Canada Post’s relationship with its workers is blighted by ‘underlying toxicity’

Whenever Canada Post management and union representatives reach an agreement, whether through negotiation or arbitration, the resolution may not be enough to repair their fraught relations.

“I do not see a resolution between management [and the union] in any meaningful sense,” said Ian Lee, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, who published a study on Canada Post.

“They patch it together but it won’t solve the underlying toxicity and the underlying contradiction between the two visions.”

Those visions include some intransigent and diverse positions on key labour issues and, ultimately, the future of the Crown corporation.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a 72-hour strike notice Thursday, and on Friday lawyer and author William Kaplan was appointed to seek an end to the months-long labour dispute.

“There’s a difference of vision of what Canada Post is and what it can be in a way that you don’t always see in labour negotiations,” said Christo Aivalis, a Queen’s University professor of Canadian political and labour history. “And I think that’s one of the reasons this is so tense.”

The sides are at loggerheads over a number of issues but two are of particular significance — pay equity for female carriers in rural areas and Canada Post’s pension plan.

The pension plan is the biggest point of contention in this contract dispute. Management wants to change the plan for new hires from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. Defined benefit means the company would take 100 per cent of the risk in dealing with pension contributions. For defined contribution, the employees would shoulder the risk.

‘Is there a God’ issues

Mount Allison University president Robert Campbell, who has studied post offices around the world, said when it comes to bargaining, it’s important to avoid the “is there a God” issues like these, since there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

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