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January 28, 2014 - No. 5

Protests Across the Country as Parliament Opens

Mass Action in Ottawa to
Defend the Post Office


Ottawa, January 26, 2014

Protests Across the Country as Parliament Opens
Mass Action in Ottawa to Defend the Post Office
Actions in Other Cities
What the Workers Had to Say
The People Reject These Decisions that Do Not Take into Account Their Needs - Interview, Magali Giroux, Director, Organization Services, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Montreal Local


Protests Across the Country as Parliament Opens

Mass Action in Ottawa to Defend the Post Office

Across the country from January 25 to 27, postal workers and their supporters held actions to express their outrage against plan of the Harper government and Canada Post to wreck the post office.

The largest demonstration took place in Ottawa on January 26, the eve of the opening of Parliament. Around 3,000 postal workers and their allies came from across Ontario and Quebec on January 26 to denounce the "Five Point Action Plan" for wrecking announced by Canada Post in December 2013, and to show their support for the public post office. From the energy of the crowd, the signs and messages, and the long distances traveled by many it was evident that a determination exists among postal workers to launch a fight to stop the dismantling and privatization of postal services and defend the rights of all. On short notice postal workers and those in other sectors organized themselves to come from near and far and held the largest workers' rally in the capital in some years. Workers' signs and slogans displayed a spectacular array of creativity and resistance to express utter contempt for the fraud orchestrated by the Harper Dictatorship and Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra. The postal workers fully exposed the fraud of Harper's claims about job creation and importantly showed that their livelihoods and standards are directly connected to the provision of the services incumbent in a modern public post office. They also exposed the absurdity of Canada Post's claims that increasing prices and reducing services will protect the public post office rather than dismantle and destroy it, which is in fact the aim of the Harper Dictatorship. A consistent refrain of the workers was to place the blame squarely where it lies, with the Harper Dictatorship's nation-wrecking, pointing to the necessity to do away with it in a conscious manner.

Besides the postal workers, Ottawa residents from all walks of life, seniors, youth and students came out to express their opposition to privatization and their demand that governments fulfill their responsibility to provide public services commensurate with a modern economy. Workers from various sectors joined the postal workers in demanding the withdrawal of Harper government plans to dismantle the public post office. These included members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Service Employees International Union, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Unifor Quebec and Unifor Canada, Steelworkers (Metallos), Syndicat canadien de la function publique, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Public Service Staff Union, and others.

The enthusiasm and fast action of the postal workers and their allies to thwart the schemes to wreck the public post office means that if the rank and file can discuss the problems and elaborate their own agenda they can certainly resolve this crisis in their favour. Seizing this opportunity to build the unity and fighting strength of the postal workers and their allies can lead to the discovery of the ways and means to halt the destruction of the public post office and hold governments to account. The demand of Harper Out, Now! is a step in this direction to be taken up by the workers and all Canadians as a practical decision to implement and make a reality.


















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Actions in Other Cities

Postal workers and their allies took up the call to mark the opening of the federal Parliament with vigorous actions across the country.

Halifax




Halifax postal workers and their supporters held a demonstration at the Almon Street processing plant, January 27. The action was organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council. The Labour Council informs that it is working closely with CUPW to help build a solidarity campaign in the city. "Our goal is to stop the cuts to home mail delivery, to fire Canada Post's management, and to modernize the post office through new services like postal banking," states the Council. "We encourage all unions to get involved with this campaign and stand side by side with our sisters and brothers at the post office. [...] We will also hold a community-labour planning meeting on Wednesday, February 5th at 6:00 pm at 3700 Kempt Road," it adds.

Charlottetown

Postal workers and residents of PEI held a rally at Murphy's Community Centre in Charlottetown on January 27 to voice their concerns about about cuts to a variety of public services, such as Veterans Affairs Canada and Canada Post.

Provincial NDP Leader Mike Redmond asked, "How can it be that a country so wealthy cannot deliver mail door to door? How can it be that over 10,000 Islanders need to travel to the mainland for health care? How can we accept closures to our Veterans Affairs offices right here in Charlottetown and tell our heroes they need to travel to Saint John, NB, for a one-on-one case worker?"

Chris Clay, president of the postal workers union in Charlottetown, said changes to Canada Post will affect up to 50 jobs on PEI. "That's substantial," Clay said. "Our membership is worried and, personally, I'm worried. I'm scared at the thought of losing my job and that's where everybody is.'' He emphasized that the job cuts, loss of door-to-door delivery and other services, increase in rates will impact communities across Canada. "It's going to forever change the way people look at mail [and] it really hurts the brand, I believe," he said.

Debbie Buell of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), spoke about the cuts to Veterans Affairs. The plans to eliminate more than 800 jobs across the country will see 232 will jobs lost at the headquarters operation in Charlottetown by March 2015. The district office, where veterans could get a one-on-one meeting with a case worker, will close this Friday, January 31.

"Our government is betraying veterans,'' said Buell, who is also the national vice-president for the union representing Veterans Affairs employees. "In the face of widespread opposition, the federal government still plans to shut down Veterans Affairs offices in eight communities across Canada at the end of this week.''

Debbie Bovyer, president of the Union of Public Sector of Employees, accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of attacking unions. "Most of the [Veterans Affairs] cuts apply to front-line workers so services of our veterans will continue to be compromised. Shame on Harper,'' Bovyer said, as the crowd gathered yelled 'Shame' in response.

Leo Broderick, with the Council of Canadians, said the Harper government is making it quite obvious which direction it's going in.

"The Harper government is going to privatize every public service that we have in this country that we've built up over the years,'' Broderick said.

Moncton

Postal workers in Moncton underscored the importance of taking action to oppose the attacks on the public post office by holding a full day of actions to inform the public of the drastic changes being planned by the Harper government and the CEO of Canada Post. The day's activities began with an information picket at the Dieppe postal plant from 6:30-8:30 am. At 9:30 am, another information picket was held at the caucus meeting of Conservative MLAs on Mountain Road. A third information picket was held at the Canada Post retail store at 281 St. George Street at 11:30 am. The day's events ended with a 4:00 pm demonstration at the office of Conservative MP Robert Goguen's office on King Street.

Hamilton

On January 27, more than 50 workers and members of the Hamilton community demonstrated in front of the Federal Building in Hamilton to oppose the latest government attacks on the postal workers and on the public post office. Along with local postal workers, members of CUPW, the demonstration included a large contingent of members from Local 1005 USW, PSAC, Local 7135 USW, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation and the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. Workers also expressed their support for federal government workers ongoing battle with the Harper government and reiterated the call to "Stop Harper!" The rally concluded with speeches by Terry Langley, Acting President of CUPW Local 548, Rolf Gerstenberger, President of Local 1005 USW and Lorraine Diaper, area representative of PSAC.

London


Postal workers rallied outside the sorting plant on Highbury Avenue in London on January 27 to oppose the planned cuts and other attacks on the postal service by the Harper government and Canada Post. Members of CUPW Local 566 were joined various supporters from other unions, community member as well as representatives of the London Economic Development Corporation.

Windsor


Windsorites held a spirited rally in front of City Hall on January 27. The rally clearly put the Harper government on notice to keep its hands off the public post office. Postal workers were joined by autoworkers, tradespeople, teachers and education workers, professors, municipal workers, members of the arts and culture community, retirees and many others in opposing the Harper government's attacks on the public post office.

Michelle Johnson, a Windsor postal worker, welcomed everyone to the rally and introduced speakers. Jeff Carroll, President of CUPW Local 630 explained the fraud of the Harper government and Canada Post attempting to make the post office look like it is failing in order to eliminate services to Canadians, cut thousands of jobs and eventually privatize it. Chris Taylor, vice-president of the Windsor and District Labour Council denounced the Harper government and Canada Post's contempt for Canadians who were never consulted about the plan to end home mail delivery and deliver a blow to the Canadian economy by cutting 8,000 jobs. Professor Jeff Noonan from the University of Windsor pointed out that it is in fighting that the postal workers, united with the rest of the community, can defend their rights. A community activist who had organized a petition campaign to save a community swimming pool spoke about his experience and that the person-to-person work of explaining what the government is up to is a way to affirm our rights. A candidate for Windsor city council highlighted the job losses that will result from the ending of home delivery, as well as the importance of fighting against these arbitrary actions in order to defend Canadians' rights. Mike Longmoore, a representative of the CAW/Unifor retirees spoke about the importance of door-to-door mail delivery as part of keeping the community fabric intact, especially for the elderly. Finally, Sue Markham, president of the CUPW Local 500 in Amherstburg thanked everyone for coming out in support of the fight postal workers have taken up in defence of public postal services.

Winnipeg






Hundreds of postal workers and their supporters turned out to rally at the Manitoba Legislature, January 25, against the wrecking of the public post office by Canada Post, and especially to demand that door-to-door delivery be maintained.

Speakers at the rally included George Floresco, CUPW 3rd National Vice-President; Barbara Byers, CLC Executive Vice-President; Paul Moist, CUPE National President; Robyn Benson, PSAC National President; Pat Martin, MP for Winnipeg Centre and Official Opposition Critic for Public Works and Government Services; Sharon Blady, Manitoba MLA for Kirkfield Park and Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors; Jesse Turner, Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities Chairperson; and Harry Paine, Manitoba Society of Seniors President. Darren Steinhoff, CUPW Winnipeg Health & Safety Officer, emceed the event.

Calgary



On January 27, Calgarians picketed in front of the Harry Hays Federal Building to demand that Harper resign now and that the Harper government keep the post office public. Postal workers, members of other unions including PSAC, seniors, students and members of the public held signs and placards high so that packed buses and commuters driving by during the evening rush hour could not miss their messages calling for the reversal of the decisions to end home delivery, increase postal rates and eliminate over 8,000 jobs. Before the picket, postal workers spent the day gathering signatures as part of their petition campaign calling on the Canadian government to reverse the decision to drastically cut postal services.

The action was organized on less than a day's notice. At the first 2014 get together of Calgarians Against the Harper Dictatorship on January 26, a decision was taken to mark the opening of the federal Parliament by sending a message to Stephen Harper and his wrecking crew: "Harper Resign Now!" and "Hands Off the Public Post Office!"

Edmonton




The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) held a public forum on January 25 in Edmonton for residents to speak out about Canada Post's announced changes to the postal service. The union said the gathering was in response to claims by Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra that they had consulted communities before deciding on the changes.

"There was no indication here in Edmonton who it was he spoke to. So we decided we would put this forum on, open it up to the public, so we can actually hear the real voice of Canadians," president of the local CUPW, Bev Ray, explained.

Ray said CUPW invited Canada Post to the meeting but never got a reply. News agencies did receive a written statement from Canada Post claiming that ending door-to-door delivery was made in response to online shopping.

"Less and less mail each year means change is needed to protect Canada's postal service. Ignoring that reality would quickly result in losses big enough to threaten [its existence]. Becoming a drain on the taxpayers is not an option," the statement said.

Ray pointed out that Canada Post actually made a profit in 17 of the last 18 years in the corporation's history.

"Any good business plan wouldn't say, 'Oh because maybe we had a tough year it is time to shut down services and go home.' You should be looking at what you are doing and how you can increase your revenue."

"It is a public post office. It is mandated under the postal service charter and that means that there is legislation and that Canadians should have a hand in making decisions in what happens with their post office," Ray said.

Victoria



BC postal workers converged at the Yates Street post office in Victoria on January 27 to express their outrage against the attacks on the post office and demanded the reveral of plans to raise the price of stamps, and to cut home delivery and 8,000 jobs.

Janet Barney, President of the Victoria local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers pointed out that Canada Post's claims that the changes are necessary to prevent a massive deficit are not credible. "Canada Post is making money. [... For] 17 of the last 18 years we've been making money," she said.

Prince George


Rally outside Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer's office Wednesday, against proposed changes to Canada Post.

(With files from TML correspondents, PSAC, HDDLC, Journal Pioneer, CTV News, CBC News. Photos: TML, T. Sprackett)

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What the Workers Had to Say

Workers' Forum and Forum Ouvrier journalists spoke with participants throughout the postal workers' demonstration in Ottawa on January 26. Here is what they had to say.

Postal Worker, Sherbrooke

I am here because we want to keep our jobs. We want the government to stop cutting our jobs and services, to stop increasing the fees. We want to keep what we have and we want to keep working. They want to privatize Canada Post. They are not saying this is what they want to do but we all know that this is where they are going. They are taking advantage of the fact that they are a majority government. I hope they get kicked out next election. They are taking us back to the 1950s. The gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger. People have to get on EI or on social welfare to survive, the jobs that are getting created pay $10-12 an hour. When there are good jobs, we have to keep them. Besides, Canada Post and the Harper government are taking decisions without consulting anybody, they just cut nonstop and it is done behind closed doors.

Postal Worker, Quebec City

In order to fight this attack by Canada Post and the Harper government, we are going everywhere to mobilize the people. We had a table at an agricultural fair and in a weekend we got more than 3,000 people to sign our petition in defence of the public postal service. We talked to everybody and everybody signed the petition. I think that the Harper government is awakening all kinds of people it kind of took for granted. The rural people, the retirees, they are all getting involved. This represents a very large number of voters. If they get on board with us, the Harper government is in trouble.

Our post office in Quebec City was closed in 2005. Many of us because of our job security clauses were moved somewhere else in Canada Post. We are still working, but on the whole this was a devastating loss of good jobs in our city. It had a large impact on the service and on the economy. We have to understand that the lowering of the working conditions and the deterioration of the service are part of the plan to privatize Canada Post. It is preparation for privatization. They are attacking the service to the point where they will say that it is beyond repair, it has to be privatized. That is what we are fighting against.

Postal Worker, St-Catharines

It is important to be here today because the jobs we are going to lose will be devastating to our community, which has already been hit hard by manufacturing losses. Where are the kids going to work? It is criminal. For many people it is going to be difficult to afford the increase in the price of stamps because they have no job and meanwhile services are being reduced.

Representative, Quebec Federation of Labour, Eastern Townships

This is a movement that has to grow because we are talking about a public service being cut, a service to our society that has been there for a long time. It is a service that we need and that deserves to be maintained. If the postal service is sold out, then what's next? Where does it stop? It is a service that belongs to the people. We must not look at it as a service that must generate profits, it is a service. Costs are an issue but the service has to be maintained and provided to the people. Our people are getting older, it makes no sense to ask them to walk to get their mail. Besides, putting huge mail boxes everywhere is visual pollution. We have to look after our society. Canada Post belongs to us. It is a jewel we have created for ourselves. We must keep it. What Canada Post is doing is an attack on society and an attack on ordinary Canadians who work to serve the people. They want to eliminate the service and they do this by attacking the working class.

Representative, Steelworkers

We have a Steelworkers delegation here today because Harper is the enemy of all workers not just postal workers. He is the enemy of the rights of all workers. We just have to look at Bills C-525 and C-377 and all of the labour legislation. It is a general offensive against the trade unions, and we will be there with all those who are on the front lines of the fight against this. That is why we are here today. Today's action is an action of the citizens, and the trade unions are central to this because the trade unions have been important to push forward the rights of the people including the rights of the most vulnerable members of society. Now with this attack on Canada Post, they are targeting the seniors, taking things away from the retirees. It is cruel. They know that for seniors to walk to get their mail is dangerous. The Harper government is attacking the rights of all the people.

Aerospace Worker, Pratt and Whitney, Longueuil

I am here as part of a Unifor delegation. It is important to be here today because whatever job we have and whatever union we belong to we have to be united and show our solidarity. This is not just the fight of postal workers, this is the fight of all workers. This is not just the fight for the postal service, this is a fight for all public services. We are all humans, we all want to have a society that promotes equality for all.

Federal Public Servant, Ottawa

Our union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, has members who work at Canada Post. I am here to bring solidarity. I am getting older, I do not want to have to walk a long way to pick up my mail. Canada Post's CEO says it will be good for seniors to walk to their mail box. I prefer this kind of walk here today. We are all here to demonstrate. Canada Post does not just deliver mail and correspondence, they are an important part of the social fabric of this country that Harper wants to destroy. Postal service is a way to bring people together.

Worker, Xstrata-Glencore Copper Refinery, Montreal

I am here today to support the cause of defending the public post office. It is a movement to change the direction things are taking. We live in a society that is more and more right-wing. Now the Harper government is even considering getting rid of the Rand formula. There is no way we are going to let this happen. We are up for a fight to defend our lives as workers.

University Student, Ottawa

I am here to support postal workers. When they went on strike a couple of years ago students were in solidarity with them and supported them. This is an attack on public services, like post-secondary education, which is what we fight to defend. We understand that when workers are under attack it affects students and our future, everybody's future in this country.

Elementary Teacher, Ottawa

I am here to defend union work. It is crazy to cut 8,000 excellent jobs. It is a right-wing agenda; they are attacking every union as hard as they can. This is an issue of solidarity. I am here to show my support.

High School Teacher, Ottawa

As unions we have to stick together because we are under attack on all sides in Canada and all over North America. We have to stand together. Canada Post has to evolve, all organizations have to evolve but the kind of decisions they make to get rid of letter carriers is absolutely awful. This is not evolution. There are a lot of Canadians, either disabled or elderly, who rely on door-to-door service. Those people have not been considered at all. When you are making decisions about dollars and cents and there is no sense involved, there is just the bottom line, that is not evolution, that is destruction.

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The People Reject These Decisions that
Do Not Take into Account Their Needs

TML: You were in charge of mobilizing the Montreal postal workers for the demonstration. Close to a thousand workers came from Montreal to participate. Can you tell us what you see as the significance of this action?

Magali Giroux: I think that this day was symbolically strong because although the weather was very cold around 3,000 people took to the streets to express their discontent with Mr. Deepak Chopra and Mr. Harper. And these were not all postal workers, which makes the action even stronger. We had workers from other unions, we had concerned citizens from all walks of life, we had seniors and retirees from all walks of life. I think that our message was clear. I hope that this message will be heard. I hope that there are people in Ottawa who will hear the message and analyze the consequences of the decision that Canada Post has taken. I think that our message is that people are fed up with these decisions that this government is taking, and this is happening more and more often, decisions that do not take into account the needs of the people. It is clear that the Harper government wants to privatize Canada Post and I think that the people are more and more aware of that.

People actually tell us that they are aware of this situation. They are with us. I am a letter carrier. Never in the past have people talked to me as much as today to tell me that they support us. People are leaving messages for us on their mail boxes saying that they stand with us, and this is happening quite often. People are taking initiatives in their seniors and retirees organizations and in community groups. People want to keep their public postal service.

TML: How do you see things moving towards the privatization of Canada Post?

MG: I see it first in the many closures of retail outlets in recent years. Many have already been closed and many more are scheduled to close. They are closing Canada Post retail outlets and they are opening franchises in drug stores, with non-unionized workers, workers who are not Canada Post employees, who work for minimum wage. This is a form of privatization.

There is also a huge conflict of interest in having Deepak Chopra as CEO of Canada Post. Before becoming Canada Post's CEO, Mr. Chopra was CEO at Pitney Bowes and Pitney Bowes is one of the biggest global private providers of postal supplies. Pitney Bowes is managing many of the postal services that were privatized in Latin America. For example, they are doing the mail sortation that was privatized. It is a major conflict of interest to have the CEO of a private postal business become CEO of our public postal service.

TML: Can you tell us a bit about how the mobilization was done in Montreal?

MG: We did it in two weeks. We had to move quickly. We acted through our network of delegates and we went onto all the shop floors. One of our methods was to talk to the workers one on one. We paid a lot of attention to our temporary workers because they often move from one depot to another and often they cannot attend shop floor meetings. We tried to reach each and every one of them and they were on board with us, they mobilized themselves. In two weeks, we registered 1,200 members in Montreal to come with us. Some cancelled because of the weather but most came and took part in this day which was a real success.

TML: What future actions are you considering?

MG: There is a movement now that began in Chicoutimi called "I Am Walking with My Letter Carrier!" There is going to be a day in early May when people all across Quebec and possibly all across Canada will be invited to walk with their letter carriers in their cities, big or small. As well, we have our petitions that are widely circulated, our post cards, letters to MPs. We think about this daily. One thing that I consider to be very important is to go everywhere and talk to people. We are paying a lot of attention to talking to seniors and retirees from all walks of life. We had many people with us today from the Réseau FADOQ which is one of the largest seniors' organizations in Quebec. We have to involve everybody.

(Translated from original French.)

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