Postal workers face the challenge of Harper government’s attacks
By LOUIS LANG*
TML Daily (Jan. 24) – POSTAL WORKERS are continuing their fight against the “Five Point Action Plan” announced by Canada Post in December 2013 one day after the adjournment of the House of Commons. The plan consists of the elimination of home delivery, a drastic increase in the cost of postal services, accelerated privatization of retail outlets and further attacks on the wages, working conditions and benefits of postal workers.
Parliament is scheduled to resume its session on January 27 and postal workers are using this occasion in many cities across the country to organize demonstrations and other actions to back their demands that Canada Post and the Harper government withdraw their plans to wreck the public post office and to stop their attacks on the workers. (For a national list of actions, please click here.)
A demonstration is being held in Ottawa on January 26 in front of the Prime Minister’s Office. Hundreds of workers from Montreal and Toronto are making the trip to Ottawa to join postal workers there to tell the Harper government to order Canada Post to withdraw its drastic cuts in service and stop attacking postal workers.
There has been no official announcement as yet, but postal workers in Ottawa have learned that two communities in Ottawa, Kanata and Orleans, will be the first areas in Canada where door-to-door delivery will be completely eliminated. To begin this process Canada Post is planning to do a full restructuring of letter carrier routes in the Kanata and Orleans Letter Carrier Depots starting in the spring of 2014. The implementation of the restructuring, which will result in combining and eliminating many letter carrier routes, could take up to six months. Union representative are planning to meet with the Mayor of Ottawa to discuss the detrimental effects that Canada Post’s actions will have on these communities.
In many cities across the country municipal councils have passed resolutions denouncing Canada Post’s plan to eliminate home delivery. From St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, many mayors have spoken out demanding that Canada Post stop wrecking the post office and provide the services to which the people are entitled.
The Mayor of St. John’s met with local union representatives and stated that he supported the fight against Canada Post’s plans to eliminate home mail delivery. He said, “Good dependable mail delivery is a service that we all have a right to enjoy.” He also said that he will personally make it tough on Canada Post to get council approval to install more super mail boxes in the city if door-to-door delivery is eliminated. Many other mayors of cities big and small have also made statements about the damage these measures will have in their communities.
In their struggle, postal workers face not just the managers of Canada Post, who are intent on dismantling the public post office and pushing for more privatization and deregulation of postal services for the benefit of private postal monopoly corporations. Behind this drive for privatization stands the Harper government which is intent on seizing public resources and handing them over to monopoly corporations destroying any semblance of a society where the socialized economy serves the public good.
In 2011, the Harper government dismantled one of the most valuable public assets in Canada. Under the guise that Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL – a Crown Corporation created in 1952 to develop nuclear energy technology), was in financial difficulty, it was handed over to SNC-Lavalin at a fire sale price of $15 million. Within months of the privatization of AECL, SNC-Lavalin was able to acquire $1 billion worth of contracts.
The case of AECL is a vivid example of the role the Harper government is playing in the service of monopoly corporations. The damage to the national economy of such a massive transfer of financial, physical and technological public assets to the private sector is incalculable.
The attack on the public post office is part of the same agenda and the same methods are being used as in the case of AECL. False financial predictions are being fabricated to justify the destruction of public postal services and assets. In fact it is clear that the push by the Harper government to privatize and deregulate Canada Post is not because it is failing but on the contrary, the elimination of the public post office is the potential source of super profits for monopoly corporations like UPS, FedEx, Pitney Bowes and others.
The struggle of postal workers against Canada Post’s “Five Point Action Plan” is an important block to the plans of the Harper government to continue on the path of the takeover by private monopoly interests of public interests.
In this struggle, postal workers are also facing the challenge of making their defence organizations effective in defending their interests. At a time when unions are being criminalized for defending the rights of workers to decent wages and working conditions and anti-union legislation is being promoted to disrupt any organized resistance, workers must discuss how to renovate the role the unions must play to build the strength and unity of the workers and their allies.
To build modern organizations based on modern consciousness, as opposed to the consciousness of old arrangements that no longer apply, it is important to involve rank and file workers in the discussion of the problems so that they can elaborate the agendas they want to implement to resolve the crisis in a manner that favours them. This will build the unity and fighting strength of the workers based on their own demands and needs.
At this time postal workers also have to deal with the daily pressure imposed by spokesmen of the government and Canada Post that the workers’ security and livelihood depends on the survival of the corporation. The illusion is created that if the workers make sacrifices to save Canada Post then their pensions and wages and benefits will be secure. In the same way in the fight against the “Five Point Action Plan,” some who pretend to be friends of postal workers are suggesting that the only way to save door-to-door delivery is for the workers to make some compromise.
Workers should reject this advice with the contempt that it deserves. First of all, workers have learned from bitter experience that they cannot rely on anyone but themselves and their organizations in the fight for their rights. Whenever workers succeed in making advances, it is always based on their ability and level of organization to guarantee their security. Secondly, why should the workers make sacrifices to save the corporation when the Harper government and Canada Post managers are doing everything in their power to wreck the post office and hand it over to some monopoly corporation?
The main content of the struggle of postal workers is the fight for a modern public post office which is capable of providing universal service to all Canadians and recognizes the right of workers to proper wages, working conditions and benefits commensurate with the work they perform.
The security of postal workers and the right of all Canadians to a standard of living that comes with a highly developed productive economy is based on our ability to deprive the monopolies of their power to wreck the economy.
*Lous Lang is a veteran postal worker and former president of the Ottawa local of CUPW