A large crowd gathered inside the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna on Saturday to hear federal Liberal politicians.
Outside, more than 100 Canada Post employees assembled, hoping key figures inside would meet with them to discuss the ongoing national mail strike. The protesters brought signs and chanted various slogans, including “negotiate, don’t legislate.”
One of those protesters was Matthew Aitken, president of the Kelowna chapter of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
“We’re here today because there are Liberals inside the building and rumour has it we’re going to be legislated back to work very soon,” Aitken told Global News. “This is a trick that (former prime minister) Stephen Harper used and we’re here to encourage the Liberals to be better than that and get Canada Post to negotiate a fair contract for all our workers.”
Aitken added, “We want the government to know that we’re asking for Canada Post to give us a fair contract. They campaigned on a strong middle class and that’s what Canada Post jobs are. Letter carriers are middle-class people and we just want a fair contract.
“The wage increases that they’re offering are no commitment to health and safety. In the last four years, more than 30,000 letter carriers have been injured on the job and that stat has to come down. We get injured at a rate of 5.4 per cent higher than the rest of the federal sector, and it’s just not acceptable. You can’t have people hurting themselves at such a high rate and expect to have a robust and successful company. People are getting hurt out there; we work long, long hours. We’re forced to work overtime whether we want to or not.”
Global News contacted the Liberals seeking comment about the protesters and the ongoing strike. A reply was sent in the afternoon.
“Canadians and small businesses rely on Canada Post, especially at this time of year. We respect and have faith in the collective bargaining process and urge both parties to reach a fair deal,” said Ashley Michnowski, spokesperson for the Office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility. “If the parties are unable to achieve a negotiated deal very soon, we will use all options to find a solution to reduce the impacts to Canadians, businesses, Canada Post and their workers.”
Meanwhile, Aitken said that some employees are working so many hours that they’re missing family time, stating, “We have a lot of people who just want to have a secure, middle-class job. We think that’s fair for all Canadians and we think it’s fair for the Liberal government to try to enforce that because they campaigned on that. They promised middle-class Canadians they wouldn’t be cutting jobs and services, but they’re letting one of their Crown corporations do it to us right now.”
According to Aitken, Canada Post builds routes based on mathematical formulas that don’t “translate to the real world.”