Big pay equity win for rural postal workers

Written by Susan O'Donnell on September 24, 2018

On July 16, 2018, rural mail carriers wore the blue urban uniform and urban mail carriers wore the red rural uniform while delivering the mail in the Fredericton area as a symbolic gesture for equal treatment. Photo courtesy of CUPW.

More than 350 rural postal workers in New Brunswick are celebrating a legal decision in September that will give them a big pay raise and better benefits. The arbitration ruling is a big win for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) who successfully argued that rural and suburban postal workers deserved pay equity with urban postal workers. Most of the affected workers are women.

George Nickerson is president of the CUPW Fredericton-Oromocto local that has close to 50 rural and suburban postal workers (RSMCs) including in small centres such as Stanley, Harvey, Doaktown and Boisetown that have 1, 2 or 3 workers in the local post office. All the RSMCs will see a wage increase of about 28 percent, along with improved vacation leave, post-retirement healthcare and other benefits, retroactive to January 1, 2016.

Nickerson believes that because of the way that the new hourly rate is calculated, there may be an increase in job creation in rural areas.

Nickerson pointed out that CUPW has a long history of strengthening rights for workers, especially women, including introducing paid maternity leave in Canada in 1981. The CUPW national women’s committee hosts meetings with representation from women in all regions of the country and is active internationally in union activities involving women’s rights.

As reported in the NB Media Co-op in June, the arbitration case will affect more than 8,000 rural postal workers across Canada. Canada Post, a Crown corporation, had a before-tax profit of $74 million last year when it called the lower pay for RSMCs a “competitive advantage.” CUPW successfully argued earlier this year that Canada Post had a legal obligation to ensure pay equity. The more recent September ruling by Arbitrator Maureen Flynn was also a big win for CUPW because it largely aligned with the union’s perspective of what pay equity should mean in practice.

Nickerson has “been so excited by this win” after a long career as a union activist. He has been organizing rural mail carriers since the late 1990s and said he “has never had a more satisfying moment” as a union organizer than the day the arbitration decision was announced. At press time Nickerson and his colleagues were planning a celebration party for the following week.

The decision is currently posted in French on the Canada Post website. CUPW will post it in both official languages after they have verified the translation. The union has posted the highlights of the decision.

Susan O’Donnell is an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op and a researcher on the RAVEN project (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment).

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