Monday, 15 August 2011

CUPW and the Fight for Workers' Rights

One significant example is the family leave campaign, which is being examined as part of a current Workers’ History Museum project. When CUPW included a demand for fully paid maternity leave in its 1977 bargaining proposals, the union ended up on strike, the government passed back to work legislation and CUPW President Jean-Claude Parrot was jailed. But the union persevered and in 1981, under Parrot’s leadership, the union became the first in the federal public sector to win paid maternity leave. Other employers and unions took notice and the fight for paid family leave spread throughout the country.

Fast-forward to the most recent negotiations between CUPW and their employer.

Canada Post offered current workers improved wages and the option of keeping their benefits and pensions. All they needed to do in return was agree to a lower starting salary, reduced benefits, and a defined contribution pension for future employees of Canada Post. Improved wages was one thing, but selling out the future generations of workers was not an option for CUPW. They started rotating strikes to get their message across without inconveniencing large numbers of the public. These actions had barely started when Canada Post shut down postal service completely with a nation-wide lockout.

The current conservative government forced through back to work legislation while imposing a wage settlement that was lower than the employer’s last offer, claiming to be supporting the interests of Canadians by restoring postal service. But when you remember that CUPW was locked out by their employer, a crown corporation, and then forced back to work by the federal government, the situation starts to look grim. The federal government, who should be lauding a group for fighting for the rights of future generations of Canadians, instead rewarded them with a wage decrease.

Does this seem odd to anyone?

For more information about the CUPW and the recient postal workers lockout please see Aalya Ahmad and Geoff Bickerton's well -written analysis at:

It’s worth a read.


  1. If you look at the historical record, individual rights suffer in a financial crisis. In the 1930s, as the world floundered from the Depression, there was a rise of fascism (as we see now), a fear of socialism (as we still see now), and the labour movement takes a direct hit (as we are seeing and will continue to see now).

  2. I believe that this type of behaviour by the current federal government is only the beginning of what we will see over the next 4 years. Why did the government choose to include a lower wage rate in the back to work legislation? There was no need, except to show their power and send a message to other workers who choose to use their right to strike that they will be dealt with harshly. They continued this action with the Air Canada employees by ordering them back to work after the shortest time on strike that I have seen.
    We can only hope that the Canadian public will take heed of the letter that Jack Layton wrote last weekend just prior to his death. We need to see a more caring, compassionate country than what we are currently facing.
    Workers need to keep the faith and doing their best to make workplaces better for all employees.

  3. I agree with both these postings. As Barb Stewart says, we should heed the words of Jack Layton and be more compassionate and caring. But, the Conservative government seems bent on doing just the opposite, with the reduced wage rates for CUPW members a prime example of Tory vindictiveness. The plan to cut back the federal public service is the next step; not only will public sector workers lose their jobs, but Canadian citizens will have their services reduced. It's a pattern we have seen before. Hopefully the NDP, even without Jack, will be able to mount a vigorous opposition and help Canadians see the error of the Tories' policies.