to a public Post Office will achieve this. It is this struggle which reveals the fraud in which the management of Canada Post and the government are involved and it is only the struggle which can force real problems to be revealed and provided with solutions.
The key to waging this struggle is to mobilize the most important force, the vast majority of workers who through the superiority in numbers and advanced consciousness and organization are capable of defeating the plans of the Harper government to impose monopoly right. This fight can provide a new direction for the economy that recognizes public right. It can be done! It must be done!
The discussion on the significance of the two slogans “Save the Public Post Office” versus “Save Canada Post” is important to make the workers conscious that the starting point to defeat the blackmail and extortion of the corporation is to debunk the neo-liberal assumptions that concessions will save the post office. Saving the post office, a public institution based on upholding the public good, not private interests, is not the motivation of the plans to establish a privatized Canada Post. Even in the private corporations the workers face the same fight for their rights. Concessions are not solutions! Our security lies in the fight for the rights of all.
Fight for the Public Post Office!
With many thanks to Louis Lang for this important contribution to the discussion postal workers and the Canadian people are having throughout the country regarding this question!