Mail service throughout Grey and Bruce counties ground to a halt on Tuesday, November 7th, as workers joined others across Canada in strike action.
In Port Elgin, workers hit the picket line joined by workers from Owen Sound and Wingham. Mail trucks were parked and no mail made its way to 24 post offices in Grey-Bruce.
Peter McHugh, president of Owen Sound Local 582 drove from Kincardine to Port Elgin and said that there are several issues of concern for the workers. “Among the issues are the work conditions, particularly, in this region for rural carriers. Health and safety concerns, gender equality and precarious work all have to be addressed along with forced overtime that isn’t paid for.”
According to a worker on the strike line, carriers are overburdened as they are required to carry magazines, flyers and parcels in addition to regular mail. “In the winter, we drive outdated vehicles that are unsafe on the rural roads and, given the large geographic area, we often end up working 12 hours days and are not paid for any of the overtime. We also will now have to delivery cannabis and that puts us at risk and liability as we have to ensure that recipients prove and sign for their ‘deliveries’.”
After 10 months of negotiations, there are serious issues of concern, said McHugh:
- Pay equity for rural route mail delivery staff with their letter carrier counterparts, something ordered by an arbitrator but not yet paid, he said. Letter carriers earn $25 or $26 per hour, while the mostly female rural delivery staff — paid by the route, not by the hour — earn the equivalent of $5 to $6 per hour and they represent about 100 to 150 of the 250 members in Local 582.
- Health and safety concerns arising from heavier loads letter carriers face. McHugh estimated parcel deliveries by letter carriers have increased by six or seven times since 2012. He’s a letter carrier and delivers 50 to 120 parcels per day, depending on the day. In 2012, he carried 10 parcels on average per day. Mail volumes haven’t gone down. Now marijuana deliveries put carriers at greater potential risk.
McHugh said another issue he has concerns with is that contract terms are no longer in force. “Members who are off work for medical issues and covered by disability plans are being cut off all benefits and no longer are getting paid.”
Other Grey-Bruce areas affected were Meaford, Wiarton, Tobermory, Lion’s Head, Southampton, Tiverton, Kincardine, Walkerton, Hanover, Durham, Mount Forest, Thornbury, Clarksburg, Chatsworth, Dundalk, Flesherton, Markdale, Priceville, Elmwood, Hepworth, Chesley, Mildmay and Paisley.
While Canada Post workers in Southampton are not part of CUPW, it has been affected by mail delivery and, therefore, it too has seen a mail slow-down to stoppage.