Locked-out postal workers, upset with the Conservative government’s plan to send them back to work, occupied MP Randy Kamp’s Maple Ridge office Tuesday, refusing to leave until he vows to vote against the proposed legislation.
Kamp was not at the office, however, but rather in Ottawa. Still, the protestors hope their message reaches him: Let us bargain with Canada Post.
“We have no say,” said Cindy McDonnell, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 704. “This is draconian legislation … and it undermines the entire bargaining process.”
More than two dozen postal workers gathered in front of Kamp’s offices Tuesday morning. At around noon, three union members entered Kamp’s office and refused to leave.
Postal workers in North Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg occupied the offices of Conservative MPs on Monday.
“I imagine they will be here until the police come and take them away,” said Ed Nicholles, CUPW’s Pacific Region representative, of the three postal workers occupying Kamp’s office.
Kamp, reached on the phone from Ottawa, said they had no plans to call the police, yet.
“They are being respectful of the work that needs to be done in the office and aren’t being disruptive from what I understand,” he said.
Kamp said he is holding out hope that a settlement can be reached before the back-to-work bill is voted on. Last week, striking workers at Air Canada reached an agreement with the airline after the Conservatives proposed back-to-work legislation.
Kamp said if the two sides have not come to an agreement by Thursday, he will vote with his fellow Conservative MPs in favour of the bill.
“For us, this about the economy,” he said. “We received a strong mandate from Canadians to improve the economy, and a work stoppage could be damaging.”
The proposed legislation, which was tabled by Conservative labour minister Lisa Raitt in the House of Commons on Monday, could see the postal workers forced back to work as early as Thursday. It would also force the union into binding arbitration with Canada Post. However, CUPW will have no say on who the government will appoint as arbitrator.
“We never got a chance in this round of bargaining,” said CUPW national president Denis Lemelin. “The Harper government is going to rescue [Canada Post] from any responsibility to negotiate realistically with the workers.”
Canada Post Chief Executive Officer Deepak Chopra met with Lemelin last week, but the meeting failed to bring the two sides any closer. Canada Post contends the union has too many demands that would drive up costs and restrict Canada Post’s ability to address problems like declining mail volumes, and a $3.2-billion deficit in the pension plan.
The 48,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which include local letter carriers and retail employees, have been without a contract since May 30, after the union rejected Canada Post’s contract offer. That offer would have seen the creation of a two-tier wage scale, reducing starting wages to $18 from close to $23 an hour. The Crown corporation locked out workers last week in an effort to force the union to accept the contract offer.