CPAA Tells Politicians Not to Turn Their Backs on Rural Canada
Prior to the election being called, CPAA National President Brenda McAuley published an opinion editorial in The Hill Times, the Parliament Hill newspaper, entitled
“Voters will return politicians to sender if backs turned on rural Canada.”
Here is the text:
Brenda McAuley with Kate McDonald, Postmaster for the Village of Tamworth, Ontario.
Compared to vote-rich urban Canada, rural ridings can seem unappealing to federal candidates. Due to their sparser demographics, they are tougher and more resource-intensive to campaign in. Rural ridings often resist change, sticking to traditional voting patterns (which favour the Conservatives). Priorities and issues for rural residents may differ greatly from their urban counterparts, which is sometimes difficult for urban-based politicians to wrap their heads around.
According to retiring Conservative MP, Larry Miller (Bruce-Huron) in an April interview with Global News, rural Canadians don’t hold great expectations for getting government services beyond the basics. However, governments have historically learned the hard way that cutting those basic services to rural areas costs them dearly.
For example, in 1986, the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney backed Canada Post management’s plan to end home delivery in new suburban and rural developments, close 1,700 rural post offices and switch to private contractors to run the rest. This move resulted in the formation of a grassroots organization called Rural Dignity, which soon had chapters in every region of the country, composed of “mayors, teachers, farmers, fishermen, clergy, artists, students, ranchers, postmasters, lawyers, elders, crafts people, academics and musicians” as one letter to The Ituna News put it in 1990.
Rural Dignity’s objectives were to preserve rural communities and promote understanding of rural concerns; to work to keep vital services, such as post offices, trains and public broadcasting in rural Canada; and to communicate with and represent the concerns of isolated communities to government, associations and other relevant agencies. They engaged in creative actions such as a “Coast to Coast for Rural Post” caravan and in January 1993, held “the world’s longest political protest banner” outside the new Canada Post headquarters in Ottawa, measuring 224 metres and bearing the names of 1,399 Canadian communities that had lost their post offices since 1986.
A few months later, the Conservatives were all but wiped out in the June 1993 election and a year later, the incoming Liberal government imposed a moratorium on the closure of rural post offices, vowing “As long as this Government is in power, no rural post office will be closed.”
History seemed to repeat itself in 2015, after a massive public outcry at Conservative-backed cuts to Canada Post under Stephen Harper’s government. The unpopular move to end home delivery and push for further privatization became one of the top five election issues and the Liberals were elected on a promise to stop the cost-cutting plan in its tracks.
Post offices are the nucleus of rural towns and villages, and local small businesses and residents are still highly dependent on them. The much-vaunted digital solutions to sending and receiving mail don’t work for rural Canada where internet service is not as reliable as in urban areas. Parcel delivery is increasingly crucial to sustaining local economies.
And yet, despite the present government putting a halt to the reduction of operating hours at rural post offices,Canada’s rural communities continue to experience the threat of closures and the downgrading of service when a Postmaster retires or a post office building comes up for lease renewal, circumstances under which the 1994 moratorium can be circumvented. Any cut to a rural post office is a blow to the heart of its community as thousands of resolutions from rural municipalities attest. The privatization of our postal service hits rural areas hardest because it is not as profitable to operate there.
Postmasters and other postal employees have been pushing for innovations, rather than cuts, to shore up the postal network. Many other countries use their post offices for all kinds of services, including financial, community, and additional governmental programs. In small communities where the post office is often the sole presence of government, it only makes sense to consolidate and leverage this network. Post offices might even be used as part of rural broadband infrastructure. But despite an extensive review which supported some of these ideas, the uptake has been excruciatingly slow.
The Liberals created a new Cabinet position for Rural Economic Development which, on the face of it, seems promising. However, we have repeatedly asked all the political parties vying for the rural vote what they intend to do with our post offices. The responses, again, have been slow in coming and we Postmasters, at the heart of our communities, will remember that. While rural Canada may seem not to expect as much in the way of services, governments ignore rural postal services at their peril. All federal candidates should keep this history lesson in mind.
Pay Equity Update!
This follows the previous announcement informing our members and retirees that the CPAA pay equity complaint was resolved on May 12th. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has completed its analysis of the settlement and has signaled its approval. The Human Rights Tribunal accepted these findings and closed the file.
We filed the original complaint because we believed there was a wage disparity between our members and CUPW classification employees P04 for the period covering September 1, 1992 to March 31, 1997. During our discussions with CPC to attempt to resolve our complaint, it was recognized by both parties that, in fact, for all semi-urban Postmasters levels 5 and 6, there was no wage disparity. Indeed, for the semi-urban postmasters at levels 5 and 6, these individuals had a higher rate of pay than the P04.
Therefore, under the agreement reached on May 12, everyone who was an employee in semi-urban classification level 1 to 4, as well as Group Postmasters category 1 to 6, at any time between September 1, 1992 and March 31, 1997 are eligible to apply for monetary compensation. CPAA and CPC are jointly developing the process by which eligible employees and retirees can submit a claim for compensation.
Eligible employees and retirees will have one year to submit their information, starting from the date CPC is ready to receive applications. As more information is available, we will post it on our web site and our Facebook page.
We have a pay equity resolution!
Canada Post and the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA) are pleased to have reached a settlement to resolve a longstanding pay equity dispute.
The agreement pertains to pay rates for CPAA-represented employees from September 1992 to March 1997. The parties reached a settlement with the assistance of an independent mediator who has experience in pay equity disputes. The settlement requires the approval of the Canadian Human Rights Commission before it can be finalized and implemented.
A joint committee consisting of representatives from both Canada Post and CPAA will move quickly to implement the settlement, pending approval from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
More information and details will follow shortly, including instructions for eligible current and former employees about how to apply for payment.
CPAA Responds to Canada Post’s Forecast, Report of Losses
Read our latest news release Postmasters Say Canada Post Must Keep Its Focus on Services
Just For You – union education matters!
From October 23-25th, 2018, 50 CPAA members participated in the Just for You program, which covers the history and structure of our union as well as our legal rights, important information, skills such as public speaking, and more. Watch for the announcement of the 2020 training!
Lobby Day 2018
On Wednesday, October 17th, 2018, a few days before the second hour of debate on Irene Mathyssen’s Private Members’ Bill (M-166), our CPAA Board of Directors took time during the regular Board meeting to go to Parliament Hill. We wanted to get support to restore postal banking, but also to talk about many other rural post office issues…
Is there a backdoor plan for postal banking?
The CPAA has been following Canada Post’s partnerships with financial technology companies. Instead of the model we’ve been advocating for, it looks like Canada Post may already be getting into private banking partnerships with none of the consultation it promised…