For many people in North America, today is the biggest shopping day of year. On Black Friday, people search for deals, while many workers do their best to accommodate demand. I will not be partaking in Black Friday shopping. Instead, I will remember that two years ago, on November 27, 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau ordered striking postal workers back to work, without any resolution to our issues.
In the Fall of 2018, CUPW members embarked on a series of rotating strikes to stop Canada Post’s rollbacks and negotiate new collective agreements for both the Urban and RSMC bargaining units. Postal workers were tired of waiting and wanted real solutions to fix our issues. Despite spouting rhetoric about free collective bargaining, the Federal Government did nothing to force Canada Post to seriously bargain with us. Instead, they introduced legislation to end our strikes and force us back to work.
The back to work legislation was condemned by the labour movement. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association called the legislation “a serious threat to workers’ constitutional rights.”
This legislation went against a number of court decisions. For example, in 2016, Ontario Superior Court Justice Stephen Firestone ruled that the legislation ordering CUPW back to work in 2011 violated the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the right to strike to be fundamental and protected by the Constitution.
CUPW is challenging the latest back to work legislation in the Courts.
While legal victories are important, we need to do more than fight in the courts. In late 2021 and early 2022, both the RSMC and Urban Operations collective agreements expire. We need to start preparing now.
Postal workers need to determine our bargaining demands. We need real, tangible solution to solve the very real problems we face. We need to be smart and strategic about our demands. If we are to be successful in the negotiations, we need to mobilize and build the power of the membership. We also need to tell Canada Post and the politicians that we are prepared to fight back and protect free collective bargaining. We need to send that same message to our allies in the labour and social justice movements and ask for their support and solidarity.
On November 27, the deals I will be thinking of are deals that result in new collective agreements for postal workers and deals that protect our health and safety, allow us to live a dignified life, and require Canada Post to offer a range of new services, including postal banking.