Canada Post workers begin strike action along Two Mile Hill in Whitehorse on Nov. 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Canada Post rotating strikes hit Whitehorse

Whitehorse postal workers went on strike the morning of Nov. 9

Rotating strikes at Canada Post locations across the country have reached the Yukon, with Whitehorse postal workers walking off the job and onto the picket line at 7 a.m. Nov. 9.

The strike will last a minimum of 24 hours. No mail will be going into or coming out of the Whitehorse Canada Post depot, effectively shutting down mail service across the Yukon.

Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) branches across the country have been participating in a series of rotating strikes starting Oct. 22, calling for better working conditions, pay and job security as the union continues to negotiate with Canada Post.

“Unfortunately the issues are the same from coast to coast to coast,” said Keith Ellert, vice-president of CUPW’s Whitehorse local, in a phone interview just before 9 a.m. on Nov. 9.

CUPW Whitehorse has 55 members, more than 20 of which were on the picket line outside the Whitehorse Canada Post depot at Two Mile Hill and Range Road Friday morning.

Ellert said one of the biggest issues the union wants Canada Post to address is improving the health and safety of workers.

“Canada Post has the highest injury rate of all federal sectors, almost four times the national average. It has reached a crisis point,” he said.

“Forced overtime and overburdening for our letter carriers is another huge issue which, again, is a health and safety issue in itself, especially when you consider what a Yukon winter can be, and while letter mail is decreasing, there’s been an astronomical increase in parcel volumes. Online shopping is huge and perhaps even more so here in the Yukon.”

Job security and unequal pay are other big issues, Ellert said. CUPW is calling on Canada Post to create full-time positions for inside workers instead of precarious temporary and part-time roles, and to pay letter carriers and rural-suburban mail carriers (RSMCs) equitably.

Currently, Ellert said, letter carriers are paid by the hour while RSMCs, who he said essentially do the same job, are paid by their routes, regardless of how long they take to complete.

“When you consider that huge increase in parcel volume, which is a regular thing year-round and then multiply it by Christmas season or even Black Friday, you all of a sudden have people working 10 to 12 hours a day being paid for five or six and sometimes not even being able to complete the day’s mail,” he said. “And this all ties back into a complete lack of healthy or balanced lifestyle for so many workers, it’s no wonder we’re seeing an injury rate of four times the national average.”

Ellert said that while CUPW Whitehorse has been called on for a 24-hour-long strike, “our members stand in solidarity and await word from the national, and if they call for us to be out longer, then we most certainly will be.”

He added that members will remain on the picket line until 6 p.m. Nov. 9.

In a Nov. 9 press release, Canada Post said that 23 jobs actions began in Ontario, British Columbia and the Yukon on Nov. 9, joining ongoing rotating strikes in Quebec, Newfoundland and other parts of British Columbia.

“Canada Post has been working hard to minimize the service impact to Canadians, but the union’s escalating strikes continue to cause backlogs in our national, integrated delivery network,” the release says in part.

“Canada Post remains 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 … We value the relationship with the union and have been able to find common ground on some issues.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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