‘It’s an attack on all our rights’: Hundreds rally in Edmonton, Calgary for postal workers and the right to strike
Back-to-work legislation: it’s what postal workers are calling an “attack on labour.” In over 30 cities across Canada — including Edmonton and Calgary — those workers called upon allies in other industries and unions to rally in support of the right to strike for National Day of Action on Saturday.
Canada Post workers returned to work on Tuesday after the federal government passed legislation ordering them back to work. Workers went on strike more than a month ago and had been conducting rotating strikes across the country.
Despite backlash from CUPW, businesses have praised the move by the Liberals, saying ordering postal workers back to work will “help salvage the holiday season” for small businesses and consumers.
The union has been without a contract since last year and is seeking more job security, better health and safety measures and an end to forced overtime. Canada Post has said it has made a number of offers that include increased wages and better job security.
Despite the snow, roughly 200 people gathered in Edmonton on Saturday to show their support for Canada Post workers, as well as support for workers’ right to strike.
The crowd congregated at the End of Steel Park in Old Strathcona, many carrying their union’s flag and posters reading “negotiate not legislate,” “fight for the right to strike” and “protect fair bargaining.”
“We just want to show the postal workers that the attack on their rights is not an attack on them,” said co-organizer Chantelle Favell-Rubenstahl.
“It’s an attack on all our rights. They’re not alone; they have lots of allies.”
Co-organizer Kay Delay, who is not in a union but supports them, said the demonstration in Edmonton, which is taking place alongside rallies across Canada, will raise awareness about the plight of Canada Post workers.
“[It will also] show how things like designating them as essential workers is stripping away their rights to not only collective bargaining but also striking, which is an essential part of creating positive change,” Delay said.
“Business is important, especially small business, it is one of the drivers of our economy. What has been shown with a lot of cases though is that, yes, business is important but it cannot be borne on the backs of workers.”
Greg Mady, president of the Edmonton and District Labour Council, is a postal worker and said he felt “crushed” when back-to-work legislation was passed. He calls the legislation unconstitutional.
“If we have a right to free collective bargaining, you do not put an end date on it with a specific goal,” Mady said.
“In the end, it takes away all the power of unions if you can just legislate them back to work.”
Speakers at the rally included Mady, Gil McGowan from the Alberta Federal of Labour and NDP MP Linda Duncan.
A.J. Bley attended the rally with friends who are union workers; he is not in a union himself.
“I always thoughts unions were really important. They’re the reason why we have minimum wages, maternity leave,” he said.
“When you see one just getting attacked, I think it’s important to come out and show support.”
More than 150 people from different unions rallied at the Harry Hays Building onward to Kent Hehr’s apartment building in downtown Calgary as the snow flew on Saturday.
Amanda Cowie is a postal worker who said the government violated their rights when it introduced back-to-work legislation. She is one of many who want Hehr to tell the Liberal government that they’ve made a mistake
“All Canadians should be concerned that if [the government] can do this to the largest, most mobilized union in the country, then what do regular workers have a chance to negotiate with larger companies if the government is always going to consistently take big businesses’ side over workers?” Cowie asked.
She said if the government lets letter carriers go back to work with the current contract, there will be 315 disabling injuries over the holiday season.
“One of the largest issues is not just parcel volumes, we’ve been fighting for ad mail to be included in letter carriers routes… If they just allowed letter carriers and RSMCs [Rural and Suburban Mail Carrier] to take one hand of mail, rather than two, that would limit a lot of injuries,” Cowie said. “They been fighting us in the courts and this is simply about an elastic around a piece of mail.”
Postal worker Ailleen Runstedler rallied for all workers’ rights on Saturday, saying that emotions are running high.
“This isn’t an attack on postal workers alone, this is an attack on all Canadian workers,” she said of the back-to-work legislation. “All Canadian workers need to rally to stop this type of dispute from happening. [Justin Trudeau] is taking away our right to strike. They held a gun to our head at the negotiations table knowing that the government would force us back. That is not a negotiation.”
Telus and steel workers, plus AUPE and a carpenters union showed up to the rally, Runstedler said, glad that people are starting to pay attention.
“I think we need to continue to voice our dissension and let the Government of Canada know that it is not alright to violate the Canadian Constitution,” she said. “It is not all right to attack labour.”
Canada Post had a year to negotiate — Runstedler said they should have never let it get to the point of a back-to-work order.
“Canada Post is a service that we need to be able to rely on,” Runstedler said.
According to Canada Post, parcels will continue to be delayed through the holiday season and into 2019. The backlog of letter mail delivery should be cleared before Dec. 25, however international parcels will likely see delays into March 2019.
– With files from The Canadian Press and Global News
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