A handful of protesters withstood Monday evening’s chill to show their support for members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), who were forced back on the job following the Nov. 24 adoption of Bill C-89, the Postal Services Resumption and Continuation Act.
Included in the group was former local CUPW president Charlene Penner, who called the back-to-work legislation “outrageous” and said the government “could have given Canada Post instructions to settle.”
Rotating strikes swept across Canada starting Oct. 22, shutting down operations in more than 150 communities. Strikes occurred at the post office in Gibsons on Nov. 9.
According to the legislation, “work stoppages are having a significant adverse impact on Canadian workers, consumers and businesses as well as on those Canadians who rely on postal services.”
In a statement, CUPW president Mike Palecek said the legislation was “unconstitutional,” and called on allies and its membership “for a campaign of mobilizations, demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience.”
Solidarity protests by other unions across the country followed that call, including at Vancouver’s main processing depot, where demonstrators stopped trucks from entering or leaving the facility on Nov. 28.
In Sechelt on Dec. 3, Penner said the group chose the Inlet Avenue location because it is the largest post office on the Coast. They chose Monday because it tends to be the busiest day for mail distribution. Their aim was to appear in front of a mail truck upon its arrival around 5:30 p.m., but not necessarily to prevent it from delivering or picking up mail.
Barbara Werk, vice president of the Sunshine Coast Labour Council (SCLC), was also in attendance, though not formally representing the SCLC. “We have every right as citizens to stand up for our posties,” Werk told Coast Reporter. “The right to strike is in the Charter,” she said, in reference to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that work strikes are a constitutionally protected right.
Negotiations between Canada Post and CUPW have been ongoing since November 2017 to reach new collective agreements for the Urban Postal Operations and the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers bargaining groups. Among the issues is pay equity between rural and urban workers – which Penner said affects postal workers on the Coast.
“The most outrageous thing they’re asking for is equity between the rural workers and urban workers. Canada Post doesn’t like that,” she said.
Despite the small turnout in the dark driveway of the Sechelt Canada Post location, cars driving past sounded their horns.