Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another CUPW Screwup

As soon as the rotating strikes were announced, employees were blindsided by Canada Post's contention that since the collective agreement was no longer in force and so they didn't have to cover benefits. Thus, employees found that drug plans, other health coverage, life insurance, and of course pension payments were no longer in place.

It is, I suspect, the union's belief that since these strikes are rotating, then employees who are still on the job should be entitled to their benefits. I haven't gone looking through the Canada Labour Code with a lawyer's eye for detail, but I have gone to an excellent review site, and find that... well, I don't really find much of anything. As far as I can tell, this particular situation hasn't been addressed.

Here are some aspects of employee status that are put at risk by a strike or lockout because they depend upon the resulting collective agreement. However, some aspects of employment are so fundamental they ought not to be put unduly at risk by a work stoppage. These include pension and insurance rights. Says the appropriate page:

Section 94(3)(d) prohibits an employer from denying to any employee any pension rights or benefits to which the employee would be entitled but for the cessation of work by the employee as the result of a lockout or strike that is not prohibited by Part I of the Code. The Code merely preserves pension and other benefits enjoyed or acquired prior to discontinuing work.

This is appropriate and should continue. Some provinces also protect insurance rights which are frequently provided through employer group plans. Employees with families are dependent on these plans for basic securities like life insurance, medical, dental or disability coverage and so on. It is often difficult, if not impossible, for employees to make alternate arrangements. Employees should be free to continue paying the full cost of premiums through their union, and the employers should be required to allow such benefits to continue.


For the duration of a strike or lockout, employees through their union should be entitled to maintain employer-administered or third party insurance or similar benefit programs without interruption by the insurer or employer. This option should be conditional on the employees or union paying the full premium costs of such benefit plans.

It says nothing about rotating strikes, but it is eminently clear about other situations: CPC employees would still have all of their benefits if CUPW had made prior arrangements for payments to continue to be made, or, if that was too onerous a financial burden, if they had allowed employees to make their own informed decision about whether or not to continue paying for coverage. And then they should have announced their intention to grieve this decision by CPC. To accept that something is going to happen is not the same as admitting that it is correct. Look out for all aspects of your members' rights and health from the front end and continue the fight on all other aspects as it goes along.

CUPW has announced that CPC will reinstate prescription drug coverage, with a $100 deductible and 80% coverage, which, for employees who themselves or have family members with chronic conditions, is better than a kick in the head with a hob nail boot. Unfortunately, the conditions of it don't allow either side to shine especially bright.

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