Going postal

Hear that? Mail is starting to land again across Canada.

As grumpy-looking members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) lope from address to address, bags overflowing with junk mail and the odd actual letter, it’s a good time to reflect on who won, and who didn’t, in The Great Postal Strike/Lockout of 2011.

Mostly, I think, lots of folks lost. But a winner can be seen in the rubble, too.

Before we start handing out the bouquets and the brickbats, full disclosure: I know, like and/or have worked for just about everybody in the postal drama.

In one of her past incarnations, I’ve advised Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, and I like her quite a lot. I’m friends with Brian Topp, the NDP president. I’ve also acted as a labour lawyer for CUPW, who always paid their bills on time. And, when in government, I was chief of staff to the minister responsible for Canada Post.

My colleagues and I called them “the evil empire” — because they were secretive and arrogant. For instance: In 1994, I told the president of Canada Post, Georges Clermont, the prime minister would like to see the Canadian flag being flown again at postal outlets in Quebec. The corporation, you see, had taken down the flag during the Mulroney years.

Clermont refused, point blank. “It will offend some people in Quebec,” he said.

Is that so, Georges? Suffice to say the maple leaf has flown in Quebec ever since.

But I digress. After a House of Commons filibuster lasting nearly 60 hours, and after a lockout that lasted nearly two weeks, it is clear Lisa Raitt was the winner.

As she had done in the Air Canada strike that preceded it, Raitt handled the postal dispute with confidence and calm. She didn’t give the impression she favoured management over labour — and, in fact, her talking points always seemed to suggest she was on the side of Canadians and Canadian small business, and she was impatient with both sides. She did a good job.

Big Dippers?

Brian Topp says the NDP won by being “muscular” and standing up to the Tories. In reality, the Dippers lost — big time. Shortly after the May 2 election, the New Dems were in a hurry to convince the rest of us they were moving towards the centre. They talked about ditching socialism, and reaching out to unhappy Liberal voters.

But then along came the postal labour dispute. With their obstructionism in the House of Commons, the NDP lurched left, and gave us every reason to believe they still favour union power over people power. The New Democrats may remain popular in Quebec — but I guarantee their one-sided filibuster tactics did them no favours in the rest of Canada.

Also losers: CUPW and Canada Post. The union, on the one hand, ended up being forced to take less than they had been previously offered. Management, on the other hand, single-handedly convinced citizens Canada Post isn’t nearly as important as it once was.

E-mail, texting, Facebook, FedEx, UPS and the like are way more important to us than Canada Post, now. And that’s the special-delivery message to the losers in this fight: Canada Post may have ceased operations for quite a while.

But few of us, I suspect, even noticed.


1 Comment

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