What the workers had to say
Workers’ Forum and Forum Ouvrier journalists spoke with participants throughout the postal workers’ demonstration in Ottawa on January 26. Here is what they had to say.
Postal Worker, Sherbrooke
I am here because we want to keep our jobs. We want the government to stop cutting our jobs and services, to stop increasing the fees. We want to keep what we have and we want to keep working. They want to privatize Canada Post. They are not saying this is what they want to do but we all know that this is where they are going. They are taking advantage of the fact that they are a majority government. I hope they get kicked out next election. They are taking us back to the 1950s. The gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger. People have to get on EI or on social welfare to survive, the jobs that are getting created pay $10-12 an hour. When there are good jobs, we have to keep them. Besides, Canada Post and the Harper government are taking decisions without consulting anybody, they just cut nonstop and it is done behind closed doors.
Postal Worker, Quebec City
In order to fight this attack by Canada Post and the Harper government, we are going everywhere to mobilize the people. We had a table at an agricultural fair and in a weekend we got more than 3,000 people to sign our petition in defence of the public postal service. We talked to everybody and everybody signed the petition. I think that the Harper government is awakening all kinds of people it kind of took for granted. The rural people, the retirees, they are all getting involved. This represents a very large number of voters. If they get on board with us, the Harper government is in trouble.
Our post office in Quebec City was closed in 2005. Many of us because of our job security clauses were moved somewhere else in Canada Post. We are still working, but on the whole this was a devastating loss of good jobs in our city. It had a large impact on the service and on the economy. We have to understand that the lowering of the working conditions and the deterioration of the service are part of the plan to privatize Canada Post. It is preparation for privatization. They are attacking the service to the point where they will say that it is beyond repair, it has to be privatized. That is what we are fighting against.
Postal Worker, St-Catharines
It is important to be here today because the jobs we are going to lose will be devastating to our community, which has already been hit hard by manufacturing losses. Where are the kids going to work? It is criminal. For many people it is going to be difficult to afford the increase in the price of stamps because they have no job and meanwhile services are being reduced.
Representative, Quebec Federation of Labour, Eastern Townships
This is a movement that has to grow because we are talking about a public service being cut, a service to our society that has been there for a long time. It is a service that we need and that deserves to be maintained. If the postal service is sold out, then what’s next? Where does it stop? It is a service that belongs to the people. We must not look at it as a service that must generate profits, it is a service. Costs are an issue but the service has to be maintained and provided to the people. Our people are getting older, it makes no sense to ask them to walk to get their mail. Besides, putting huge mail boxes everywhere is visual pollution. We have to look after our society. Canada Post belongs to us. It is a jewel we have created for ourselves. We must keep it. What Canada Post is doing is an attack on society and an attack on ordinary Canadians who work to serve the people. They want to eliminate the service and they do this by attacking the working class.
We have a Steelworkers delegation here today because Harper is the enemy of all workers not just postal workers. He is the enemy of the rights of all workers. We just have to look at Bills C-525 and C-377 and all of the labour legislation. It is a general offensive against the trade unions, and we will be there with all those who are on the front lines of the fight against this. That is why we are here today. Today’s action is an action of the citizens, and the trade unions are central to this because the trade unions have been important to push forward the rights of the people including the rights of the most vulnerable members of society. Now with this attack on Canada Post, they are targeting the seniors, taking things away from the retirees. It is cruel. They know that for seniors to walk to get their mail is dangerous. The Harper government is attacking the rights of all the people.
This is not just the fight for the postal service, this is a fight for all public services. We are all humans, we all want to have a society that promotes equality for all.
Aerospace Worker, Pratt and Whitney, Longueuil
I am here as part of a Unifor delegation. It is important to be here today because whatever job we have and whatever union we belong to we have to be united and show our solidarity. This is not just the fight of postal workers, this is the fight of all workers. This is not just the fight for the postal service, this is a fight for all public services. We are all humans, we all want to have a society that promotes equality for all.
Canada Post’s CEO says it will be good for seniors to walk to their mail box. I prefer this kind of walk here today. We are all here to demonstrate.
Federal Public Servant, Ottawa
Our union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, has members who work at Canada Post. I am here to bring solidarity. I am getting older, I do not want to have to walk a long way to pick up my mail. Canada Post’s CEO says it will be good for seniors to walk to their mail box. I prefer this kind of walk here today. We are all here to demonstrate. Canada Post does not just deliver mail and correspondence, they are an important part of the social fabric of this country that Harper wants to destroy. Postal service is a way to bring people together.
Worker, Xstrata-Glencore Copper Refinery, Montreal
I am here today to support the cause of defending the public post office. It is a movement to change the direction things are taking. We live in a society that is more and more right-wing. Now the Harper government is even considering getting rid of the Rand formula. There is no way we are going to let this happen. We are up for a fight to defend our lives as workers.
University Student, Ottawa
I am here to support postal workers. When they went on strike a couple of years ago students were in solidarity with them and supported them. This is an attack on public services, like post-secondary education, which is what we fight to defend. We understand that when workers are under attack it affects students and our future, everybody’s future in this country.
Elementary Teacher, Ottawa
I am here to defend union work. It is crazy to cut 8,000 excellent jobs. It is a right-wing agenda; they are attacking every union as hard as they can. This is an issue of solidarity. I am here to show my support.
High School Teacher, Ottawa
As unions we have to stick together because we are under attack on all sides in Canada and all over North America. We have to stand together. Canada Post has to evolve, all organizations have to evolve but the kind of decisions they make to get rid of letter carriers is absolutely awful. This is not evolution. There are a lot of Canadians, either disabled or elderly, who rely on door-to-door service. Those people have not been considered at all. When you are making decisions about dollars and cents and there is no sense involved, there is just the bottom line, that is not evolution, that is destruction.
The people reject these decisions that do not take into account their needs
– Interview, Magali Giroux, Director, Organization Services, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Montreal Local –
TML: You were in charge of mobilizing the Montreal postal workers for the demonstration. Close to a thousand workers came from Montreal to participate. Can you tell us what you see as the significance of this action?
Magali Giroux: I think that this day was symbolically strong because although the weather was very cold around 3,000 people took to the streets to express their discontent with Mr. Deepak Chopra and Mr. Harper. And these were not all postal workers, which makes the action even stronger. We had workers from other unions, we had concerned citizens from all walks of life, we had seniors and retirees from all walks of life. I think that our message was clear. I hope that this message will be heard. I hope that there are people in Ottawa who will hear the message and analyze the consequences of the decision that Canada Post has taken. I think that our message is that people are fed up with these decisions that this government is taking, and this is happening more and more often, decisions that do not take into account the needs of the people. It is clear that the Harper government wants to privatize Canada Post and I think that the people are more and more aware of that.
People actually tell us that they are aware of this situation. They are with us. I am a letter carrier. Never in the past have people talked to me as much as today to tell me that they support us. People are leaving messages for us on their mail boxes saying that they stand with us, and this is happening quite often. People are taking initiatives in their seniors and retirees organizations and in community groups. People want to keep their public postal service.
TML: How do you see things moving towards the privatization of Canada Post?
MG: I see it first in the many closures of retail outlets in recent years. Many have already been closed and many more are scheduled to close. They are closing Canada Post retail outlets and they are opening franchises in drug stores, with non-unionized workers, workers who are not Canada Post employees, who work for minimum wage. This is a form of privatization.
There is also a huge conflict of interest in having Deepak Chopra as CEO of Canada Post. Before becoming Canada Post’s CEO, Mr. Chopra was CEO at Pitney Bowes and Pitney Bowes is one of the biggest global private providers of postal supplies. Pitney Bowes is managing many of the postal services that were privatized in Latin America. For example, they are doing the mail sortation that was privatized. It is a major conflict of interest to have the CEO of a private postal business become CEO of our public postal service.
TML: Can you tell us a bit about how the mobilization was done in Montreal?
MG: We did it in two weeks. We had to move quickly. We acted through our network of delegates and we went onto all the shop floors. One of our methods was to talk to the workers one on one. We paid a lot of attention to our temporary workers because they often move from one depot to another and often they cannot attend shop floor meetings. We tried to reach each and every one of them and they were on board with us, they mobilized themselves. In two weeks, we registered 1,200 members in Montreal to come with us. Some cancelled because of the weather but most came and took part in this day which was a real success.
TML: What future actions are you considering?
MG: There is a movement now that began in Chicoutimi called “I Am Walking with My Letter Carrier!” There is going to be a day in early May when people all across Quebec and possibly all across Canada will be invited to walk with their letter carriers in their cities, big or small. As well, we have our petitions that are widely circulated, our post cards, letters to MPs. We think about this daily. One thing that I consider to be very important is to go everywhere and talk to people. We are paying a lot of attention to talking to seniors and retirees from all walks of life. We had many people with us today from the Réseau FADOQ which is one of the largest seniors’ organizations in Quebec. We have to involve everybody.
(Translated from original French.)
TML DAILY, January 28, 2014 – No. 5