Canadian Union of Postal Workers

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Canadian Union of Postal Workers
CUPW logo.jpg
Full name Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
Founded 1965
Members 54,000 (2006)[1]
Affiliation CLC
Key people Mike Palecek, president
Office location Ottawa, Canada
Country Canada

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers or CUPW is a public sector trade union representing postal workers employed at Canada Post as well as private sector workers outside Canada Post.


The union has approximately 54,000 members and has a long history of militancy originating in 1965 when the union was formed out of the old Canadian Postal Employees Association. CUPW's first major strike was an illegal wildcat strike in 1965 (before public sector workers had the right to strike or even form unions) and is the largest illegal strike involving government employees. The action succeeded in winning the right to collective bargaining for all public sector employees. Other major industrial actions included a strike in 1968 and a campaign of walkouts in 1970 that resulted in above average wage increases. Further strikes in 1974 and 1975 succeeded in gaining job security in the face of new technology at the post office. A 1978 strike resulted in CUPW president Jean-Claude Parrot being jailed when the union defied back-to-work legislation passed by the Canadian parliament. CUPW's defiance of the law caused a temporary rift between it and the more conservative Canadian Labour Congress. In 1981, after another strike, CUPW became the first federal civil service union in Canada to win the right to maternity leave for its members.

In 1981, Canada Post was transformed from a government department to a crown corporation, fulfilling a long-standing demand by the union. It was hoped that by becoming a crown corporation governed by the Canada Labour Code, relations between Canada Post and its union would improve. While strike action has been less frequent, there were rotating strikes in 1987 and 1991 against plans to privatize postal outlets, both of which were ended by back-to-work legislation and also saw attempts by Canada Post to break the strike using scabs.

In 2003, CUPW successfully completed the organizing of approximately 6,000 Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) into the Union and won a first collective agreement for these workers. This collective agreement is separate from the CUPW collective bargaining agreement. The two collective agreements have major differences. These differences stem from the RSMCs formerly being contractors as opposed to employees of Canada Post. For instance, RSMCs are paid in a contract style system as opposed to hourly, RSMCs are typically expected to find their own replacements during absences, and RSMCs may hire assistants who are not employed by Canada Post. Also in 2003 saw the first of many rollbacks for the Urban Postal Unit when the contract that was reached included the elimination of severance pay. Members ratified the Urban Mail Operations agreement by a vote of 65.4%.[1][2]

On June 3, 2011, CUPW began labour actions against Canada Post with a series of rotating strikes. On June 14, 2011 at 1159pm EST, Canada Post announced a lockout of CUPW members. The lockout ended June 27, 2011, after Parliament passed a law rendering illegal any further work stoppage.[3]

CUPW's last collective agreement was signed in 2012 and expired January 31, 2016. The RSMC collective bargaining agreement expired in December 2015.

Other postal unions[edit]

In 1989, the Canadian Labour Relations Board forced most Canada Post employees under one union. Until that time CUPW, had represented only "inside employees" with the Letter Carriers Union of Canada representing "outdoor employees" and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers representing smaller units of specialized workers within the post office. After a vote, CUPW was chosen to be the sole union representing the combined bargaining unit.

However, three smaller trade unions remain at Canada Post. The Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association covers 12,000 rural workers, the Association of Postal Officials of Canada has 3,400 supervisors and the Union of Postal Communications Employees represents 2,600 technical workers.[4][5][6]

The CUPW put forward several merger proposals to the Canadian Postmasters but, to date, they have been rebuffed.[7]

Worker groups[edit]

The union represents different types of workers within Canada Post divided into four groups:

  • Group 1: Inside workers - postal clerks and mail handlers.
  • Group 2: Outside workers - letter carriers and Motorized Service Carriers - originally from the Letter Carriers' Union of Canada (LCUC).
  • Group 3: Technical and general labours: mostly mechanics, electronic technicians, electricians - most these need a course in a technical or trade school to get in and require to attend courses. Come from the Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • Group 4: Electronic specialists and forepersons, like the group 3 workers, need a course in a technical or trade school to get in and require to attend courses. Come from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Private sector[edit]

The Canadian Union Of Postal Workers represents workers outside Canada Post such as cleaners, couriers, drivers, warehouse workers, paramedics, emergency medical dispatchers, printers and other workers and total 536 members in separate bargaining units.[8]

Outside Causes[edit]

The union is also noted for supporting political causes unrelated to labor. It spends funds in participating on issues such as child care, Cuba, abortion, Colombia, anti-Racism, anti-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), anti-global capitalism, marijuana decriminalization, campaigns for women's equality and human rights.[9] CUPW has also protested the Vietnam War, supported the disarmament movement, opposed South Africa’s apartheid regime and opposed the bombing of Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.[10]

Support for boycott and disinvestment from Israel[edit]

In April 2008, the CUPW became the first national union in North America to pass a resolution supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The resolution commits CUPW "to work with Palestinian solidarity and human rights organizations in developing an education campaign about the apartheid nature of the state of Israel and Canada’s political and economic support for these practices" and to "call on other Canadian unions to lobby against the apartheid like practices of the Israeli state."[11] To implement its controversial political activism, CUPW has stated that, following the passing of the resolution, it will look at all its investments to ensure none are in Israeli companies, implement a policy to ensure no products purchased by CUPW are made by Israeli companies, and provide information to CUPW regions, locals and members on boycott, divestment and sanctions in order to encourage all levels of the union to engage in this campaign. However, CUPW currently has no plans to block the processing of mail destined for Israel, although it is acknowledged that this may be adopted in the future. CUPW has not commented on how this action contravenes the legal mandate of Canada Post.[12]

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) criticized CUPW for its decision to boycott and disinvest from Israel. The CEO of the CJC, Bernie Farber, argued that “CUPW has a very well-established, almost an iconic, reputation as a radical organization on the far extremes of the Canadian labour movement” and that “The vast majority of men and women working for the postal service have no clue about such resolutions. Very few pay any attention to it.”[13]

Lawrence Cannon, Canada's Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities wrote that "The views of CUPW do not reflect the views of the government or Canada Post. It is unfortunate that CUPW has threatened to disrupt the mail."[14]

In May 2010, CUPW expressed opposition to the creation of the first-ever postage stamp issued jointly by Canada and Israel, which commemorated 60 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.[15] Canada Post spokesperson John Caines later stated that CUPW’s opinion does not reflect that of Canada Post.[16]


External links[edit]