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Rotating postal strike rolls through rural Nova Scotia

Geof Turner is the president of the Annapolis Valley Local #6 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers which began its strike rotation Nov. 8. “We want to make sure the post office is something that’s going to last and continue being strong for a long time. The way things are set up now – things have to change,” he says.
Geof Turner is the president of the Annapolis Valley Local #6 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers which began its strike rotation Nov. 8. “We want to make sure the post office is something that’s going to last and continue being strong for a long time. The way things are set up now – things have to change,” he says. - Sara Ericsson

The union of postal workers’ rotating strike turned toward rural Nova Scotia at midnight on Thursday, Nov. 7.

“I’ve been here since midnight,” said Nicola Boone, the president of Local 087 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, outside the post office in New Glasgow. 

CUPW, which represents 50,000 employees, began the rotating strike at midnight, Oct. 22, after negotiators for the union and Crown corporation failed to reach a deal. Thursday's job action affected mail delivery in Turo, New Glasgow, Pictou, Antigonish, Port Hawkesbury, Sydney, Annapolis Valley, Bridgewater, Liverpool, as well as communities in Cumberland and Yarmouth counties. 

The rotating strike began after negotiators with the union and Canada Post were unable to reach agreement of terms on the new contract. Workers have been without a contract for 11 months.

Among the unsettled items in the dispute is increased support for employees sustaining injuries. Increased workload and poorly determined routes are being blamed for an increase in injuries.

“Injuries across the country are higher than ever because of the overburdening,” says Yarmouth Local 138 Union representative Jeff Cook.

“Not just shin splints,” says Boone, who works as a mail carrier in New Glasgow. “When I go home at night, I’m crippled. We have to do our routes, but afterwards our life is pretty much miserable.”

Geof Turner walks 25 kilometres per day on his postal routes in Kentville.

He says new routes and added deliveries mean he’s walking a much longer distance than normal, and that most of his fellow letter carriers walk at least 20 kilometres.

Turner is the president of CUPW's Annapolis Valley chapter, which received instructions to begin its strike rotation Nov. 8. He says the added pressure on Annapolis Valley workers — and others across the province — is not sustainable and must change.

“We want to make sure the post office is something that’s going to last and continue being strong for a long time. The way things are set up now — things have to change,” he says.

Turner says longer routes and a lack of understanding from Canada Post of the extra time these require are chief among the concerns of Annapolis Valley workers.

He says added deliveries such as a new flyer system, which works on a three-day cycle and requires workers to walk to houses on top of their daily routes, are what have driven up his kilometre count.

Another sticking point has been the issue of wage parity between urban letter carriers and their colleagues delivering mail in rural and suburban areas.

"They get paid less but they're doing the same job," said Boone back in New Glasgow. Her local, which represents 65 employees, extends to Sheet Harbour, Tangier and Moser River.

The job action is set to continue until Nov. 9 at midnight.  

 “So far, my direction is that we picket until 12 a.m. tonight, and then we’ll be told whether we’re extended or not.” 

  • WITH FILES FROM THE TRI COUNTY VANGUARD AND KINGS COUNTY NEWS

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