By Sunira Chaudhri, Special to the Toronto Sun
Every extension Canada Post has agreed to in labour negotiations with its largest union has amounted to another capitulation.
Canada Post issued a lockout notice in July and has since bungled negotiations with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) by agreeing to multiple extensions to continue negotiating terms for a new collective agreement.
The big ticket item? Replacing Canada Post’s bloated defined benefit pension plan — a benefit CUPW is unwilling to budge on.
Canada Post has been embroiled in this dispute since December and has continued to lose ground due to sheer financial expense and loss of opportunity. Labour negotiations are exceedingly costly, often taking place in hotel boardrooms weeks at a time. A bigger cost is that during these negotiations, postal workers continue to enjoy the same benefits under their now-expired collective agreements — terms that Canada Post says it can no longer afford to pay.
The financial costs are only the first act in this play. The much bigger cost is the loss of market share.
Despite turning a profit in the second quarter, Canada Post is losing its market share with Canadian small businesses. If we do see a service disruption, the biggest headline may very well be, well, no headline at all. Many businesses created contingency plans months ago.
Provinces have stepped in to help residents with different options to retrieve their mail in the event of a disruption. With every passing week, Canada Post is whittling away at its own relevance and at the same time, serving up its market share on a silver platter to every courier company in the country.
Protracted negotiations only help unions. They are expensive, draw the ire of everyday Canadians like you and me who have grown weary of reading the same headlines month after month. When the costs for the employer begin to equal the cost of employee demands, employers are more likely to capitulate to even the most unreasonable demands.
Employers who are not yet unionized but fear that an organization drive may be on the horizon can employ legal strategies to avoid the tailspin that Canada Post is now in. Employers, pitch your company to your employees by doing the following:
- During a lunch or coffee break, meet with employees and talk about the great perks the company has to offer (benefits, lieu days, staff retreats, bagel Fridays and so on).
- Talk about the structure of your company and how it rewards high performers and entrepreneurial spirit. The biggest loss for employees in a unionized workplace is that they are not meritocracies. Pay raises and promotions are largely based on seniority, not performance.
- Increase your accessibility and visibility: Invite your employees to meet with you if they have questions. Often employees move to organize if they feel management is not listening. Increase channels of communication.
Labour negotiations must be measured against the realities of business. A new collective agreement made in a vacuum with no eye to the future will only result in Canada Post employees paying the price, most likely, with their jobs.