May 26, 2020
January 27, 2020
Postmasters Reach “Historic” Agreement with Canada Post. New Contract includes Language on Financial Services in Rural Post Offices, Full Equality for ‘Group’ Postmasters, and Annual 2% Wage Increases.
Members of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA) have ratified an agreement that its negotiators call “historic,” resulting in significant improvements for thousands of members, mainly women, who operate post offices in the small communities of rural Canada.
One of the key gains is the elimination of a wage formula that forced “Group” Postmasters (those whose post office counters are in their businesses or homes) to be on call while getting paid only a third of the hourly rate. The contract finally establishes job security for these members.
“Group Postmasters will now be treated like full-fledged employees,” said Daniel Maheux, chief negotiator for the CPAA.
“Canada Post has also agreed to do a joint study with us on increasing financial services with the goal of setting up a program to pilot additional financial services in some rural communities that do not have banks,” said Brenda McAuley, CPAA National President.
The CPAA and other groups have been campaigning for post offices to provide basic financial services for some time. In the past, Canada Post has experimented with successful banking partnerships in rural communities such as Nain, Newfoundland.
The just-ratified contract contains no concessions and allows for annual wage increases of 2% over a period of five years.
Last year, the CPAA settled a longstanding pay equity dispute with Canada Post and the parties are currently processing applications for settlement claims.
August 28 2019
National President Brenda McAuley with Postmaster Kate McDonald in the village of Tamworth
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:
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.
June 4, 2019
The longest-running pay equity dispute at Canada Post has at last come to an end.
The Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA), with a membership of over 8,000 working at rural post offices first filed a pay equity complaint in 1992, twenty-seven years ago. It was a complicated case that involved numerous delays and stalling.
However, on the brink of hearings, after several weekend-long mediation sessions, the CPAA and Canada Post Corporation managed to reach an agreement, which has now been ratified by the Human Rights Commission.
“Ninety-five percent of Postmasters and Assistants are women and we signed this deal on Mother’s Day, which means a lot to me,” said Brenda McAuley, CPAA’s national president.
“Many of our members said they never thought they would live to see the end of this dispute. But sadly, the settlement amount in some cases will have to be paid out to our members’ estates.”
Canada Post has been through several prolonged pay equity disputes with various units of its employees, including another court battle with female clerks that lasted for 25 years and cost millions.
“If we calculated what twenty-seven years of paying to fight us in the courts cost our employer, we might find it would have been cheaper for them to just do the right thing in the first place,” McAuley pointed out.
The Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the period for the pay equity settlement would be only five years, from 1992 to 1997, because after that, the pay inequities between the groups had evened out.
“Not all our members will be eligible for that period of coverage, but it’s still good to see some justice at last,” said McAuley.
April 18, 2019
Canada Post’s forecast of losses has Postmasters concerned about future cuts to rural postal services.
“Canada Post must work with us to concentrate on innovating services,” said Brenda McAuley, National President of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA).
McAuley says that since its reinvention as a Crown Corporation in 1981, Canada Post has followed a trajectory away from a public service towards an increasingly profit-driven orientation, a move that she says is hurting rural Canadians.
“When the focus is on profits, services get taken away from rural and remote areas because we aren’t so profitable,” said McAuley. “The cuts and closures of our post offices can deal a death blow to rural communities.”
The CPAA has been asking to meet with the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, the new Cabinet Minister for Rural and Economic Development, who is currently touring Canada seeking ideas for rural development.
At that meeting, McAuley plans to emphasize that offering more services at the post office in rural communities just makes sense if Canada Post wants to remain self-sustainable.
She points to many innovative practices happening in other national postal systems, such as India, which recently opened a successful postal banking system aimed at reaching rural citizens.
“Canada Post could give people financial services, broadband and wireless services, electric car charging stations, and other opportunities for supporting them locally,” said McAuley. “That means they don’t have to leave their communities.”
February 7, 2019
OTTAWA, Feb. 7, 2019 /CNW/ – In the wake of today’s surprising story that the Hudson’s Bay Company, of all companies, had refused to deliver to a rural Albertan PO box, thousands of rural Postmasters are speaking up about a massive influx of online shopping items that their small post offices just aren’t set up to handle.
“Our issue is staffing in sufficient numbers and of course facility space, now that online shopping has exploded,” said Xan Moffatt-Toews, president of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA) branch for Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Photo showing an oversize package weighing almost 135 lb or 61 kg. (CNW Group/Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association)
Photo showing Iqaluit post office crammed to the rafters with parcels.
Moffatt-Toews says she has seen large items such as tires, fenders, parts and fridges shipped to rural and northern post offices.
Although CPAA has raised concerns to management about lifting such heavy items, “the answer is always the same – the parcel was accepted by Canada Post, so we must deliver it, overweight or not” said Toews.
“We are told to let the customer in and lift it themselves.”
95% of Postmasters are women and most work by themselves, often in tiny facilities with limited space.
The CPAA has been pushing for rural post offices to be recognized as vital hubs that could improve the lives of rural Canadians by offering services such as financial services, internet, and even transit stops in the wake of the Greyhound pull-out.
Such services would require better support and facilities, which are already needed to handle the online shopping boom.
“There’s a lot being said about infrastructure these days. Well, we have this valuable public infrastructure – the post office – sitting at the heart of most of our rural communities and we should be using it to its full potential,” said Brenda McAuley, national president of the CPAA.
October 4, 2018
The US-Mexican-Canadian trade agreement negotiated by the Trudeau government is an attack on public postal service that will be unfair to rural Canadians, said the union representing postmasters and assistants who work in over three thousand rural post offices.
The Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association is incensed by the Liberals carving out Canada Post from the new rules on cross-border duties. Under the USMCA, the duty-free bar gets raised to $40 from $20 on online shopping from the US, but items shipped by Canada Post won’t qualify for the exemption.
“This is a subsidy for the big private courier companies who don’t deliver to rural Canada,” said Brenda McAuley, national president of the CPAA.
“When people are being forced to pay more for Canada Post shipping, those in cities and towns who have the choice will go elsewhere, slowly starving our post office of the revenue it needs. Rural areas that are less profitable to deliver to will be sacrificed.”
“The Liberals promised not to privatize Canada Post, but by giving preferential treatment to private couriers, they’re cutting our post office out of the profitable parcel business and unfairly penalizing rural Canada in the process,” added McAuley.
In many rural areas, Canada Post is the only game in town for the delivery of online goods.
The CPAA plans to bring these concerns to MPs before the agreement is ratified.
“I can’t see why the Liberals would do this to Canada Post unless they have privatization in mind,” said McAuley.
June 6, 2018
The Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA) is calling for greater transparency and scrutiny of partnerships between Canada Post Corporation and financial technology (“fintech”) companies, even as legislation is being debated to restore postal banking in Canada.
Financial technologies (“fintech”) are shaking up banking sectors all over the world, targeting gaps in traditional financial services such as international remittances and serving the underbanked.
Both Brazil’s and Spain’s postal systems recently struck deals with fintech companies to offer services such as prepaid credit cards for consumers, as well as accounts for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Canada Post has also been quietly partnering with fintech companies, allowing people to open bank accounts, pay their bills, and even pay their taxes at post offices. For example, Scotiabank-owned Tangerine has postal clerks verifying IDs, allowing people to instantly activate bank accounts at Canada Post outlets. Paytm Canada, a bill payment mobile app, recently partnered with Canada Post and Payment Source, allowing customers at 6,000 Canada Post locations to pay bills without transaction fees. On May 17th, Paytm’s CEO stated: “We have seen great adoption of this service.”
Payment Source also partnered with the Canada Revenue Agency this year to allow Canadians to use a QR code to pay their taxes at the post office.
Minister of Procurement and Public Services Carla Qualtrough promised to ensure Canada Post will “work in partnership” with its employees on new technologies but these fintech partnerships have not been made with any consultation with the CPAA, which has been campaigning with allies, including over 900 municipalities, to offer financial and government services through rural post offices.
“Rural Canada needs better financial services and the best way to deliver them is through the thousands of post offices operated by Postmasters,” said Brenda McAuley, national president of the CPAA, which represents over 8,000 rural postal workers operating over 3,000 rural post offices nationwide.
“We’ve been urging the Liberals to seriously explore this possibility, but it looks like there may be a backdoor plan that’s allowing private companies to creep in.”
Bank branches are scarce or closing in rural Canada, forcing residents to travel long distances. McAuley points out that Postmasters, who are already trained for MoneyGrams (now partnered with Royal Bank for e-transfers) and prepaid Visa cards, could save their communities considerable travel time and money, while maintaining local jobs and services.
McAuley points out that rural post offices are trusted institutions while Paytm’s Indian parent company has been accused of sharing its customers’ data with the Indian government. The security of online banking customers is a major issue in Canada as well: on May 29th, CIBC’s Simplii and the Bank of Montreal reported being hacked, compromising the data of 90,000 Canadians.
McAuley says she was approached by a big bank wanting to put ATMs in rural post offices but prefers to see any revenue from financial services flowing back into her members’ rural communities rather than to the big banks.
“The big banks are making billions by charging us some of the highest fees in the world,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we invest in our own communities and our own services by banking at the post office?”
Irene Mathyssen (MP London-Fanshawe), who introduced M-166, a motion to restore postal banking, in March, has tabled an Inquiry of Ministry in the House of Commons showing that Canada Post conducted not one but six separate studies on postal banking over a 5-year period.
“We have a real opportunity here with Motion M-166 under debate and a change in management at Canada Post,” said McAuley. “The Liberals need to deliver on that culture of collaboration they’ve promised us and stop the stealth privatization.”