Aside from the Railway, it has been our national postal service that has been the glue of the nation. In 1693 it was the first time there was paid mail delivery in Canada. The first Canadian post office was founded in Halifax in 1753, with Benjamin Franklin as the joint deputy postmaster general for the British colonies. In 1867 Royal Mail Canada came into being under the federal government. On April 1, 1868 The Act for the Regulation of the Postal Service comes into effect, ensuring a consistent postal system in Canada. In 1939, Regular airmail service across Canada and across the Atlantic is established. in 1953 the first group mailbox service was introduced outside Ottawa, Ontario. On October 16, 1981 the Post Office became a Crown Corporation and the Government of Canada ushered in the Canada Post Act. Some of the objective’s of the Canada Post Act is as follows:
- the need to conduct its operations on a self-sustaining financial basis while providing a standard of service that will meet the needs of the people of Canada and that is similar with respect to communities of the same size;
- the need to maintain a corporate identity program approved by the Governor in Council that reflects the role of the Corporation as an institution of the Government of Canada
The Government of Canada has always used the Post Office as a political football. The latest quarterback, calling the plays, is none other than the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. In the Conservative Party’s latest bi-annual convention in Calgary ending on November 2, 2013, that political party made it clear that they oppose all union’s, especially those who operate in the Federal public sector. They introduced some motions adopted by the party:
- A motion called on the government to ensure public-sector benefits and pensions are “comparable to those available to similar employees in the private sector” and “made comparable” if they are not. As President of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement (with the assistance of omnibus Bill C-60 made law in June, 2013) referred to himself as “the chief negotiator with the public-sector unions” and indicated that he was in full agreement with this motion. He also indicated that there would be tough negotiations ahead.
- A motion called on government to switch its civil servants to defined benefit pension plans, rather than defined contribution plans, to “bring public-sector pensions in line with Canadian norms.
- “Defined Contribution Pension Plan (DCPP) – The income you receive at retirement under a DCPP is predetermined and is usually based on a formula involving your years of service and earnings. You receive annual statements clearly indicating the benefit on your retirement date. In these types of programs, your company manages the assets – you have no active involvement.
Defined Benefit Pension Plan (DBPP) – The income you receive at retirement under a DBPP is not pre-determined. It’s based on the assets within your individual retirement plan account at the time you retire. In DBPPs, your company makes a contribution based on a formula, which may or may not require you to make some type of matching contribution. These contributions are usually based on a fixed percentage of your salary or on a specific dollar amount and are deposited into an account in your name. DBPPs are popular because they offer you choice and flexibility; however, there is high risk and upon retirement, it is the stock market health which generally determines the health and pay-out of your pension payments.
- A motion called for “full, transparent annual financial reporting” for unions for which dues are tax-deductible. The same motion also called on Ottawa to bring in a law requiring federal unions to “explicitly detail” what money it uses for political donations or activism, and allow members to opt out of paying dues to support political activism.
- A motion calls on the government to “prevent mandatory dues collected by unions from being diverted to fund political causes unrelated to workplace needs.”
- A motion states a belief that mandatory union membership and mandatory union dues “limit the economic freedom of Canadians”
- The last anti-union motion allows optional union membership, including optional membership in students’ unions.
Canada Post’s President and Chief Operating Officer and 22 vice-presidents have found an interesting way to roll out the Federal Conservative’s agenda, while trying to convince Canadians’ it’s really what “they” (Canadians) want.
Canada Post announced that it will eliminate door-to-door delivery in all Canadian urban cities over the next five (5) years. The federal conservative party are prepared to play postal code politics as they have no support in large urban cities (save and except Calgary) and therefore are not risking loss of political support at the ballot box by denying those living in an urban areas, door-to-door delivery.
It is reasonable to believe that Conservative PM Stephen Harper, the head of the Federal government knew of the announcement that Canada Post was to make on December 11, 2013 and allowed it to proceed, knowing that Parliment was no longer in session, as the holiday break had already commenced. But the announcement was made nonetheless. The Minister of Finance, a good pal of Stephen Harper, knew of “Chop Chop” Chopra’s plans as early as December 9, 2013.
Canada Post released a five (5) point plan. They claim they came to these conclusions after consultation with the Canadian public. Which Canadian businesses and members of the public, within that consultation process, demanded that Canada Post stop door-to-door delivery in urban centres across Canada, from coast to coast to coast?
The news of the end to door-to-door delivery was also accompanied by news that on March 31, 2013 there would be a huge hike in the price of domestic postage, from .63 cents to .85 cents (if purchased in a book of stamps) or if not, a dollar ($1.00) for a single stamp.
Canada Post announced that once fully implemented, the initiatives (elimination of door-to-door delivery, community mailboxes, adding franchises outlets, stamp increases, eliminating 8,000 jobs) will contribute an estimated $700 million to $900 million per year to the company’s bottom line, broken down as follows:
|Initiative||Forecasted financial benefits (per year upon full implementation)|
|Community mailboxes||$400 million to $500 million|
|New approach to pricing Lettermail||$160 million to $200 million|
|Franchise post offices||$40 million to $50 million|
|Streamlining operations||$100 million to $150 million|
It isn’t suprising that Canada Post’s President and CEO, Deepak Chopra has decided to pursue this path, given the direction from the Federal Conservative party, who came to power eight (8) years ago next month. What is surprising it that Canada, the second largest country in the world, would end mail delivery (door-to-door), when no other country would even dare entertain the idea.
Given the losses that Canada Post has reported, if it was being treated as a private sector company, Deepak Chopra (who was appointed President/CEO in Feb. 2011) would be denied his monetary compensation (salary of $497,000.00 a year with a 33% bonus = $164,000.00 + salary = $661,000.00 – during Canada Post’s record losses) and would promptly be terminated as the head of the Corporation. Canada Post is an institution of the Government of Canada and the head of the government, PM Stephen Harper, wants to chip away at Canada Post and its’ Unions, little-by-little and Deepak Chopra is providing full co-operation and pursuing that path with vigor.
In 2011, while wanting to appear to be negotiating a collective agreement with the CUPW, Canada Post wasn’t doing well and looked for help from the Federal Government. In response, Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt informed the national media that she could not invoke back-to-work legislation unless the labour dispute was national in scope and couldn’t do that if one city at a time wasn’t receiving mail, it had to be a national work stoppage. In an unprecendented move, to make a local issue a national issue and to provide a national work stoppage, Canada Post locked out all of the CUPW/STTP members across Canada for two (2) weeks. Now Lisa Raitt had the legal justification to impose back-to-work legislation on postal workers and promptly did. Bill C-6 was constructed to punish postal workers, due to Canada Post’s decision to lock them out. The decision by Canada Post to refuse to allow Canada Post workers to actually work, cost Canada Post well over a 100 million dollars. Unfortunately the media attributed the losses to a two week strike, as opposed to a Canada Post invented and carried out – lock out.
Money that has purportedly been lost by Canada Post, should invite some scrutiny from the public. Over 100 million was lost in 2011, due to the decision by Canada Post to lock out all CUPW/STTP employees coast to coast to coast.
In 1983, a pay equity lawsuit was filed against Canada Post on behalf of approximately 2,300 clerical employees working for Canada Post represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). As a result of hoping that the legitimate complaint would go away, Canada Post forced PSAC in 2011 to go to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court took only 20 minutes of oral argument before it ruled on behalf of all of the employees, mainly women and ordered that Canada Post must finally pay, with interest. The cost of the payment, was approximately $250 million (includes $100 million of interest). Canada Post only starting paying these monies this year.
The loss that Canada Post posted, included this $250 million dollars stemming from a lawsuit initiated thirty (30) years ago. Any other company would begin to budget that liability in their annual budget. Apparently, not Canada Post. They waited until the total liability had to be paid and then listed the amount as a loss in their books.
Canada Post is reporting that traditional mail volumes have decreased a billion letters from 2006 to 2012. This points to a loss in revenue and must be acknowledged in the new reality that Canada Post must face in its future.
The Conference Board of Canada, in which Canada Post President and CEO Deepak Chopra is a member of, is reporting that Volatile Collective Bargaining Expected in The Public Sector in 2014. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the Federal Conservative’s position and the fact that Treasury Board President Tony Clement is already rubbing his hands together, knowing that he has Bill C-60 to rely upon, if he does not receive the contractual/pension concessions that he demands.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers who represents the workers affected by the decisions of Canada Post, only found out about this news when the media was made aware, on the morning of December 11, 2013.
The CUPW/STTP National President, Denis Lemelin wrote the following message:
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers will work with our community allies and fight back against Canada Post management’s unilateral decision to cut delivery services.
Replacing door-to-door delivery with Community Mail Boxes is a totally unnecessary measure that will penalize millions of people. The CUPW will work with community groups, pensioners, organizations of disabled persons, individuals, municipal politicians, the labour movement and everyone to preserve door-to-door delivery in their communities. In the 1980s a Conservative government led by Brian Mulroney tried to close and privatize all but eleven of the retail outlets of Canada Post. CUPW, together with the labour movement and our community and political allies, mobilized to fight back and we succeeded. In 1993, the first act of the newly-elected Liberal government was to introduce a moratorium on postal closures.
Time For Another Direction
Other postal administrations are addressing the problem of falling volumes of letters by introducing new revenue-generating services, such as postal banking, financial services and introduction of new parcel delivery options. Instead of innovations CPC has nothing to offer but more of the same failed policies of cutbacks and rate increases. CUPW has been vigorously campaigning to bring back and expand postal banking, with growing support from municipalities and groups across the country. Postal banks have proven to be a solid source of income for post offices. They can also provide a much needed financial resource for people in rural areas and low income sections of urban centres, which the banks have abandoned.
Our Struggle: Our Future
It is the hope of the Conservative government and Canada Post management that by cutting services and eliminating 6,000 – 8,000 jobs CPC will once again generate hundreds of millions in profits, which can then be distributed in the form of dividends to the government and bonuses for CPC managers. This is not our vision of the future. The post office belongs to the public and should have public service as its priority. The Canada Post Corporation Act clearly calls for CPC to be financially self-sufficient. It is the challenge for CUPW to demonstrate to the public that CPC can achieve this objective by expanding into new revenue-generating services instead of imposing unilateral cutbacks. We are ready and capable of meeting this challenge.