NDP MP Rachel Blaney expressed outrage on Friday about the Liberal government’s plans to force postal employees back to work, and she called on Canada Post to address high rates of injury and long overtime hours cited by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
Blaney, who represents the North Island-Powell River riding in the House of Commons, described the Trudeau government’s back-to-work legislation as “a sad way of addressing a really important labour issue.”
The workplace is becoming more hazardous as postal workers handle increasing volumes of parcels and packages – rather than letters – in the expanding e-commerce market, she said.
“Postal working has changed dramatically in the last several years,” Blaney said. “Now they’re moving a lot of packages, and that’s a totally different job.”
CUPW has reported that postal workers get injured more frequently than any other group of federal workers, with an injury rate 5.4 times higher than the federal sector average.
Blaney also echoed the union’s objections to forced overtime hours, saying that demands on postal workers make it impossible for them to have a balanced life. The union has said that staff are overstretched.
“It’s one thing if you do a bit of overtime once in a while,” she said. “Some of these folks have been doing overtime for days and weeks and months and not getting acknowledged for that.”
The union, which represents some 50,000 workers, has been refusing overtime and staging rotating strikes across the country.
Blaney said the union chose rolling strikes to avoid damaging the interests of small businesses that rely on the postal service, and she argued that Canada Post has exaggerated the extent of backlogs.
When rotating strikes hit Campbell River, constituents reported receiving paycheques in the mail despite the job action, she said. Postal employees have ensured that old-age pensions and income assistance cheques get to their destination quickly, she said.
“These workers have been absolutely committed to making sure that the mail and the parcels are delivered,” Blaney said.
She accused Canada Post of promoting what she described as a false impression that postal workers were causing major service disruptions.
“This is the very reason they did rotating strikes, so there wouldn’t be huge waits on small business or on communities,” she said. “It’s unfortunate for me to hear workers being blamed.”
While some residents have expressed outrage about disruptions – especially ahead of the holiday season – Blaney called for people to support the striking postal workers.
“Remember that postal worker are a part of our community,” she said. “I think we have to remember that these are human beings.”
She also suggested that negotiations were made untenable when the government indicated that it would pass back-to-work legislation. A debate on that bill is slated for Friday night in the House of Commons, and Blaney said she’d be delivering a speech in support of the union.
Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu introduced the legislation on Thursday. Bill C-89 states that “the work stoppages are having a significant adverse impact on Canadian workers, consumers and businesses as well as on those Canadians who rely on postal services.”
Hadju said in a statement on Thursday that the postal service was important for Canadians, “especially during the busy holiday season” and that the government would pass legislation to keep goods moving.
She urged Canada Post and the union to negotiate an agreement immediately.
“We still believe a deal is possible and I continue to encourage the parties to get to a deal before the legislation is passed,” she said.