June 20, 2011

Support the Postal Workers! Stop the Conservative Attack on Working People!

On June 3rd, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers hit the streets in a series of rotating 24 hour strikes. The strikes, supported by a 94.5% mandate, came as a result of months of negotiations eventually came to a stall.

Canada Post is demanding outrageous concessions from CUPW, including a 22% pay decrease for new hires, the gutting of sick leave benefits, the imposition of a two-tier pension plan, and more. The corporation reacted to CUPW’s legal strike action with a lockout, sycophantically claiming that “"If we allow the uncertainty created by the rotating strikes to continue, our ability to remain financially self-sufficient and not become a burden on Canadian taxpayers will be in jeopardy”.

Working people, youth, and students, should not be fooled by the attempts of the Harper Conservatives or of Canada Post to paint the situation as a standoff between union workers and “the taxpayer”. The reality is that Postal Workers are merely fighting to defend the working conditions and benefits which have taken decades of struggle to win.

In fact, there is a lot at stake in this dispute for all Canadians, not just the Posties. The attack on CUPW is undoubtedly part of a broader strategy aimed at opening the way for the privatization of Canada’s postal service by destroying the two main barriers to such a move: public support for the public post office, and the union. The result will be the proliferation of much more expensive for-profit services.

Not only in this attack on Postal Workers a wedge for privatization of postal services, but it is also the opening shot in the Harper majority governments coming offensive on working people and organized labour.

Having legislated members of the Canadian Auto Workers at Air Canada back to work only days ago, the Tories are now looking at using similar legislation against Postal Workers.

The legislation was introduced in Parliament on June 20th, and is, as described by the union, both unnecessary and unjust. In fact, the legislation is a clear interference in the collective bargaining process by the Federal government on behalf of the employer. The legislation includes arbitrary fines for those who defy it, and a requirement for mandatory arbitration with a pro-employer mandate.

Back to work legislation violates the basic rights of working people by subverting the rights of their unions to fair collective bargaining and the use of legal strike action. The Postal Workers are at the forefront of the first major struggle against the ultra-reactionary Conservative government. CUPW members will be faced with difficult decisions in the coming days and it is incumbent on the labour movement, and all progressive people, to support them however possible.

Youth and students in particular should support the Postal Workers and join them on the picket lines. Privatization, and the rollback of working peoples hard-won rights, can be stopped by a strong, united fightback. If not, the effects on youth today, and into the future, will be severe.

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