Companies & Industries

Canada Post strike looms as an urban-rural divide grows

A recent arbitration with a smaller union sided with Canada Post, heightening tensions between the corporation and the larger CUPW


Canada Post worker and trucks

(Ryan Remiorz/CP)

This post has been updated.

For the second time this summer, Canadians are bracing for a potential Canada Post labour stoppage.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) presented Canada Post with a 72-hour notice of job action on Thursday evening, hours ahead of a deadline to declare a strike mandate by midnight. CUPW, which represents 50,000 employees, said it was not planning to walk off the job but may engage in work-to-rule.

Tense labour negotiations have dragged on for nine months, with neither side seeming to move any closer to a resolution. A major sticking point is Canada Post’s proposed shift from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan. The former commits the employer to providing certain income and benefits throughout retirement; the latter requires the employer to make contributions to retirement savings, but leaves responsibility for investing those savings with employees.

Another issue on the table is the existing wage gap between rural and urban postal workers.

The CUPW claims that, on average, rural postal workers earn 30% less than their urban counterparts; the majority of rural carriers are women.

The Canadian Postmaster and Assistants Association, a smaller union representing 5,000 rural workers, reached a new collective agreement with Canada Post on Tuesday, August 16. Arbitrator Michel Picher accepted Canada Post’s agreement proposal, which included a shift towards a defined contribution pension plan for all new employees.

Speaking with The Globe and Mail, CPAA president Brenda McAuley expressed disappointment at the arbitrator’s decision: “We’ve been the CPAA for more than 100 years and we feel getting a defined contribution pension plan is selling out our new members,” she said. 96% of the workers represented by the CPAA are women; McAuley called the situation, “a sad day for women workers in rural Canada.”

CUPW is the only remaining employee group that has yet to accept—or have imposed—a defined contribution pension plan for new employees. The union, which represents thousands of rural workers not represented by the CPAA, said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the CPAA arbitration outcome. A CUPW press conference on the negotiations scheduled for 10 AM on Thursday was postponed “until further notice.”

With files from the Canadian Press