Citizen Action Monitor

Call for postal workers to adopt socialist strategy in defiance of Liberals’ back-to-work law

In addition, postal workers must dump Union leadership and take full control of their struggle.

No 2397 Posted by fw, November 24, 2018

Following up on World Socialist author Keith Jones’ excellent account yesterday of the Liberal Government’s recent effort to bully Canada’s postal workers by tabling back-to-work legislation, in today’s repost, Jones’ colleague, Roger Jordan, weighs in with his account of the situation.

Here is my summary of the main points of Jordan’s article. Below the summary is my abridged repost of his full piece.

World Socialist author, Roger Jordan, calls on Canada’s working class to back 50,000 Canada Post workers in defiance of Liberal’s back-to-work legislation, Bill C-89. In addition, postal workers must dump Union leadership and take full control of their struggle. Workers must launch a working-class counteroffensive against Liberal’s coercive tactics. Moreover, government-owned Canada Post is demanding sweeping concessions from workers. The fact remains, Canada’s postal workers have to deal with demanding and dangerous working conditions. What’s more, pro-capitalist unions are now embedded in employer-state-union collaborations, and pro-capitalist governments at all levels, of all political persuasions, have imposed the capitalist agenda of big business on workers. To boot, the leadership of the Postal Union has adopted a right-wing strategy to keep its workers on a tight leash. To repeat — to achieve its demands, postal workers must break from CUPW and take control of their struggle. Jordan urges workers’ action committees to initiate a national strike with these 5 demands: 1) End the multi-tier wage system at Canada Post; 2) Full-time, permanent employment for all who desire it; 3) An immediate pay increase of 30 percent to compensate for the years of givebacks and below-inflation pay deals; 4) Workers’ control over the organization of work to reduce the unacceptable level of injuries on the job; and 5) The hiring of thousands of new postal workers to cover the increased demand placed on the service through online shopping, plus an end to all privatization of postal services. In closing, Jordan declares that these demands “can be realized only as part of a broader struggle by the working class for a socialist program.” Its goal – “… establishment of a workers government.”

Before getting to the repost, these personal thoughts. While I applaud Roger’s detailed account of the shameful tactics employed by Union leaders to keep postal workers on a tight rein, to expect 50,000 postal workers to break free of the leadership and take full control of their struggle, is, in my informed opinion, impractical and risky.

First, as one who has served as a project manager in academic institutions and federal government departments, the skill set required to get even small groups of employees to work cooperatively as a team is demanding, and includes, for example: setting time-framed expected outcomes; creating a detailed implementation plan with accompanying performance evaluation criteria, delegated responsibilities, and target deadlines; carrying out the plan; conducting follow-up progress reviews; and revising plans as necessary. To be fair, the “how-to” process was obviously beyond the scope of Roger’s intended frame of reference. Nevertheless, since the how-to process is frequently overlooked by people offering advice of the “must-do” kind, I decided it was worth mentioning.

Second, Roger does not assess the personal job security risks that would surely be incurred by 50,000 postal workers were they to break free of CUPW to launch a nation-wide strike.

Third, a prolonged national strike, especially at this gift-giving time of the year, is bound to alienate the public who will not appreciate the disruption to their gift giving and receiving expectations.

Fourth, workers who either own or are employed by small businesses will not be supportive of a strike that negatively affects their operation and cuts into their slim profit margins. Support for brother and sister postal workers will only go so far.

Below is my slightly abridged repost of Roger’s article, including my added subheadings, text highlighting and some bulleted reformatting. To read the article on the World Socialist Web Site, click on the following linked title.

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Canada Post workers need socialist strategy to defy and defeat Liberals’ back-to-work law, by Roger Jordan, World Socialist West Site, November 24, 2018

Call for Canada’s working people to back 50,000 Canada Post workers in defiance of Bill C-89

Working people across Canada must come to the defence of the 50,000 Canada Post workers whose months-long struggle against unsafe and precarious jobs, and shrinking real wages and pensions is now being criminalized by Liberal government back-to-work legislation.

All workers should support and encourage postal workers in defying the Liberals’ reactionary Bill C-89, recognizing that when postal workers challenge the state-employer assault on workers’ social and democratic rights they are fighting for the entire working class.

In addition, postal workers must dump Union leadership and take control of the struggle

To prevail over the Harper clone—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—and his big-business masters, mail-sorters, letter carries, and other postal workers must seize control of their struggle from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. CUPW has done everything in its power to limit and isolate the postal workers’ struggle, and now intends to meekly submit to the government’s dictates and order an end to any and all job action.

Workers must launch a working-class counteroffensive against Liberal’s coercive tactics

At every workplace, postal workers should form rank-and-file committees of action, entirely independent of CUPW, to organize an immediate all-out national strike. Defiance of the government’s strikebreaking legislation raises the need for an independent working-class political struggle. The rank-and-file action committees must fight to make the postal workers’ struggle the spearhead of a working-class counteroffensive against austerity and wage and job cuts, the dismantling of public services, and the criminalization of workers’ struggles.

Government-owned Canada Post is demanding sweeping concessions from workers

With the Liberals’ staunch support, Canada Post is demanding sweeping concessions from postal workers. These include increased use of temporary workers, below-inflation pay increases, and the further extension of “flexible” working arrangements, which force workers to be at management’s beck and call virtually 24/7.

Postal workers endure demanding and dangerous working conditions

Postal workers endure demanding and dangerous working conditions, including forced overtime and an accident rate that is more than five times the norm in federally regulated industries. Canada Post is using technological change to further increase postal workers’ workloads, while slashing jobs. Backed by the Conservative government’s 2011 back-to-work law, it slashed pension benefits and expanded multi-tier employment.

The conditions of precarious, unsafe, and low-paid employment facing Canada Post workers are those confronted by the vast majority of workers across Canada and internationally. Over the past three decades, workplace protections and benefits won in the mass struggles of the last century—struggles often mounted in open defiance of government and the courts—have been decimated by a joint onslaught by corporate Canada and its political hirelings.

Pro-capitalist unions are now embedded in employer-state-union collaborations

The pro-capitalist unions have responded to this class-war assault by suppressing working-class resistance, integrating themselves ever more completely into management, and by embedding themselves in tripartite (employer- state-union) collaboration.

Pro-capitalist governments at all levels, of all political parties, have imposed big business agendas on workers

Governments of every political stripe, including those led by the NDP and Parti Quebecois, have used a battery of anti-worker laws to impose big business’s austerity agenda. Strikes have effectively been outlawed in Canada. Bill C-89 is only the latest in literally dozens of strikebreaking laws adopted during the past quarter century. Last year, Ontario’s Liberal government illegalized a strike by college instructors, and the Quebec Liberals legislated 175,000 construction workers back to work. Teachers in Nova Scotia and Ontario, railway workers, York University teaching and research assistants, and Ontario elevator installers and maintenance workers have all been recent targets of antistrike laws.

Leadership of the Postal Union has adopted a right-wing strategy to keep its workers on a tight leash

The Liberal government and Canada Post management have been emboldened by CUPW’s bankrupt, right-wing strategy. Although armed with a massive rank-and-file vote sanctioning a national strike, the CUPW leadership has kept workers on a tight leash,

  • confining job action to limited one- and two-day rotating walkouts.
  • It refused to link postal workers’ contract fight to a broader struggle against the dismantling of public services by all levels of government. And, last but not least,
  • it maintained a deafening silence on the threat of a Liberal strikebreaking law, and
  • continued to suppress any discussion among postal workers about this threat and how they should respond long after Trudeau and his aides were publicly brandishing it.
  • On Friday, CUPW President Mike Palecek held a joint press conference with Hassan Yussuff, who heads the Canadian Labour Congress—the same CLC that campaigned for Trudeau’s election, that regularly boasts of its “unprecedented” access to the Liberal cabinet, and that hasn’t lifted a finger to defend striking workers anywhere for decades.
  • Even now, with normal parliamentary procedures suspended so Bill C-89 can be rammed into law, Palecek and the CUPW have refused to launch a national strike.
  • Instead, CUPW’s president has been boasting about how ineffectual the rotating walkouts are, and pleading, on that basis, for the Liberals to desist from illegalizing them.
  • With Yussuff at his side, Palecek declared, “People have been getting their mail and online orders delivered. That was the point of our rotating strike tactic.”
  • Fearing the eruption of a working-class upsurge it could not control, CUPW has deliberately avoided mobilizing the power of postal workers to resist Canada Post’s concessions demands.
  • Instead, Palecek has made bended-knee appeals to Trudeau, whose election CUPW hailed, to make good on his utterly fraudulent and vapid claims to support “progressive” policies.
  • Notwithstanding Palecek’s occasional militant bluster, this is precisely the same course taken by his right-wing predecessors in the CUPW leadership in 2011; and which resulted in the Harper Conservative government taking the offensive, criminalizing postal workers’ rotating strikes, and extorting pension cuts and other unprecedented rollbacks from postal workers.
  • There is yet another parallel. Like the CUPW leadership in 2011, Palecek is trying to justify the union’s enforcing of the strike law with the claim that it can be successfully resisted in the capitalist courts. Yet the court ruling that the Harper government violated postal workers’ constitutional rights took five years to secure, and even more tellingly reversed none of the sweeping concessions Canada Post imposed in the wake of the breaking of the 2011 strike.

To repeat — To achieve its demands, postal workers must break from CUPW and take control of their struggle

If Canada Post workers are to achieve their entirely justified demands, they must break politically and organizationally from CUPW and take their struggle into their own hands. Rank-and-file committees must be established in every sorting centre, post office and storage facility to organize an all-out nationwide strike and mobilize support from the entire working class.

In this fight, postal workers will confront the full force of the state and Canada Post management, and the complicity and duplicity of the union bureaucracy. But their allies, the Canadian and international working class, represent a much more powerful social force.

Postal workers should initiate a national strike with these 5 demands —

In initiating a national strike, the action committees should raise the following demands:

  • End the multi-tier wage system at Canada Post.
  • Full-time, permanent employment for all who desire it.
  • An immediate pay increase of 30 percent to compensate for the years of givebacks and below-inflation pay deals.
  • Workers’ control over the organization of work to reduce the unacceptable level of injuries on the job.
  • The hiring of thousands of new postal workers to cover the increased demand placed on the service through online shopping and an end to all privatization of postal services.

It’s time to replace a tiny minority of capitalist oligarchs with a “workers’ government”

These demands can be realized only as part of a broader struggle by the working class for a socialist program. Its goal must be the establishment of a workers’ government, which would deploy society’s vast resources so as to meet human needs, including ensuring decent-paying, secure jobs for all, not further enrich a tiny minority of capitalist oligarchs.

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