Potential thaw in Canada Post labour dispute

There are signs of a thawing in the negotiations between Canada Post and its union the CUPW after Canada Post backed down from a threatened lockout yesterday.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor at McMaster University said of the postal operator backing down from the lockout, “I think that Canada Post must realize that their strategy of using a lockout was not playing well with the public. After all, how can you say you want to maintain a service that you yourself are willing to disrupt with a lockout?”

Canada Post wants to change the pension scheme for new hires, moving them to a defined contribution plan instead of a defined benefit plan. The union wants to maintain the defined benefits.

According to Maurice Mazerolle, director of the centre for labour management relations and associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, the two parties may have been able to come to an agreement on the pension issue, with CUPW having to change their demand. She said, “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep these defined benefits plans, despite the company still making money.”

Two other unions have agreed to change from a benefits to a contributions scheme already. “Only a very aggressive strategy on Canada Post’s part will likely move the union off the principle of an equal pension for all union members,” she said.  

“I also think that the union has been very successful at framing this round of bargaining as about intergenerational equity — younger workers should have secure pensions, too.”

The fact that Canada Post has been very profitable counts against it in the current round of negotiations. “I also think the consistent profitability of the postal service year after year makes the employer’s affordability argument very weak,” Ross said.