Agassiz postal workers join Canada Post strike, push for equality to urban carriers

Local workers say pay equity, health and safety top issues

Agassiz may only have three Canada Post rural-routers, but its employees have no shortage of frustrations.

With concerns ranging from equal pay and overtime hours to worker injuries and even uniforms, there was no question for Agassiz members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) local 741 when it came time to join more than a dozen cities in rotating strikes across Canada.

The local workers started their 24-hour strike Monday at 8 a.m. and say it will end Tuesday at the same time.

Sandee Saamanen, a rural suburban mail carrier (RSMC) in Agassiz, said some top issues for rural workers are pay equity, overtime, pensions and health and safety.

“Policies need to be updated because we are becoming more of a parcel delivery [service],” she said, adding that rural Canada Post workers often pick up where larger delivery services stop – DHL, FedEx and LUMOS won’t deliver to all rural locations and rely on Canada Post carriers to take parcels the final kilometres.

Melissa Leverrier, a relief letter carrier based in Chilliwack, echoed Saamanen’s health and safety concerns.

Canada Post workers deal with back, hip, shoulder injuries and repetitive ergonomic strains from repetitive motions or heavy lifting, she said.

“We are getting injured out there all the time and they are putting more pressure on us, giving us more – a bigger workload.”

Related: Canada Post workers go on strike in Chilliwack

With some workers on salaries and others paid hourly, rural workers like Saamanen feel they aren’t paid fairly for overtime work – and according to CUPW, RSMCs are paid for estimated time, instead of how many hours they actually work – just another disparity between suburban and urban postal workers.

That’s why something as seemingly trivial as uniforms is on the negotiating table.

“She has a different uniform than I, but honestly we’re all doing the same thing, why does it have to be like that?” said Leverrier, in reference to Saamanen, a rural worker. “It’s just another small step towards equality.”

Postal workers from Chilliwack picketed in Rosedale Monday to show support for the smaller post offices in the Valley. (Submitted)

“Why make their rate of pay any different? It should all be done the same.”

Peter Butcher, president of the Upper Valley local of Canadian Union of Postal Worker told the Observer the issues can, for the most part, be simplified to issues of inequality.

“We’re looking at more equality. You work an hour, you get paid an hour. You work overtime, you get paid overtime,” he said. “We want an hourly rate of pay. And we want the same benefits.”

CUPW’s website lists other “inequalities” it hopes to eliminate such as: guaranteed minimum hours, post-retirement benefits, job security, worker absence coverage and pay for work-related injuries.

Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton told Black Press the company remains “committed to the bargaining process” and that a federally-appointed mediator is helping with negotiations.

Hamilton said the employer had made “significant” offers to the union, including better wages, benefits, and job security, without asking for concessions.

But that didn’t stopped workers from striking across the Lower Mainland Monday, where postal workers walked off the job in Surrey, Maple Ridge, Langley, Abbotsford Mission and Aldergrove, among other B.C. cities and towns.

Leverrier may be considered a suburban worker, but said the strike is about equality more than anything and requires support from both sides.

“We are all striking together, doesn’t matter which side we’re on,” she said. “We’re in this fight together.”

Related: 3,400 Metro Vancouver postal workers go on strike

With files from Katya Slepian.

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