During any labor dispute, unions have to deal with the fact that the corporate press is one of the most powerful weapons that management has. Vanessa Lu’s article (“Canada Post blasts union demands” Toronto Star, May 24, 2011) illustrates this clearly. Lu reported that according to Canada Post (CPC) the union’s latest contract proposal adds $1.4 billion in costs. The union represents 48,000 workers according to Lu’s article. Therefore management’s $1.4 billion figure works out to about $8333 per worker per year during the 3.5 year life of the contract.  Given that postal workers now earn $24 per hour, that works out to a raise of about 16.6% per year. In fact, the union has asked for a 3.5% per year wage increase. Canada Post responded offering 2% per year.  The 1.5% differential that separates the union and management cannot add up to anything remotely near $1.4 billion. It’s also worth remembering that Canada Post has bragged about its consistent profitability over the past 16 years.
I emailed Vanessa Lu and her editor (Dianne Rinehart) asking them if they asked for – or were provided – any details about how Canada Post’s management arrived at the $1.4 billion figure. They have yet to reply.
Very careful readers, who check over articles like Vanessa Lu’s with a calculator, could piece together what is really going on. The union has rejected massive cuts demanded by management – in particular a 22% wage cut for new employees and other concessions on time off and workplace safety.  But with the help of the TorStar and other newspapers, Canada Post’s management has presented the union’s rejection of huge concessions (perhaps the $1.4 billion figure is management’s target) as a demand for an extremely hefty raise. This is somewhat reminiscent of the way the media spread the lie that North American autoworkers make $75 per hour – more than double their actual wage.
Not only do article’s like Vanessa Lu’s routinely fail to consider the extent to which concessions by unionized workers drive down the bargaining power of all workers, they don’t even get basic facts straight – like whether workers are asking for a raise or rejecting concessions.
Denis Lemelin, CUPW National President, explained:
“For us this negotiation is about fixing health & safety problems, solving staffing and route measurement problems, and having a safe and reasonable work method — real everyday working conditions. We want to solve these things in negotiation because our members are being overburdened and hurt every day at work.”
However, Canada Post knows that they can count on the media to fixate on the price tag, even if it’s wildly inaccurate.
1) Contact the Toronto Star
email@example.com, (Vanessa Lu)
firstname.lastname@example.org, (Dianne Rinehart)
2) Contact the Canadian Government asking them not to legislate an unfair contract on postal workers
Prime Minister Harper – email@example.com,
 Another article published in the TorStar (“Canada Post Corp. rejects union's latest offer”, May 24, LuAnn Lasalle) reported “’The union's offer would add $1.4 billion of new costs to Canada Post over the life of the contract and provides no compromises to address the challenges facing the company,’ Canada Post said in a statement.”