February 12th to 18th, 2023
They say you learn something new every day. On Wednesday this week, I learned that people can reply to these reports and I have access to the email account where they are stored. I have not replied to so many messages, and I’m sorry about that. I really had no idea that people were replying. If you really need to reach us, please email email@example.com. We will not monitor the mystery email account regularly.
NOMINATE YOUR STEWARDS
February is steward nomination month. Nomination sheets have been posted on your union boards, so write in the names of the folks you want to have represent you on the work floor by the end of the month. On March 1st, the current stewards will collect the nomination sheets and we will then contact the nominees and ask them if they accept their nomination. A new list of stewards will be posted soon after we have spoken to everyone.
Being a shop steward isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. It does require some dedication. It requires the willingness to learn. Hey, sometimes the boss alleges someone screwed up at work. That can be really hard on that person. I’ve screwed up in the past. I’ve been on the hot seat in those dreaded 2-4s. It’s not fun. If you’re a shop steward, you are the first contact for a colleague going through that stress. You’re counseling them through the interview process, the grievance process, and talking to them if there is an undesirable result because of the whole mess.
You know your own rights at work more thoroughly if you’re a shop steward, that’s for sure. This isn’t to suggest that only shop stewards know their rights, many postal workers are quite aware of what the rules are, but shop stewards are continually educating themselves on changes to the rules, the corporation’s policies, and the ways the union is adjusting its approach to certain situations.
The Winnipeg Local hasn’t been good at holding regular shop steward meetings. This needs to change. The local’s bylaws are clear. Shop stewards are to participate in a monthly meeting, with the exception of July and December. The local executive is going to do its part this year and host these meetings regularly, with a schedule. Generally speaking, our stewarding has been improving and it’s time to take it to the next level.
We have a lot of good people apply for the shop steward classes being offered by the region next month. So many applications, in fact, that not all of our applicants will be selected to attend. If you are selected, get yourself nominated on those sheets, you’ll make a great addition to the crew.
The votes have been counted and the motion to provide RSMCs with their daily vehicle allowance passed by a score of 41 to 14. Fifty-five members came down to the local on February 15th to cast a ballot on this important decision.
Now that the membership has approved of this addition to the bylaws, it is off to our national office where it will be put through a constitutional test. If it does not conflict with the national constitution, the National Secretary-Treasurer will inform the local that it can now be adopted into the bylaws, and there ya go. If our national office decides it does conflict with the constitution, we will not be able to adopt it into the local bylaws. Them’s the rules.
The motion will see RSMCs paid their vehicle allowance if they work for the union for a day. I was first elected to a local president position five years ago, and it has always been frustrating to have to tell RSMCs they won’t receive that part of their income if they do work for the union. For urban members, working a day for the union is a sacrifice of overassessment pay, flyer money, the potential for time-and-a-half overtime, meal allowance, and boot and glove allowance. Those costs can be significant and add up over time, but the vehicle allowance is quite significant for people.
Nobody should feel like they can’t work for their union because they simply can’t afford it. You do have to accept some financial sacrifice to be involved, but people do have thresholds. I hope this small adjustment to the local’s bylaws is the little thing that helps RSMCs become more involved more regularly. It was long overdue.
At the Regional Presidents’ Meeting on Friday, February 10th, meeting attendees listened to a roughly 90-minute presentation on the corporation’s attempts to automate many aspects of postal work.
I’m not going to lie or sugar coat it; the presentation was scary. The employer is spending millions developing robots to automate everything it can. Ten years from now, it’s possible every group of workers will be affected by the introduction of these machines into our workplaces.
Are there good aspects of automation? Of course. Are there bad aspects? Plenty. A fully automated plant would mean the loss of 400 jobs locally. That’s where the majority of the automation seems to be directed to at the moment. There are some ideas about machines for letter carrier duties, but Canadian winters and Winnipeg sidewalks are likely to keep human labour around for a little while longer.
A lot of the presentation was about the specific machines that the corporation is looking at introducing.
Automated Guided Vehicles move monos and pallets around a plant. They can self-park and are operated through tablets with no human drivers. Ten of these units are currently being tested in Montreal, and 10 jobs have been lost. Our plants in Vancouver and Toronto are getting AGVs as well.
Hundreds of forklifts across the country have been fitted with Mobile Mail Handling Equipment Telematics. These devices monitor the speed and impact of forklifts. It monitors everything about how the forklifts are used. Currently, these devices are in Toronto plants, there are 16 units in Calgary, and plans to install them in 17 more plants across the country. No idea if WMPP is on that list, but it’s a larger plant, so I think it’s likely.
In the letter carrier world, the employer is looking at Automated Neighbourhood Mail Collators. These machines can assemble 3,000 to 4,000 sets of flyers every hour. The pilot projects that were run showed high accuracy rates, but low production rates. The machine is currently back to the drawing board because the test results weren’t good enough. But might admail collation disappear from work duties at some point? They’re working on it.
The employer is also developing something called Computer Assisted Manual Sort. The introduction of this machine to our workplace will be about reducing the workforce and nothing else. A computer will scan a letter and then a light will show up on the sortation case where the letter needs to be slotted. If you’ve worked in a plant, it’s the same as the scan-to-light system at a runout chute, but on a letter carrier case. When the mail is sorted, lights pop up to indicate how the carrier should be tying out their mail. This machine will eliminate knowledge sorts and lookup boards and it can even print new address labels.
There is a machine with a super long name that is going to be introduced into 16 locations soon that can sort up to 1,600 to 3,200 parcels and packets an hour, and operate for 21 hours a day. The only packets it can’t sort are the ones that are too crumpled to be read by scanners clearly. This machine, called the Robotic Induction for International Small Packet Sorter is still in the testing phase.
Over the next few years, the corporation will be looking at integrating drones into the delivery model. Currently, Canadian airspace laws are preventing this from happening. The corporation is testing what is called a follow-me robot that can carry up to 300 kilograms of parcels and mail around behind a letter carrier. It’s an oversized high school locker on wheels, basically. Automated Mobile Robots are also being tested. They are 100 percent automated robots. And Holo Lens glasses might be coming to assist with machine repairs. The worker would wear the glasses and an assistant on a computer will be able to diagnose issues and report back with instructions on how to fix the issue.
On April 30th, a 585,000 square foot, $470 million facility, the Albert Jackson Processing Centre will go live. The AJPC is in the Toronto area. This new facility will be packed full of machines that can process 60,000 parcels per hour, 50 percent more than the Gateway facility, also in Toronto, and the largest plant in the country. More than 90 percent of the Albert Jackson parcels will be processed by the machines, not workers.
Changes are coming, and they could be coming fast. Postal workers have to ask themselves what they want the post office to become, and what kind of changes and job protections they want to see in place moving forward.
RESOLUTION WRITING WORKSHOPS
We are less than 12 months away from our contracts expiring and we need to start drafting contract demand resolutions.
If you’ve never drafted a resolution, or if you just want to know more about the process, I will be hosting two resolution writing workshops. One will be on Wednesday, March 1st at 7:00 p.m. and the second will be on March 11th at 10:00 a.m.
The last time I ran one of these workshops, a participant commented at the end, “You know, I was a little nervous when you said a 17-page PowerPoint, but it was very fast!” I have tried to make the presentation quick and interactive. The group ends up writing a resolution by the end of the hour.
We have to have our resolutions over to the regional office by some point in April. Depending on scheduling, there might be a special meeting for local resolutions, but we can also pass resolutions at the March and April general membership meetings.
If you have ideas on how to improve your collective agreement, now is the time to start writing those ideas down on paper. Bring that paper to your local meetings and argue for them to be taken to the negotiating table in the coming months.
Hey, maybe your resolution will be the one that gets postal workers from coast to coast a decent wage increase. Maybe your idea will offer better job security. Maybe you can influence how safety issues at work are addressed, which ends up improving the quality of life for all postal workers going forward. That’s the thing about this process – there’s a lot of potential if you get involved. If you don’t, then it’s a definite that nothing will change.
I’ll advertise the workshops again, independently, in the coming weeks. They are not official meetings of the local, it’s just me hosting them on my own time, and I’ll be putting the invitations to join out on social media so that postal workers from coast to coast can join if they wish. See you there.