| 01-14-2020

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Edmonton Postal Workers Denounce Steward Witch Hunt

It’s no secret that all of us at Depot 2 have been struggling. During a restructure in June 2019, CPC pretended our parcel volume grew 140% less than the National average in order to cut three jobs from an already overburdened workforce. We would’ve lost a forecasted nine routes if not for the entire city backing a demand letter for CPC to be transparent and value our work fairly. Route restructures in the context of CPC’s ‘Make It Safe, Make It Home’ campaign are a cruel joke. Prior to the restructure, 54 out of 70 routes were over-assesed (the work value grew beyond our 8 hour day). Now, almost all of our routes are miraculously under-valued and over-assessed as parcel growth keeps skyrocketing. 

As if the restructure fraud and overburdening wasn’t enough, imagine having to give at least an extra unpaid half-hour to CPC each day because they refused to provide parking. Our station’s had inadequate parking ever since it was purchased but we made it work by parking along the main road. Fast-forward to 2018, CPC gets notice that our entire facing road (124ave) would be torn up and all the street parking eliminated during construction as well as when it was completed. The thought of trudging 15 minutes through a construction zone without sidewalks, working overtime on an overburdened route, then stumbling back to our vehicles after was too much for us to bare. 

I’m disappointed it had to come to our entire station repeatedly confronting our managers but that’s what it took for them to clue in just how unsafe and unacceptable our situation was! A problem that CPC had over one year to find a solution was addressed in the matter of a few days once we fought back. A mini-bus was contracted to shuttle us to and from the mail processing plant (EMPP) parking lot, about 5 minutes away, every 15 minutes, all day. 

Until CPC found a new facility of adequate size with sufficient parking, the shuttle was an acceptable temporary measure. The story should’ve ended there but the same thing that happens every December at the EMPP happened again: a lack of parking due to the army of casuals brought in to help with holiday volumes. 

Now, I don’t know if this is a matter of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, or if CPC thought we hadn’t suffered enough, but on Dec 12th our superintendent told us at a staff talk that, effective Dec 13, our shuttle would be moved to the fleet garage (a location 15mins away if traffic cooperated). This presented a few problems that were immediately brought up from the floor: The shuttle would get stuck in traffic during those times and delay the transit intervals. How was CPC going to pay us for having to take extended shuttles? Why hadn’t we been given more notice to make the necessary personal schedule adjustments? 

The superintendent clearly became flustered throughout this exchange and claimed that parking wasn’t CPC’s responsibility, that the conversation was over and then just walked away despite our objections. Our two newest shop stewards, James and Kenton, insisted the workfloor had the right to bring forward their complaints and followed her saying as much. For exercising their rights, they were given notices of interview for violating the workplace code of conduct by being aggressive. 

Leading up to the interviews on Dec 17, we circulated a petition vouching we witnessed both stewards being “respectful in representing the interests of the workfloor”. On the day of the interview, the local President, Roland, the rest of the full-time officers, Todd, Carl and Rashpal, as well as one of the EMPP Chief Stewards, Cheryl, showed up to call a workfloor meeting in the lunchroom. As most of our wave of 40 squeezed in, Roland explained that CPC was unacceptably targeting James and Kenton and trying to stifle Depot 2’s growing confidence. He said the union office came to confront management about their behaviour and that if anyone else supported the efforts of these new stewards, their presence and solidarity was very welcome. At this, everyone turned to the brothers and gave them a big applause. It was a genuinely touching moment. We then waited while Roland went to get the managers. 

We’d later find out that the zone manager and the station superintendent (the one who cut off the previous staff talk) said they’d already addressed the parking issue and wouldn’t be coming to our workers’ meeting to do it again. When given the option of having the whole wave come to their office, or join us in the lunchroom to hear the collective complaint, they reluctantly chose the lunch room. On arrival, Roland presented the depot petition defending James and Kenton. 

The zone manager tried to talk us in circles but we’d have none of it. For the next 30 or so minutes we held our ground, calmly and forcefully giving voice about what had transpired over the last year. 

Members spoke of the changes they’ve had to make in their work/life balance to accommodate the parking shortfall and route restructure. How the sudden shift in the shuttle operations would impact their childcare needs and second jobs. Many criticized the lack of transparency and overburdening, and how, now, the job is so punishing that just one compressed flyer can result in days of delayed mail. No one held back and made sure to let the manager know he was their to listen not make excuses. One sister received escalating applause for her proclamation of our right to collectively complain and her impassioned denunciation of the manager for going after our stewards for appropriately defending our interests. 

We all supported and cheered on each others’ testimonies and stated that it would be unacceptable for either steward to be disciplined in any way. Once the dust settled, neither Kenton or James received any discipline. Had we not stood together, I know this wouldn’t have been the case. Oh, and management apologized for their lack of communication and restored the original, more agreeable, shuttle plan. Solidarity works! 

This fight has been over a year in the making and still isn’t fully settled. No matter how many times CPC has kicked us down, we get back up. With each crisis, more of us get involved by taking union courses and supporting our stewards and activists. No individual could have made a difference in these events alone but by standing together, we’re all stronger. Whether it’s a bully boss, a fraudulent restructure, or unpaid second trips for RSMCs, the fight isn’t over -- it’s coming to a CPC facility near you if it hasn’t already. I hope our story has inspired you to organize yourselves and support one another when the time comes. 

In Solidarity,

Carrie O’Parcelton