February 19th to 25th, 2023
We have had a busy few days since the last report. James Ball, the regional organizing coordinator was in town to promote a new national education program, Building Worker Power. Brother Ball, Vice President Mahdia Hasan, Health and Safety Officer Reggie Taman, and myself visited many workplaces to talk to members about this program and its aims. If we missed you at work, hopefully we can catch you next time.
FLOOD DRIVE PAY
Northeast letter carriers, I’m sorry to report that the wait for flood drive time will have to be a little longer, but I’m happy to report that it’s because we have had more drive time added.
When we first received the data on what the employer was willing to pay for the increased driving time, it didn’t include all drives. For example, the FedEx runs weren’t included. They are now. Also, carriers who had to drop off live mail from CMBs weren’t given the credit to drive to McDermot. That time should be added. Those items had to be included.
So, we’re closer to having agreement on what needs to be paid. Now, we need to figure out who gets paid. It’s not as easy as just paying out the route holder the extra time from September 13th to December 1st. We need to pay relief carriers and temps if they were covering the route for a day or a week or whatever. We are told that hashing all of this out involves a dozen spreadsheets and five people in the PC&R department.
The pay won’t be here by the end of this month, but the hope is the project will be wrapped up by the end of March.
BUILDING WORKER POWER
While James Ball and I were at the WMPP on Wednesday evening, talking about Building Worker Power, I was reminded of Cockroach Trailer. Taking Back Our Workfloor is now called Building Worker Power. This part of this week’s report was originally published on July 30th, 2022.
I was finishing dinner at home with my partner and a friend who was visiting from out of town when the phone rang. On the other end was a concerned health and safety rep from the plant. Management was intending to unload a trailer full of parcels. The trailer had been in the yard for a few days because the first time they opened it, it was teeming with cockroaches.
I spoke with the health and safety rep for a few minutes and then quickly changed clothes and drove down to the WMPP. I got there right in time for break and was able to speak to a couple of people about the trailer and management’s plans.
After the meal break, the dock workers who would normally unload trailers were gathered near the trailer to hear what the evening shift manager had to say about the situation.
He told them the same story I had heard. When the cockroaches were first discovered, Orkin Exterminators had been called to investigate. The trailer had been left in the yard and the inside of it was sprayed with a substance to kill the bugs. It was then left for a couple more days to let the bug poison do its trick.
As the manager was speaking, many of the workers from Runouts, on the other side of the building were walking over. The manager looked at me. I had no idea what was up.
“Why are they coming here,” he asked.
“Dunno. They must have something to say,” I said.
They did. Those workers in Runouts had reason to be concerned. When parcels are unloaded from a trailer on the dock, they take a little trip on the conveyor belts and end up in Runouts soon after. The Runouts workers could potentially be dealing with parcels that have live cockroaches or eggs on them. This was not acceptable. The workers told the manager as much.
While all of this was happening, there were two supervisors lurking on the sidelines with disposable gloves on, waiting to unload the trailer. Two more supervisors were prepared to scan the parcels’ barcodes as they entered the building. Cockroaches are gross and supervisors attempting to steal our work right in front of us are also disgusting.
In the few minutes that followed the arrival of the workers from Runouts, a new plan was devised. CUPW members would unload the trailer, and they would do it with flashlights and they would be granted the time and space to inspect every parcel with a flashlight before putting it on the belt. Then, as the parcels enter the building, two more of our members would inspect the parcels and scan the barcodes. If there was one live bug discovered, we would shut the operation down and we got to make that call.
Management was going to unload the trailer. The supervisors were there and willing. They were willing to risk spreading cockroaches not only throughout the plant, but potentially to every letter carrier facility in the city as well. A safer, better option was presented. We did our jobs, and we did it right.
This is a microcosm of Taking Back Our Workfloor. Workers knew what they wanted, and they stood up and got it.
That’s unionism. I was there to witness it, but my presence was not necessary. Local executive officers don’t need to be at the centre of every discussion. Sometimes, the workers know what they want and how to go get it. Especially in acute situations like the one with the cockroach trailer.
Taking Back Our Workfloor helps us unlock skills that help guide us through those situations. It helps us distill palpable anger and frustration into a solution. It helps us create the environments we need to have at work. And it teaches us that that power is resident in each and every one of us and when we work together, we can achieve anything.
Sign up for Taking Back Our Workfloor by emailing education officer Tyler Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have so many applicants for the class on August 17th, we will need to run the class again in the coming months.
Don’t forget the cockroach trailer. It’s a great example of why unionism, and learning how to access the skills inside of you is so important.
On Thursday this week, local officers met with both plant and collection and delivery management agents. Honestly, I wish we could live stream those meetings because some really unbelievable things get said in those rooms.
The equal opportunity lists at the plant are terrible. They aren’t kept up properly, and they haven’t been for some time. We have been talking about this with the plant managers for months, and there is now a plan to get the lists where they need to be in the coming weeks. We appreciate the commitment to get those lists correct, because not keeping them up has caused a lot of frustration for WMPP workers.
Another big frustration for WMPP workers is the new schedule. Late last year, the employer proposed cutting some positions and moving some positions to the evening and overnight shifts, taking away positions on the day shift. Now, those who remain working the day shift are reporting there are a lot of temps coming in every day. The whole reason for removing people from the day shift was because, “the work isn’t there at that time.” So, why the temps?
The managers tried to tell us it was because of all the personal days people received on January 1st. While this might account for a couple more absences here and there, it certainly wouldn’t account for the number of temps we’re seeing coming into the plant on a daily basis.
This discussion led into one about how positions aren’t being backfilled when there is a long-term absence. When I asked why positions weren’t being filled, we were told, “Because it’s cheaper to use temps.”
That’s it. It’s right there, and at least they were being honest about it. They do not care about your rights as workers. They do not want to open up daytime working hours for people to bid on. They don’t care that perhaps part-time employees are missing out on a full-time work opportunity. It’s all about money, and it’s less expensive to use a different classification of worker than it is to do the right thing.
Local officers will follow up on this in appropriate ways, but what are the workers at WMPP, who are being disrespected on a daily basis going to do?
I want to be clear that temporary workers bare no responsibility for this. They did not ask for management to make these decisions, and they are going to accept work when it is offered. The employer is directly responsible for this, and it is a slap in the face to everyone who had their hours cut or their shift moved at the beginning of the year.
One of the other excuses for not backfilling the positions was that there was no need to fill the positions as there is less volume now and therefore fewer workers are required. We told them we felt we were being lied to about that because in the collection and delivery world, letter carrier systems were being reinvented because there is so much product, the depots are bursting at the seams.
Someone is lying. There are so few parcels in the plant that they don’t need as many workers today as they thought they did just 55 days ago. There are so many parcels in the letter carrier depots that entire systems that have worked well for years have to be reinvented. If you know how this makes sense, please email me at email@example.com and help me understand.
The meeting with collection and delivery management agents was in the afternoon that day. We started that meeting by asking some questions about SSD, and the corporation’s apparent push to implement it at the Northeast Depot. We have been told in the recent past that the move to SSD is about improving service to the customer.
“So, as a customer who lives at 123 Main Street, will there be any difference to my deliveries from the post office after the depot switches to SSD?” We were told no. “So, can you please explain to me in what way this would improve service?”
“Matthew, you have to understand, this is a national plan. This is part of national’s 10-year plan.”
So, now at least we know the plan to make your jobs more challenging for no discernable reason may take a decade to fully implement. Gross.
The other particularly nasty thing we had to talk about in the meeting with collection and delivery management agents was that we are getting multiple reports from letter carriers that their supervisors are actively discouraging injury reporting to the Workers’ Compensation Board.
This is wrong, and it’s illegal. We’ve raised this issue with local management before. In fact, we’ve raised it so many times, I suggested this would be the last time we brought it back to this venue and would be encouraging our members to report these actions to a third party. Your bosses didn’t like that. They suggested it was threatening. Well, threatening to report something like that to the relevant regulatory body isn’t dirty. Attempting to suppress an injury claim is.
If your supervisor attempts to suppress your claim or tries to talk you out of reporting an injury appropriately, call the local. Then, call WCB Compliance Services. They can be reached at 204.888.8081 or 1.844.888.8081 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Bookmark that information here: https://www.wcb.mb.ca/contact-wcb.
Our contracts will be on the bargaining table at the end of the year. The employer will have its demands, and we have to have ours if we want to make any improvements to our working conditions going forward. To get those demands, we first need to write resolutions, basically, present good ideas about what we want to see happen.
If you’ve never written a contract demand resolution before or if you have ideas and you don’t know exactly how to get them down on paper, consider attending a resolution writing workshop on March 1st at 7:00 p.m. or on March 11th at 10:00 a.m.
At those workshops, I’ll provide some (hopefully) helpful tips and tricks to make resolution writing a little easier and less intimidating. There is a PowerPoint presentation involved and the whole thing takes about an hour depending on the number of questions people have.
There is no need to register, no need to sign up, no nothin’. Just click the link at the right time if you’re so inclined.
March 1st: https://tinyurl.com/mryu4re8
March 11th: https://tinyurl.com/ycn3e73w
The next general membership meeting will be on March 15th at 7:00 p.m. If you have contract demand resolutions ready for that meeting, come on down to the Viscount Gort and present them to your brothers, sisters, and comrades to see if they like those ideas, too.
It’s your contract. Get involved. Influence it.