Speech on Bill C-6 - Canada Post Lock-out [1]

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in solidarity with the thousands of postals workers who have been locked out by Canada Post. There are three postal depots in my riding, one in New Westminster, one in Coquitlam and another in Port Moody. I would like to thank all of the workers in those depots. I have talked to many of them and know their good work. I know how hard they have been working and how much this affects them and what it means to them.

Now we have proposed legislation by the government that, if adopted, will force those workers back to work. The legislation put forward by the Conservative government basically makes a mockery of the fair collective bargaining processes that thousands of Canadian men and women have fought so hard for.

I have had the honour and privilege to rise in the House many times to speak on critical issues facing our country, but few issues have motivated me more than the issue of pension protection. I believe everyone has the right to retire with dignity. As a society, we not only accept this but have also worked hard to ensure it by legislating public pension plans.

Working families are not looking for a free ride. They have bargained their pensions in good faith with their employers, diverting their wages into pension plans to have some measure of security upon retirement. This legislation denies those workers the fruits of their labour.

We should be bringing employment and the standard of living up, not tearing them down. We should be supporting family-sustaining jobs, not promoting a race to the bottom. We should be building a better world for our parents and our children, not pulling the rug out from underneath them. This legislation is the first volley of what, no doubt, will be a long and sustained attack on public pensions across our country.

However, do not take it from me. My office has heard from many in my riding who would be affected by this legislation. Here is what they say.

Kerisma, a full-time letter carrier in Coquitlam, notes that since the last contract had expired, she, along with her colleagues, has worked to help Canada Post meet and exceed target goals for performance and revenue. She believes that Canada Post has not negotiated in good faith and that this legislation rewards the corporation, one, for refusing to address health and safety concerns; two, for refusing to negotiate; and, three, for locking out its workers and creating this unnecessary halt to the mail.

Kerry is a 17-year employee at Canada Post, who says that his pension is his only hope of living above the poverty line when he retires. He says that they have been subject to large cutbacks in every agreement since he joined the postal service and that if they lose any more, we will have one of the world's worst in the public service. All they are asking for is fair treatment.

Another postal worker in my riding expressed her frustration with the time value system through which workers' current pay is established. Parcels on mobile routes and withheld mail are not included in the calculation, giving postal workers more mail to carry and forcing them to work through lunch to complete their routes on time and to avoid discipline for working overtime. She wants to know why the government is attacking postal workers. Government jobs should be good, respectable jobs that we can be proud of.

Michelle has been a letter carrier for 20 years in New Westminster. She loves her job. She is a single mom with two children who struggles to make ends meet. Her route has 1,233 points of call. After starting at 6:30 a.m. every morning, she is often not finished her route until 5 p.m. when her children arrive home from school. She delivers more mail now than she did 10 years ago, and that does not include the pounds of flyers. She worries about the next generation of postal workers and whether her job will even be viable employment for future workers. She has generously invited the Minister of Labour to accompany her on her route some time, and I would be happy to facilitate such a visit.

Shannon, a nine-year employee, is concerned about her sick benefits and pension plan. She says that the physical impact of doing her job takes its toll on her body. She knows many co-workers who require surgery from work-related injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and knee and hip degeneration.

William, a letter carrier in New West, has worked for Canada Post for several years. He supports a wife and two children. He would like to retire with Canada Post but fears that a forced collective agreement would make that difficult.

Mirko is a 16-year postal worker veteran. He has two kids and a mortgage. He has seen many changes since he began as a letter carrier. He says his route would take an average mortal 10 hours to complete, for which he receives 8 hours of pay. Three years ago, ten and a half routes were eliminated from the area and everyone's route was lengthened. Injuries went up. Sixteen years ago he delivered two trays of about 1,000 letters on his route. Today, he delivers an average of three or four trays.

Leanne is a letter carrier in New Westminster. She has been employed by Canada Post for 19 years. She is 39 years old. She was just re-elected as the secretary-treasurer of the Royal City Local for a third term. This means that she works in the union office at least 10 days a month, doing the financials and the many other office duties specified in her local bylaws. She fully believes that the only reason she is not severely injured from her duties as a letter carrier is the simple fact she gets a break from the physical aspect of delivering mail when she works for the union.

New Westminster, B.C., part of my riding, is a quickly growing community. Indeed, she mentioned that she was looking out the window on East Columbia Street and watching the high-rises go up at the old brewery site as she was typing her email to me. She says that even though they are delivering to many more points of call in the city and to all others in her local, Canada Post has restructured their routes and cut the number of routes in every office for the last several years.

In September 2009, the New West depot was restructured. The end result was that 86 routes became 75, with a wave of management's magic wand. They lost 11 full-time employees, plus one relief carrier, in their depot. Every route suddenly had hundreds more points of call. This meant they were spending hours more every day on the street. They were carrying more pounds of mail every day. They were working 10, 12, even 14 hours a day. They were delivering in the dark, in the snow and on steep hills.

How did Canada Post react? It gave them ice cleats and headlamps.

Through the winter season, approximately one-third of the letter carriers were injured on the job and were either completely off or unable to do their full duties. Canada Post responded by forcing those who still happened to be able-bodied to do compulsory overtime on other routes after they had finished their own.

Canada Post challenged every WCB and WorkSafe claim put in by the members. Many were denied. Many members stopped reporting the injuries; they simply gave up.

Leanne reports that she has been left with plantar fasciitis and wakes up with foot pain every day. She says she can handle all of this, but what she cannot tolerate is the fact that she did not see her five-year-old son during the first week of their new routes.

She goes on to talk about her son and the impacts on him, the fact that she does not see him, that her parents and grandparents are involved in raising her son because she has to work overtime. She talks about being sick and getting hurt on the job. She talks about how Manulife, the third-party disability management provider, is involved in every case and questions every single claim workers put in.

The point here is that the physical and mental health effects of their jobs are affecting them and their families.

The biggest issue she faces now is being legislated back to work. Having that crammed down her throat is something she is appalled by.

These are moments that will define a generation. How will we look workers in the eye when we leave this chamber? This draconian legislation tears down decades of collective bargaining legislation that people in this country have worked so hard to put in place. We have an obligation to honour the agreements we make with workers.

We have an obligation to honour the agreements that we make with workers. We have an obligation to protect pensions. It is the right thing to do. Along with our concerns about protecting pensions, we must act to protect good wages for all workers.

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I have had a number of emails and letters from constituents, from carriers, from postal workers. They have also expressed their frustration. They simply want to have a negotiated settlement that is fair. They do not want the government to impose a deal. They do not want the government involved in this, but want to let the two parties have a negotiated settlement.

 

I received an email from Barry, who visited my constituency office just the other day to express his frustration with this legislation. He is a 36-year employee of Canada Post in Coquitlam. He said he had tried to contact the Prime Minister's Office to discuss this bill, but when he phoned the office hung up on him. That is how a 36-year veteran of the postal service is treated. When tries to get through, they hang up on him when he mentions that he is a postal worker. Barry is extremely frustrated, just as I have heard from some of these others.

 

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Mr. Speaker, this deal is worse than what they would even get at the table from Canada Post. The government is offering wage rates lower than what Canada Post offered.

 

It tramples on collective bargaining rights in our country.

 

As well, it supports a tax on the postal workers' defined pension benefits plan.

 

Also, it promotes a two-tier wage and benefits system.

 

This legislation is an attack not just on postal workers but also on wages, benefits and pensions of all Canadian workers. That is why we are making a stand. That is why I will continue to be in the House every day, as long as it takes, to get a fair negotiated settlement not only for our postal workers but for all our Canadian workers.

 

 


 

To read/watch my second speech on Bill C-6, please click here.