Members of CUPW Local 504 gathered outside of the Wallaceburg Post Office on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 as part of a rotating strike (Submitted photo)

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) from numerous locals in Ontario walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning, including in Wallaceburg and Dresden.

Jeremy Suitor, president of CUPW Local 504 in Chatham-Kent, told the Sydenham Current the union is using the rotating strikes to draw attention to the fact that Canada Post is putting “pretty much zero effort into negotiating our contracts.

“They are mostly stalling and refusing to discuss the major details… health and safety, gender equality and preserving the good full-time jobs we already have,” he said.

Suitor said the feedback in Wallaceburg, from both the public and the employees, was “very positive” on Wednesday.

“Everybody was driving by honking and waving,” he said.

“The advantage we have now is social media. Everybody understands what is going on, they see both sides of the story nowadays. Back in 2011 everybody was mad at us and asking why we wee not working… and we were locked out. It wasn’t our choice to be out. This time it’s a strike and people understand why we’re doing it. It has been really positive feedback. The employees were great, making it a good time… as good as it can be on a cold, windy day like that.”

Postal workers were outside of the Wallaceburg and Dresden post office’s during the working hours, and workers were outside the Chatham office starting at midnight on Wednesday.

Suitor added one of the big issues on their end is the “massive raise in parcel volumes.

“I don’t think anybody expected the parcels to go through the roof like they did,” he said.

“We also have the rural carriers. They won a huge pay equity decision recently, but they still don’t have equality. They are not getting paid for all of their hours worked. The job security just isn’t there and there isn’t guaranteed work. They are not guaranteed the work like we are… there is two battles going on. There are different reasons for both sides, but we’re all fighting together.”

Meanwhile, Canada Post officials say they remain committed to the bargaining process.

“The Corporation has made significant offers to CUPW that include increased wages, job security, and improved benefits, and it has not asked for any concessions in return,” Canada Post officials said in a media release.

“We value the relationship with the union and have been able to find common ground on some issues. We have also committed to work together to address employees’ workload concerns caused by parcel growth, additional financial services and going beyond pay equity for Rural and Suburban employees by extending job security and moving to one uniform for all delivery employees.”

Canada Post officials said since Tuesday night, CUPW also shut down Canada’s largest processing centre in Toronto for a second time in three weeks.

“Since October 22, CUPW’s rotating strikes have shut down Canada Post’s operations in more than 100 communities across the country,” Canada Post officials said in a media release.

“The union continues to escalate its strike activity, adding more communities each day and shutting down major processing centres for extended periods.”

Canada Post officials say trailers of parcels are backlogged.

“Toronto is a key processing hub for mail and parcels in Canada,” Canada Post officials said in a media release.

“It was shut down by the union for two consecutive days in October and is now idle again due to the union’s strikes with no indication of when it will end. This will worsen the backlogs at our facilities and customers should expect delays of several days for mail or parcel deliveries. Prior to the union’s decision to target Toronto again, the number of trailers full of parcels and packets waiting to be unloaded and processed at a Canada Post facilities sat at over 150.”

The escalating strikes have now shut down our three largest processing facilities in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal up to 48 hours, Canada Post officials say.

“Combined, those three plants can process a million parcels and packets a day for communities across the country,” Canada Post officials said in a media release.

“Canada Post will continue to make every effort to minimize the impact, but customers across the country can expect delays of several days for parcel and mail delivery. We thank our customers for their continued patience and apologize for the inconvenience this is causing.”

In total, 11 locals in Ontario began striking on Wednesday morning:

– Chatham

– Clinton

– Georgetown

– Milton

– Orangeville

– Port Hope

– Stratford

– Strathroy

– Tillsonburg

– Wingham

– Woodstock

“After more than 10 months of negotiations, the intervention of two mediators and two weeks of rotating strikes, Canada Post’s true coulours are emerging,” stated Mike Palecek, CUPW National President, in a press release.

“The lofty rhetoric of wanting to work with us to reach fair agreements for our workers is turning out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. It needs to be said: Canada Post talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.”

CUPW has called on a national overtime ban for both of its major bargaining units at Canada Post.

CUPW officials say postal workers, no matter what their job at Canada Post, will not work more than an eight-hour day and not more than a 40-hour week.

“Overburdening, overtime and overwork are all major issues in this round of bargaining,” Palecek said in a media release.

“Until Canada Post negotiators’ address it, we can solve it for ourselves in the meantime.”

CUPW members are still without agreements for the Urban Postal Operations and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) bargaining units after almost a year of negotiations, CUPW officials say.

Suitor said the union is hoping for a resolution soon, but the rotating strikes could come back to Wallaceburg, Dresden and Chatham-Kent if this doesn’t happen in a timely fashion.

“Resolution is key, we hope,” Suitor said.

“There have been instances in other areas that they are on their second time out today. Some of the bigger offices, like in Calgary, they have been out repeatedly. They are processing facilities… and this is part of the union strategy. We get one day notice that it’s your turn.”

Suitor added: “The union is going to continue to rotate through until we start seeing some movements and some cooperation with the corporation with negotiating.”