Postal workers live and
work amongst us, and play an
important role in the
Canadian economy. They are
our friends, relatives, and
colleagues who interact with
us every day in the course
of delivering mail and
providing other services.
Currently, postal workers across Canada are locked in a dispute with their employer, Canada Post, which is a crown corporation and which is demanding major concessions. As often happens in such disputes, various high government officials and media pundits have stepped up their attacks on these workers in an attempt to turn public opinion against them and their struggle.
But there are some very good reasons to support these workers. Here are three of them.
First of all, contrary to what various Canada Post officials are claiming, postal workers are not a "cost of production" that are some kind of "burden" on "taxpayers". Labour acting on nature is the source of all new added value. Postal workers, through their labour, create tremendous amounts of new value for the economy, just as mill workers do, and just as other transportation and communication workers do. Indeed, as a crown corporation, Canada Post has consistently makes profits over the last few years, despite the fact that electronic mail usage has grown significantly. The contribution of postal workers to the creation of this new value should be praised, not belittled.
Secondly, postal workers are fighting against major concessions that Canada Post is demanding be imposed on them, including drastically reducing the starting wages and benefits for new employees, undermining health and safety provisions, cutting back staffing to the extent that efficient mail service is being compromised, and so on. It is very important in the present economic situation that both public and private sector workers resist such concessions, as they are part of the campaign of the big banks and big business to shift the burden of the economic and financial crisis onto the backs of workers and other sections of people, whether it is in Canada, the U.S. or other countries.
We are seeing the effects of the slashing of wages, pensions, and benefits in quite dramatic form in the U.S. economy which has stalled and, many feel, is in deep trouble. Even some establishment pundits are admitting that the deep cuts in purchasing power of millions of workers has contributed to a situation whereby the U.S. economy can't get back on its feet. Low wages mean low purchasing power. More concessions will only add to the problem, whether it is in Canada or the U.S.
Thirdly, postal workers have taken a strong stand to keep Canada Post as a public enterprise. Having key infrastructure, such as the post office and rail, in public hands is an important aspect in building and maintaining a national economy, as well as the fabric of the country itself. It is especially crucial in a world which is increasingly dominated by global corporations and banks that move around the world like pirates and have no allegiance to communities, regions or even countries.
Despite denials, there are various signs that the new Canada Post CEO and the Harper government want to privatize the more profitable sections of the corporation and end universal mail service. This is irresponsible and would damage, not only the economy, but the integrity of the nation. We have already seen what has happened with the privatization of CN Rail and, more recently, BC Rail. Crucial national and provincial rail infrastructure is now in the hands of foreign investors and financiers.
There comes a point, in a vast country such as Canada, when, if you continue to chop up public infrastructure and sell off national institutions, the country itself becomes unglued and loses its reason to exist.
Those business leaders who echo the calls for privatization of the post office, should talk to some of the mill, mine, coal and grain companies about the problems they are experiencing with rail service and rail rates, now that they are at the mercy of the foreign-owned CN Rail monopoly. Privatization of the post office would create even bigger problems, especially with pricing and service outside the big city centres such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
For all of the above reasons and more, Canada Post management should drop its demands for concessions from postal workers, and it should especially throw the privatization idea out the window. Postal workers deserve decent wages, benefits, and working conditions, and Canada Post needs to remain a key public enterprise that serves as one of the bulwarks of our country.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org