Companies & Industries

Canada Post and CUPW have a long history of labour disputes

In the last 50 years, the crown corporation and the national postal union have publicly clashed 20 times

CUPW postal workers protest Canada Post in Guelph Ontario in 2011

CUPW members protest outside a Canada Post distribution centre in Guelph, Ont., during the 2011 lockout.

Come Monday, it’s likely that Canada Post will lock out its employees, signalling the beginning of a work stoppage. It’s a situation that has arisen from decades of conflict between the company and the various unions that represent its employees. To understand the scope of the dispute, it’s important to take a look at the years of conflict that have informed it.

To do this, we’ll have to go back a few decades. Between 1965 and 1997 the company was involved in 19 strikes, lockouts and walkouts with various unions. If that sounds like a lot, it is—the company has a troubled history of labour relations. However, most of the disputes were relatively brief, and full-scale strikes rare. The most notable occurrences were the strike of 1975 (43 days) and that of 1978 (42 days.)

The most recent dispute was in 2011 and then, as now, it was between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. June found the union engaged in rotating strikes in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Hamilton. This led Canada Post to announce a lockout of CUPW workers—the 20th in the company’s 46-year relationship with the union.

Eventually, the federal government passed back-to-work legislation, and mandated arbitration meant that a new agreement was signed between the two sides in 2012. That agreement expired on January 31, 2016, and the two sides have been in negotiations ever since.

Issues on the bargaining table include extended services, working hours, and salaries. Perhaps the biggest sticking point is the company’s pension plan, which Canada Post is proposing be changed from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.

Thus far, Canada Post has said that the proposed changes would allow it to “take measures that are necessary to respond to the changing business reality.” In turn, CUPW has said that the corporation is using the lockout notice to drive 50,000 workers “out onto the streets without pay in an effort to impose steep concessions on them.”

While it is unclear how long an eventual lockout might last, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government is not considering back-to-work legislation. So, in one sense at least, history will not be repeating itself.

With files from the Canadian Press.