Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Full name Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
Founded 1965
Members 54,000 (2006)
Affiliation CLC
Key people Mike Palecek, president
Office location Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Country Canada

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW; French: Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses des postes) is a public sector trade union representing postal workers employed at Canada Post as well as private sector workers outside Canada Post. According to a number of analyses, "With a radical leadership and an active rank-and-file, CUPW had become the very model of a militant union."[1]


The union has approximately 54,000 members and has a long history of militancy originating in 1965 when the union was formed out of the old Canadian Postal Employees Association. CUPW's first major strike was an illegal wildcat strike in 1965 (before public sector workers had the right to strike or even form unions) and is the largest illegal strike involving government employees. The action succeeded in winning the right to collective bargaining for all public sector employees. Other major industrial actions included a strike in 1968 and a campaign of walkouts in 1970 that resulted in above average wage increases. Further strikes in 1974 and 1975 succeeded in gaining job security in the face of new technology at the post office. A 1978 strike resulted in CUPW president Jean-Claude Parrot being jailed when the union defied back-to-work legislation passed by the Canadian parliament. CUPW's defiance of the law caused a temporary rift between it and the more conservative Canadian Labour Congress. In 1981, after another strike, CUPW became the first federal civil service union in Canada to win the right to maternity leave for its members.

In 1981, Canada Post was transformed from a government department to a crown corporation, fulfilling a long-standing demand by the union. It was hoped that by becoming a crown corporation governed by the Canada Labour Code, relations between Canada Post and its union would improve. While strike action has been less frequent, there were rotating strikes in 1987 and 1991 against plans to privatize postal outlets, both of which were ended by back-to-work legislation and also saw attempts by Canada Post to break the strike using scabs.

In 2003, CUPW successfully completed the organizing of approximately 6,000 Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) into the Union and won a first collective agreement for these workers. This collective agreement is separate from the CUPW collective bargaining agreement. The two collective agreements have major differences. These differences stem from the RSMCs formerly being contractors as opposed to employees of Canada Post. For instance, RSMCs are paid in a contract style system as opposed to hourly, RSMCs are typically expected to find their own replacements during absences, and RSMCs may hire assistants who are not employed by Canada Post. Also in 2003 saw the first of many rollbacks for the Urban Postal Unit when the contract that was reached included the elimination of severance pay. Members ratified the Urban Mail Operations agreement by a vote of 65.4%.[2][3]

On June 3, 2011, CUPW began labour actions against Canada Post with a series of rotating strikes. On June 14, 2011 at 1159pm EST, Canada Post announced a lockout of CUPW members. The lockout ended June 27, 2011, after Parliament passed a law rendering illegal any further work stoppage.[4]

CUPW's last collective agreement was signed in 2012 and expired January 31, 2016. The RSMC collective bargaining agreement expired in December 2015.

Other postal unions

In 1989, the Canadian Labour Relations Board forced most Canada Post employees under one union. Until that time CUPW, had represented only "inside employees" with the Letter Carriers Union of Canada representing "outdoor employees" and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers representing smaller units of specialized workers within the post office. After a vote, CUPW was chosen to be the sole union representing the combined bargaining unit.

However, three smaller trade unions remain at Canada Post. The Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association covers 12,000 rural workers, the Association of Postal Officials of Canada has 3,400 supervisors and the Union of Postal Communications Employees represents 2,600 technical workers.[5][6][7]

The CUPW put forward several merger proposals to the Canadian Postmasters but, to date, they have been rebuffed.[8]

Worker groups

The union represents different types of workers within Canada Post divided into four groups:

Private sector

The Canadian Union Of Postal Workers represents workers outside Canada Post such as cleaners, couriers, drivers, warehouse workers, paramedics, emergency medical dispatchers, printers and other workers and total 536 members in separate bargaining units.[9]

Outside causes

The union is also noted for supporting political causes unrelated to labour. It spends funds in participating on issues such as child care, Cuba, abortion, Colombia, anti-Racism, anti-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), anti-global capitalism, marijuana decriminalization, campaigns for women's equality and human rights.[10] CUPW has also protested the Vietnam War, supported the disarmament movement, opposed South Africa’s apartheid regime and opposed the bombing of Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.[11]

Furthermore, as part of its radical agenda and influenced by similar political organisations, in April 2008, the CUPW adopted a resolution supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions that target Israel.[12] This campaign was launched at the infamous 2001 NGO Forum of the UN Durban Conference, whose agenda was controlled by the UN's bloc of Islamic states. CUPW stated that it would end any no investments in Israeli companies, and boycott products from Israel. There is no evidence that this discriminatory policy was implemented, and CUPW did not impede the processing of mail destined for Israel, which would be violation of international treaties.[13]

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) criticized CUPW for its decision to discriminate against Israel, based on pressure from Arab countries. The CEO of the CJC, Bernie Farber, argued that “CUPW has a very well-established, almost an iconic, reputation as a radical organization on the far extremes of the Canadian labour movement” and that “The vast majority of men and women working for the postal service have no clue about such resolutions. Very few pay any attention to it.”[14] The issue has largely disappeared shortly afterwards.


External links

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