Lockout shocks local postal union president

Canada Post's decision to lock out its unionized workers Tuesday night was more of a shock to local union president Doris Salmaso, than was Wednesday's announcement by the federal government that it plans to introduce back-to-work legislation.

Salmaso, who represents some 100 Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) in the Medicine Hat-Brooks area, said Wednesday that her national union had already talked about the possibility of the federal government intervening to end the labour dispute with Canada Post.

"I was surprised at the lockout announced Tuesday night," she told the News in an interview Wednesday. "I thought they'd (Canada Post) at least let us deliver the stacks of mail that were packed up inside our processing building."

According to Salmaso, there was a lot more mail stacked up here and elsewhere in the country than what Canada Post has been admitting too.

With the lockout, Salmaso — along with her fellow union workers — are now only getting a cheque for $175 a week from CUPW. All benefits, as well, as far as she's been informed, along with their regular pay from Canada Post, have been terminated.

It also means that depending on the length of the present lockout and what legislation the federal government brings in to force both party's to negotiate in good faith, many union members may have to refinance their mortgages, and find alternate arrangements to pay a wide-range of things from food to medications, she added.

On Wednesday, union workers spent the day picketing outside the Canada Post Medicine Hat Processing Centre on Kipling Street, and at the company's Canada Post Office on First Street SE.

The present strike by CUPW is the first in 14 years.

Among a number of things on the table are that union negotiators have asked for a wage bump of 3.2 per cent in the first year, followed by 2.75 per cent in the subsequent years of a four-year contract.

Canada Post has offered a 1.9 per cent increase a year, with wages starting at $18 an hour for new employees and increases capped at $26 for new and existing employees.

Employees also receive a benefit pension plan and up to seven weeks vacation.

Negotiations have been going on for seven months.

As postal workers walked their picket lines Wednesday, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) threw its weight behind them.

"The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has made great proposals to take Canada Post profits and invest them in better service, but these have been rejected by the employer," said AFL president Gil McGowan.

"CUPW has also proposed ways to increase profits, such as offering banking services like many post offices in countries around the world, but these ideas have also been dismissed."

The City of Medicine Hat Wednesday announced that it had made a number of arrangements to ensure continued customer service and business operations during the current disruption in postal service.

Medicine Hat News, Thurs Jun 16 2011

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