Against the backdrop of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” hundreds convened outside the Vancouver Convention Centre Thursday afternoon to deliver both a political and moral message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Mr. Trudeau you have pissed off 50,000 postal workers, their families, their allies,” said Jennifer Savage, president of the Vancouver local for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). “You broke your promises to the post office. You turned your back on not only the postal workers, you turned your back on labour. We won’t forget this.”
Savage was flanked by union representative of virtually all stripes for the second salvo against the Trudeau government in as many days.
On Nov. 28, several major unions in B.C. set up picket lines at the Pacific Processing Centre in Richmond.
The protesters said they would allow workers into the facility, which is the third-largest postal sorting plant in the country, but trucks with mail would not be allowed in or out.
The groups are protesting the Liberals’ decision earlier this week to mandate back-to-work legislation for 50,000 Canada Post workers after five weeks of rotating strikes.
The crowd that assembled Thursday didn’t take too kindly to that decision and was backed by many of B.C.’s largest unions representing hospitals, marine workers and other public sector employees.
“To say that we are very angry is an understatement — we are furious,” said Hospital Employees’ Union member Betty Valenzuela. “In the next federal election, we will deliver to the Liberals their walking papers.”
Canada Post employers have been on strike since late October and an arbitration process has been launched. Union members are lobbying for better job security, improved health and safety protocols and an end to forced overtime.
The negotiation process has been ongoing for 13 months.
Canada Post has argued the rotating strike action will severely disrupt and hamper holiday deliveries.
CPUW member Cindy McDonnell offered a different take, suggesting urban postal workers will be forced to work thousands of unpaid overtime hours over the holidays as a result of the breakdown in labour talks. Rural mail carriers, meanwhile, will forced to put in roughly 250,000 hours without pay. Somewhere north of 300 preventable injuries will also be sustained by union members as a result of stalled negotiations and back-to-work legislation, McDonnell said.
“Being forced back to work under the provisions of the old collective agreement during the busiest time of year will result in more injuries, precarious employment and unpaid work,” McDonnell said.