Workers’ concerns are everyone’s concerns
By Jeff Callaghan*
I think that the biggest issue for us as CUPW, when it comes to our employer, is making sure that the employer, and through extension the government, respects the work we do and does not just pay lip service to it. When we are in a pandemic they call us heroes, they call our work essential, and yet every time we go to exercise one of our fundamental rights in this country, that being the right to withhold our labour, the government steps in and has the employer’s back.
I think the biggest issue for the workers at Canada Post is to make sure that we are able to freely bargain with our employer without interference, without the Crown corporation knowing that the government has its back and not the workers’ back.
The right to strike is supposed to be a fundamental right and it has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the land. Yet every time workers, not just those in the post office but across the country, exercise that right governments of all stripes, not just the Liberals and the Conservatives but the NDP provincially as well, have stepped in and taken the employer’s side and legislated away our rights.
Our members expect a lot more and as far as the union goes, we devote a large amount of both finances as well as person-power to bargaining collective agreements for our members in both the public and private sector. We have seen time and time again that employers sitting across the table from us pay lip service on how they appreciate our work, understand our issues, but don’t do anything to address those concerns, knowing that there is a government in their corner.
Our main concern, first and foremost, is our health and safety at work. We have employers who are pushing forward with new agendas, bringing in new equipment and work processes, automated equipment that will put workers’ livelihoods at stake.
We need to be able to freely bargain with our employer around those issues, to make sure that our workers are well protected going forward. And we can’t do that effectively with the way things are in this country, and provincially, given the willingness of governments to take the employer’s side every time over that of the workers.
Particularly within the context of the pandemic and the federal election just past, all political parties have been saying how much they appreciate workers like the Canada Post workers who worked through the pandemic providing essential services to people. Yet, with the federal election over, we know that governments will slip back into their old way of siding with the employer.
That needs to stop if we are going to have any kind of labour peace in this country. Workers must feel that they are respected, that the unions are respected and that the work they do is important for the country as a whole.
Jeff Callaghan is the National Director, Atlantic Region, of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
Workers’ Forum, September 22, 2021 – No. 86