On June 21st, 2011, Fredericton and Oromocto postal workers and their allies occupied the office of their MP, Keith Ashfield.
The rally started outside Ashfield’s office on Alison Boulevard at 4:00pm. Rally participants went inside around 4:30pm and a number of union representatives including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Fredericton District Labour Council and the New Brunswick Federation of Labour delivered letters to Keith Ashfield, their MP, asking him to vote against back-to-work legislation. They asked the MP’s assistant, Kevin Price, to immediately relay their concerns to Ashfield who was in Ottawa and about to vote on back-to-work legislation. Back-to-work legislation would remove the rights of the postal workers to strike and forced them to return to work with a wage increase lower than the final offer made by the employer, Canada Post. Canada Post’s final offer included a 7.7% wage increase over 4 years while the imposed settlement included a 7.25% wage increase over the same period of time.
Over 100 people gathered in support of locked-out Canadian postal workers at three other locations in the province on the same day at rallies organized by the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. Rallies were held at the offices of Miramichi MP Tilly O’Neill Gordon, Madawaska-Restigouche MP Bernard Valcourt and Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MP Robert Goguen.
“Union members in New Brunswick stand strong with our brothers and sisters at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and we are calling on New Brunswick Members of Parliament to vote against back-to-work legislation,” says Michel Boudreau, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “Imposing back-to-work legislation goes directly against working people’s most fundamental right; the right to collectively negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment with the right to strike over unresolved differences. The federal government is not respecting the International Labour Organization conventions it has ratified which guarantee freedom of association for trade unions, and promote good paying jobs for all.”
The postal workers, currently locked-out by Canada Post, want to return to work but with a fair contract. The postal workers are fighting against a two-tiered wage system that would see workers being paid poverty wages. Postal workers point out that Canada Post, a Crown corporation, is mandated to provide a public service not turn multi-million dollar profits every year. Postal workers, who voted 94.5 % in favour of strike action, are also fighting for their pensions, healthcare, safe working conditions and a public postal service.
When it was not clear if the message had been delivered to their MP, a number of postal workers and their allies decided to stay in Ashfield’s office past 5:00pm. Pizza was ordered and cellphones came out and calls were made to the offices of Ashfield and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa.
The police arrived around 5:45pm and told the occupants of Ashfield’s office to leave or they would be forced to leave. The postal workers asked the police to leave for a moment so that they could strategize and decide on what to do next. The postal workers decided to discontinue the occupation because they felt they had achieved their goal of delivering a message to their MP.
Fredericton postal workers occupy MP Keith Ashfield’s office:
Fredericton postal workers sing Solidarity Forever at the occupation of the MP’s office:
Police arrive at Fredericton postal workers’ occupation of MP Keith Ashfield’s office:
Postal workers return to their MP’s office on the morning of Wednesday, June 22, to find it closed: