Kathleen Mpulubusi, Edmonton Letter Carrier

I work as a letter carrier, so I am speaking mainly about what happened in my depot. When the pandemic first hit, Canada Post (CPC) wasn't really taking it seriously. The union called for masks and social distancing from the beginning. Initially masking wasn't a huge issue, it was about getting things clean. Handling mail is a dirty job, there is so much paper dust, and our workplaces are filthy, never properly cleaned. The union demanded hand sanitizer and disinfectant at every work station, proper cleaning supplies, masks, gloves and a protocol for sanitizing our vehicles. CPC understood we would exercise our right to refuse unsafe work if necessary, as we have done before. Canada Post also agreed to our request to hire additional cleaners to come in during the day.

I am a member of the depot health and safety committee. We spent a lot of time talking to our fellow workers about what we should be doing. Our facilities are quite crowded, particularly in the morning. The union proposed splitting up the working groups from two start times to four, with no overlap between shifts. We settled on a checkerboard arrangement so that when working at your case, you would not have anyone beside you or behind you.

In the plant, there were a lot more issues with cleaning and social distancing so  measures included staggering coffee and lunch breaks, spacing people out in the equipment, and cleaning. Masks were not mandatory until August or September. We did have some shutdowns, especially in the plant, where they would bring in specialized cleaning crews, clean the plant and then send everyone back to work. But overall in Edmonton we have been relatively spared, compared, for example, to Toronto where they have very large outbreaks and a worker died.

The key factor in keeping us safe has been our local getting very proactive right from the beginning and forcing Canada Post to get serious about adopting protocols. Canada Post was looking at the dollar signs, and were not prepared to pay out to provide what we needed. For the future, we have shown the value of keeping our workplaces clean. The air is better, there is not as much dust.

I have been involved twice in my depot where we have organized a mass right to refuse unsafe work, and our local management knew we could do it again if needed. We have invoked this right over forced overtime, and also when Canada Post brought in a new double bundle delivery method where we were expected to sort mail while walking our route to reduce sortation time at the depot, lengthen the routes, and cut staff.

(Photo: CUPW)

This article was published in

March 8, 2021 - No. 14

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