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"Students for Posties"

Montreal student groups rallying behind Canada's postal workers

by Tim McSorley

"Students for Posties"

As Canadians woke up to Canada Post's lock-out of the country's postal workers this morning, students across Montreal are rallying to postal workers' sides.

Four montreal student associations - the undergraduate unions at McGill and Concordia, Concordia's graduate student association and Dawson College's student union - and accessible education group Free Education Montreal have launched the Students for Posties campaign.

For many, the link between student groups and postal workers may not be immediately clear, but to S4P support for accessible, public education is rooted in the same fight to maintain a public postal service.

"We can't just isolate issues here," says Rushdia Mehreen, a spokesperson with S4P. "We're seeing government cuts to public education and a move towards private funding...It's the same thing with postal workers.

"It's important to oppose these cuts. We need to empathize with them [the postal workers] and understand what's going on."

And what's going on, for Mehreen and the rest of S4P, is the first test of the waters by the Conservative majority government for cuts to the public sector and public services.

"This seems like the first union to be attacked," said Mehreen in an interview yesterday afternoon. "This [the attempts to cut wages by Canada Post] seems like a sign of what's to come."

In its analysis of the federal government's recently released 2011-2012 budget, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the Conservative government's proposed deficit-slaying measures will result in one-third of public sector jobs being cut.

Canada Post has said that budget cutting measures - such as reducing entry level wages from 23$ to 18$ an hour - are necessary because of declining use of traditional postal services. S4P and CUPW, like others, though, dispute this read on the situation. While they agree that mail volume has diminished, Canada Post has continued to turn a clear profit, making the argument for wage cuts a false one, they say.

Beyond simply stopping cuts, S4P also see pro-active reasons for backing CUPW and its members.

"Insofar as public services are an essential part of a healthy democracy, we applaud CUPW’s efforts to improve the postal services offered to Canadians. We commend CUPW’s efforts to regularize temporary employees and increase the number of full-time workers, as well as its demands for more door-to-door delivery, which will help reduce the marginalization of disabled and elderly people," the group says in a public letter it is urging other groups to sign on to.

They hope to rally more student associations to join their cause - especially CEGEPs and student federations like the Association Syndicale pour une Solidarité Étudiante (ASSÉ). While some of these other Montreal student associations have already individually expressed their support, S4P are hoping to bring the groups together under a larger, unified banner.

The labor dispute does not show immediate signs of easing following last night's lock-out of postal workers by Canada Post. The crown corporation claims it is necessary because they have been losing money and seen a decrease in mail volume due to the rotating strikes begun by CUPW on June 2.

The union argues, though, that they initiated rolling strikes precisely in order to avoid any kind of major financial set-backs, and this morning released photos of mail rooms full of mail to be delivered, countering the argument that people have stopped using the post during the limited work stoppages.

S4P says they'll continue to support the postal workers throughout their negotiations, and are encouraging students to join in actions across Montreal, including hanging banners on their campuses, encouraging staff to do the same, putting posters up at home and joining workers on picket lines.


Full text of S4P statement:

We, the undersigned student groups, stand in solidarity with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), whose members have been on strike since Friday, June 2nd. We join our voices to CUPW in demanding a fair wage, safe working conditions, stable employment, and decent benefits for all Canadian postal workers.

Despite the fact that Canada Post has turned a profit for the last 16 years, the best offer the crown corporation has made to CUPW would see new postal workers’ salaries cut by 30 per cent. Canada Post also wants to reduce new employees’ benefits, compromise their job security, and provide them with a smaller pension, while clawing back many of the provisions included in current contracts which ensure postal workers earn a living wage and retire with dignity.

We support the postal workers’ strike since we recognize that their struggle is intimately linked to our own fight for quality, accessible education. Tuition fee increases and the growing influence of the private sector in public universities are part of the same set of policies that would erode the working and living conditions of all Canadian postal workers.

Insofar as public services are an essential part of a healthy democracy, we applaud CUPW’s efforts to improve the postal services offered to Canadians. We commend CUPW’s efforts to regularize temporary employees and increase the number of full-time workers, as well as its demands for more door-to-door delivery, which will help reduce the marginalization of disabled and elderly people.

We urge Canada Post to back down from its position and respect CUPW’s legitimate demands. We also call on student groups across the country to join us in expressing solidarity with CUPW and undertake concrete actions to support the postal workers as they strike for dignity and justice.

Groups in support

[Version française]

Nous, les regroupements étudiants soussignés, exprimons notre solidarité avec le Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses des postes (STTP), dont les membres sont en grève depuis le vendredi 2 juin. Nous appuyons les revendications du STTP, qui cherchent à garantir un salaire équitable, des conditions de travail sécuritaires, un travail à l’abri de la précarité, et des avantages sociaux décents pour tous les employés et toutes les employées des postes.

Malgré le fait que Postes Canada a enregistré des profits au courant des 16 dernières années, l’offre de la partie patronale entraînerait une diminution de 30 pour cent des salaires de tous les nouveaux employés des postes. Postes Canada voudrait aussi s’attaquer aux avantages sociaux des nouveaux employés ainsi qu’à leur sécurité d’emploi et à leurs pensions, tout en revenant sur des contrats de travail qui permettent aux travailleurs des postes de toucher un salaire décent et de prendre leur retraite dans la dignité.

Nous appuyons la grève des travailleurs et travailleuses des postes parce que nous reconnaissons que leur lutte est intimement reliée à notre combat pour une éducation accessible et de qualité. Les hausses des frais de scolarité et l’influence croissante du secteur privé sur nos universités publiques découlent du même ensemble de politiques qui s’en prend aux conditions de vie et d’emploi des employés des postes.

Dans la mesure où les services publics forment une composante essentielle d’une démocratie saine, nous saluons le travail du STTP, qui cherche à améliorer les services offerts à la population tout en régularisant le statut des employés précaires en augmentant le nombre d’employés à temps plein. Nous revendiquons avec eux davantage de livraisons de courrier à domicile, ce qui contribuera à lutter contre l’exclusion des personnes âgées et à mobilité réduite.

Nous demandons à Postes Canada de revenir sur son offre et de respecter les demandes légitimes du STTP. Nous encourageons aussi les regroupements étudiants à l’échelle du pays à exprimer leur solidarité avec le STTP et à entreprendre des actions concrètes de solidarité avec les travailleurs et travailleuses des postes alors qu’ils et elles font grève au nom de la dignité et de la justice.

Groupes appuyant la déclaration

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