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Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Gas price burden on rural mail carriers; also harms environment

By Gabriela Calugay-Casuga - Rabble, July 4, 2022

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) claims that Canada Post is placing an undue burden on Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) that is also harming the environment. As Canadians from coast to coast are feeling the pinch at the pumps, RSMCs are paying out of their own pockets to do their delivery routes. RSMC vehicles are left out of Canada Post’s plan to move their fleet to electric, which means that there is no end in sight. 

As the thousands of RSMCs continue to shoulder the burden of gas, they struggle to serve the more than 8,000 routes they cover. In 2021, over six million Canadian residents, or 17.8 per cent of the population, lived in rural areas, according to Statistics Canada. Including relief employees, there are more than 11,000 RSMCs who cover 8,129 routes, according to CUPW National President Jan Simpson. 

Amidst rising gas prices, CUPW members launched a petition urging the government to act on the high gas prices. 

“The members who initiated the petition tell us that the additional cost for gas cuts into their earnings, and that some of them have to consider changing jobs because they can’t afford to keep delivering the mail,” Simpson said in an email to rabble.ca. “It’s an extra burden on top of the costs of maintenance and insurance to keep their own vehicles on the road for work.” 

According to a press release by CUPW, RSMCs are currently compensated for their mileage up to the CRA cap for non-taxable automobile allowances for 2022, which is 61 cents per kilometer up to 5000 kilometers. The release says that this cap was set in December 2021, which means it is based on 2021 inflation figures. 

The tax-exempt per-kilometer allowance limit is reviewed annually against inflation to ensure that it continues to roughly reflect the average costs involved in business driving. Any changes to cost components that arise during a year will typically be reflected in the limit that applies in the following year.

Simpson said that RSMCs collectively drive more than four million kilometers daily. She calculated that at an average consumption of 13 liters per 100km, that would be more than 62,000 liters of fuel used daily.

“This burden does not belong on the individual worker,” Simpson said. 

The large amount of fuel used by RSMCs falls under Canada Post’s Scope 3 emissions, which means they are not considered direct emissions caused by Canada Post. Scope 3 is supposed to be for emissions by contractors and suppliers that Canada Post does not have control over. Simpson said, Canada Post makes the routes, and tracks the distances for compensation. 

CUPW said in their press release that RSMC emissions should be included in Scope 1 which encompasses emissions that Canada Post is directly responsible for. 

Due to the classification of RSMC vehicle emissions, the more than 11,000 RSMCs are left out of Canada Post’s plan to move to electric vehicles. This means Canada Post RSMCs will continue to use tens of thousands of liters of fuel daily. This not only maintains the cost burden on workers, it also means that Canada Post will not truly have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Simpson said that the burden of responsibility should shift from the worker to the corporation. 

“If Canada Post Corporation were responsible for equipping RSMCs with vehicles and fuel, then the workers wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of the gas they need to do their job,” Simpson said. “It would also bring the RSMCs’ emissions into CPC’s scope 1 emissions, which would increase their incentive to electrify more of the delivery fleet. Or there may be other solutions we could find to make Canada Post responsible for rising fuel costs, which would also increase their incentive to improve fuel economy and emissions.”

A Tale of Two Mobilizations: South Asian Truckers Build Class Solidarity, “Freedom Convoy” Builds Fascism

By Jeff Shantz - libcom.com, February 17, 2022

Over the end of January and into the first weeks of February 2022, the Canadian state’s otherwise sleepy capital, Ottawa, became a focus of international attention as thousands of truckers and their supporters drove into the city as part of a far Right mobilization calling itself Freedom Convoy 2022. That such a large far Right force could occupy the downtown of a major city for weeks raised alarm among residents and observers and kicked of numerous questions and debates among anarchists, leftists, and working class people more generally. What was the makeup of the convoy? Were they actually working class? What did the mobilization say about the failures of unions and the political left? What sorts of organizing was required to counter the growth of the far Right in Canada over the last several years?

At the same time as the Freedom Convoy was organizing and then carrying out its occupation, other mobilizations of rank-and-file truckers were also taking place which targeted specific companies and making and winning demands that directly benefited truckers—with little to no media attention or discussion. These trucker mobilizations were organized by South Asian truckers (predominantly Punjabi) and they pose compelling models for rank-and-file organizing, and community solidarity, and real working class answers to the questions raised by the Freedom Convoy.

A Far Right Road Show

Some labour union reflections on COP26

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, December 17, 2021

In “After Glasgow : Canadian Labour Unions Confront The Most Exclusionary COP Conference In History” (Our Times, Dec. 16), Sune Sandbeck and Sari Sairanen of Unifor describe their experiences as union delegates to the events – where unionists and even some countries were vastly outnumbered by the 503 delegates from the fossil fuel industry . The article asserts that, despite much disappointment in the COP26 results,

“Trade unions were instrumental in securing the Just Transition Declaration, whose signatories included Canada, France, Germany, the UK, the European Union and the U.S. And although just transition was omitted from early draft texts being negotiated, it would eventually make its way into vital passages of the final agreement. In fact, the Canadian labour delegation played a key role by drafting last-minute text proposals that would see just transition included in a crucial paragraph in the final COP26 decision.”

The article names the following unions who sent representatives as the Canadian labour delegation at COP26 : the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC ), the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Unifor, the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE), the United Steelworkers (USW), and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada.

COP26: workers must focus on solutions, not empty promises

By staff - Canadian Union of Public Employees, November 17, 2021

World leaders – including Canada’s Justin Trudeau – have again sadly under-performed with their feeble response to the climate emergency at COP26. There is little doubt that leadership from our governments is too weak, and that the influence of polluters on them is too strong. But despite the disappointing results of these international discussions, we must not lose hope. Unions and workers must now focus their energies on real solutions and centre our efforts on creating better ways of working that cut greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

COP26 wrapped up in Glasgow, Scotland, with a mild new agreement that will not hold global temperatures from rising more than 1.5℃. The planet is currently on track to warm 2.7℃ by the end of this century.

We now need to focus even more, and concretely, on job creation that results from greening our economy. For example, CUPE is partnered with the Green Economy Network that calls for job growth in low-carbon, public energy and transportation. Jobs can also be created that will help communities adapt to climate change through reforesting urban spaces and re-naturalizing waterfronts and coastlines. Cutting waste, bolstering recycling, and composting programs all grow good jobs. Plus, all CUPE jobs can be altered to cut emissions. Just Transition programs are necessary to protect workers and communities in these important and necessary changes.

Before COP26, CUPE participated in a Trade Union Task Force. The Trade Union Program for a Public Low-Carbon Energy Future was launched in Glasgow at the start of the COP26 to rally the international trade union movement to support a fundamental shift in climate and energy policy centred on a socially-just energy transition.

A people’s summit was also organized by environmental and development NGOs, trade unions, grassroots community campaigners, faith groups, youth groups, migrant and racial justice networks and others. That summit convened a diverse and impressive series of discussions outlining solutions working people can advocate for and pressure governments to support. The strengthening of broad social justice coalitions calling for real climate change solutions is a positive outcome of the COP process.

While COP26 under-delivered in stemming the phase-out of coal and fossil fuels that are at the root of the climate crisis, it has again inspired workers and other social justice and climate activists to invest their energy toward real solutions.

Canada’s Strategy for Greening Government needs improvement, and Canada Post sets unambitious targets

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, August 30, 2021

Although the federal government is directly responsible for only 0.3% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (mostly through its buildings and fleet operations), it also has the potential to act as a model for emissions reductions by other governments and corporations. Yet surprisingly, federal government emissions have risen by 11% since 2015 (after falling between 2005 and 2015), according toLeading the Way? A critical assessment of the federal Greening Government Strategy, released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in early August.

The report describes and critiques how the Green Government Strategy works. It identifies three main problem areas: 1. The Strategy doesn’t include the biggest public emitters, such as the Department of National Defence, nor federal Crown corporations like Canada Post, Via Rail and Canada Development Investment Corporation; 2. there is a lack of urgency and specificity in the Strategy itself; and 3. there is inadequate support for the public service to administer the Strategy, and to manage its own workplace operations. The report states: “Public service unions have a role to play in pushing for these sorts of changes to reduce workplace emissions, including through the appointment of workplace green stewards and the inclusion of green clauses in collective bargaining.”

Canada Post, one of the Crown Corporations mentioned in the Leading the Way report, released its Net Zero 2050 Roadmap on August 6, setting goals to:

  • “reduce scope 1 (direct) and scope 2 GHG emissions (from the generation of purchased electricity) by 30 per cent by 2030, measured against 2019 levels;
  • use 100 per cent renewable electricity in its facilities by 2030; and
  • engage with top suppliers and Canada Post’s subsidiaries so that 67% of suppliers (by spend) and all subsidiaries adopt a science-based target by 2025.”

In reaction to the Net Zero Roadmap, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a press release, “Canada Post’s Unambitious Emissions Targets Disappoint CUPW” , which highlights that the newly-released Roadmap calls only for 220 electric vehicles in a fleet of over 14,000. CUPW offers more details about its goals for electrifying the fleet in its Brief to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on Bill C-12 in May, and sets out its broader climate change proposals in its updated Delivering Community Power plan.

Regarding the Canada Post delivery fleet: The Canada Post Sustainability Report of 2020 reports statistics which reveal that Canada Post has favoured hybrid vehicles, with more than 353 new hybrid electric vehicles added in 2020, bringing the total number of “alternative propulsion vehicles” in the fleet to 854, or 6.5%. Canada Post pledges to use other means to reduce delivery emissions, for example by using telematics to optimize routing, to use electric trikes for last-mile delivery (see a CBC story re the Montreal pilot here), and by piloting electric vehicle charging stations for employees at mail processing plants in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, and at the Ottawa head office. Canada Post is also a member of the Pembina Institute’s Urban Delivery Solutions Initiative (USDI), a network which also includes environmental agencies and courier companies, to research emissions reduction in freight delivery.

Gearing Up for Bargaining, Canadian Union Pushes for a Greener, Better Postal Service

By Derek Seidman - Labor Notes, June 2, 2021

With its contracts expiring in 2022, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is stepping up the fight for its own vision of the post office of the future.

It’s a model for exactly the kind of Green New Deal campaign that U.S. unions should be launching now for a post-Covid economic recovery.

For several years, CUPW and its allies have proposed a visionary plan called Delivering Community Power. It advances a big but simple idea: take Canada Post, an institution that’s already publicly owned and embedded in communities, and reinvent it to drive a just transition into a post-carbon economy.

The post office would help to jump-start green vehicle production and infrastructure; it would provide free Internet access for all; it would create a nationwide system of public banking. And all these measures would help to shore up and expand the post office as a unionized, community-centered alternative to the proliferation of Amazon delivery vans.

You can’t fix what’s meant to be broken

By D'Arcy Briggs - Spring, April 22, 2021

Regarding the battle against climate change, there is a common liberal argument that says we simply need an improvement in technology, or to push market investments to companies already producing this kind of tech. We’re seeing a boom in renewable energy investment, with many groups clamoring to add these companies to their portfolios. But this push towards new technologies doesn’t exist in an economic vacuum. They are directly informed by the labour processes which create them. No matter how many wind farms or electric cars we create, capitalism will necessarily find a way to destroy us.

Because capitalism is in a constant state of over-production, there is a drive to replace old goods with new ones. If we were happy with the amount and quality of products we fill our lives with, and if we could replace them among our own means, consumer capitalism wouldn’t be able to exist. I think this is pretty self evident and we can easily relate. We are constantly bombarded with ads for new products: phones with better cameras, computers with faster processors, cars with stronger engines, etc. Capitalism can’t function in a world with clean, ‘green,’ energy. It can’t function in a world where the working class are given the tools to function and thrive. Simply put, you can’t fix what’s meant to be broken.

$17.6 Billion announced for Green Recovery in Canada’s new Budget- but still not enough to meet the Climate Emergency

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, April 20, 2021

On April 19, the federal government tabled its much-anticipated 2021 Budget, titled A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience, announcing $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion a year afterward to create and maintain early learning and child-care programs – stating: “It is the care work that is the backbone of our economy. Just as roads and transit support our economic growth, so too does child care”. COVID-19 wage subsidy, rent subsidy and lockdown support programs will be extended until September, depending on how long the crisis continues, the maximum sickness benefit period for Employment Insurance will be extended from 12 to 26 weeks, and a new Canada Recovery Hiring Program will provide employers with funding to hire new workers between June 6, 2021 and November 20, 2021. A new $15 federal minimum wage will apply in federally regulated private businesses.

Green Recovery and the Climate Emergency: The Budget still falls short

In an article in Policy Options in March, Mitchell Beer laid out the challenge: Chrystia Freeland must pick a lane with next budget – climate change or oil and gas? Climate activists laid out what they were looking for in Investing for Tomorrow, Today: How Canada’s Budget 2021 can enable critical climate action and a green recovery , published on March 29 and endorsed by nine of Canada’s leading environmental organizations: Pembina Institute, Nature Canada, Climate Action Network Canada, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre, Leadnow, and Wilderness Committee. 

Yet it appears that the federal Budget is still trying to maintain one foot on the oil and gas pedal, while talking about GHG emissions and clean technologies. The reactions below indicate such concerning elements – incentives on the unproven technologies of carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, no signs of an end to fossil fuel subsidies, no mention of a Just Transition Act, and, despite hopes that the Prime Minister would announce an ambitious target at the U.S. Climate Summit convened by President Biden, a weak new GHG reduction target increasing to only 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Budget summary announces “$17.6 billion in a green recovery that will help Canada to reach its target to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s lands and oceans by 2025, exceed its Paris climate targets and reduce emissions by 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and move forward on a path to reach net-zero emission by 2050.” This Backgrounder summarizes some of the Green Recovery highlights, which include :

  • $4.4 billion to support retrofitting through interest-free loans to homeowners, up to $40,000
  • $14.9 billion over eight years for a new, permanent public transit fund
  • $5 billion over seven years, to support business ventures through the Net Zero Accelerator program – which aims to decarbonize large emitters in key sectors, including steel, aluminum, cement—and to accelerate the adoption of clean technology. Examples given are aerospace and automobile manufacture industry.
  • $319 million over seven years “to support research and development that would improve the commercial viability of carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies.” This would be in the form of an investment tax credit, with the goal of reducing emissions by at least 15 megatonnes of CO2 annually.
  • a temporary reduction by half in corporate income tax rates for qualifying zero-emission technology manufacturers, such as solar and wind energy equipment, electric vehicle charging systems, hydrogen refuelling stations for vehicles, manufacturing of equipment used for the production of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, production of hydrogen by electrolysis of water and others
  • $63.8 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Public Safety Canada to work with provinces and territories to complete flood maps for higher-risk areas.
  • $2.3 billion over five years to conserve up to 1 million square kilometers more land and inland waters, and an additional $200 million to build natural infrastructure like parks, green spaces, ravines, waterfronts, and wetlands.

Retooling Our World for the Future

By staff - Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change - June 24, 2020

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists joined Green Jobs Oshawa’s first “Retooling Our World for the Future” Summit; a summit for community leaders, environmentalists, labour and social justice advocates all working towards the common goal of public ownership and repurposing our world and jobs for socially beneficial manufacturing. Here is the link to the video of the summit and a description of the speakers on Youtube.

Take the Plant Save the Planet (pamphlet)

By Green Jobs Oshawa - Socialist Project, March 22, 2020

On November 26, 2018, General Motors announced a number of plant closures in North America, the largest of which was in Oshawa, Ontario. The Oshawa facility, once the largest auto complex on the continent, was to end all its assembly operations by the end of 2019.

The issue is not simply a matter of bringing the environmental movement and the labour movement together; each must be transformed if the sum is to be more than the currently limited parts. The environmental movement must raise itself to a new level by concretely engaging the working class and the labour movement must escape what for it has become an existential crisis. The threats and opportunities of the environmental crisis offer a chance for labour revival, but only if this incorporates a renewed approach to organizing, struggle, radical politics, and the maximization of informed membership participation.

Read the report (PDF).

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