Canada Post cuts workers’ disability benefits
On Monday, October 22 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) announced rotating strikes around the country; the climax of a labour dispute that lasted nearly a year after negotiations.
After the expiry of the CUPW contract, Canada Post decided to discontinue sick leave provisions, including short-term and long-term disability – even for workers with claims predating the strike action, according to the CUPW.
In a statement, the Union of Postal Communications Employees (UPCE) said they were “appalled” to learn of the decision, “especially during rotating strikes while a majority of the impacted employees remain actively at work.”
Global News obtained a copy of an internal email sent from François Paradis, national president of the UPCE to Jessica McDonald, the interim president and CEO of Canada Post.
The email claimed employees at AccessHR – the call centre that handles calls from postal workers – have received a substantial increase in calls once employees noticed a number of benefits were discontinued.
The changes weren’t isolated to locations impacted by rotating strikes, but affected postal workers across Canada.
“Some CUPW represented employees in this situation have reported, because of this corporate decision, despair and depression with consideration to suicide,” Paradis wrote in the email.
“This is brutal and fails to meet the threshold of basic human decency. The fact that there’s a labour dispute does not make this horrendous and cruel decision morally palatable,” he continued.
Paradis concluded the email demanding to know who authorized the decision, and whether or not they were still employed, before adding one final sentence.
“This is absolutely disgusting,” it read.
Upon learning that Global News had obtained the email, Paradis said “That email was never meant for public distribution. However, while it is strongly worded, I stand by every word.”
In an email added that “no employer should attempt to win labour disputes with tactics that prey on the most vulnerable,” and that UPCE stands by their original statement calling the matter a question of morality, not legality.
On Friday, Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton told Global News that “Once the union took strike action…the process was put in place under the [Canada Labour] Code to change the terms and conditions [of the contracts.]”
“But we want to make sure that we don’t cause any undue hardship on anyone,” Hamilton added, noting benefit coverage for prescription drugs, dental care and hearing has been extended.
Canada Post is also offering to review individual situations on a case-by-case basis.
“If anyone’s facing extenuating circumstances we want them to contact us and we’ll review those cases so we can provide them, or their families, or whatever they’re going through some relief on a compassionate basis,” Hamilton said.
Rotating strikes have occurred in Victoria, Edmonton, Windsor, Halifax, Toronto, and are being extended to Winnipeg and Brandon.
Thousands of workers have participated in 24-hour walkouts protesting health and safety concerns and forced overtime.
Postal workers will receive the same rate of pay for time worked during the strike action and Canada Post will continue to operate throughout the rotating strikes.
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