Postal workers pledge to move bees, chicks if striking

Postal workers are taking strike votes this month across the country

Canada Post and its unionized staff have agreed to set up a system in which workers would volunteer to move live animals, such as day-old chicks or bees, during a strike or lockout.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) announced June 14 it has a new agreement with the Crown corporation to move and deliver social assistance and pension cheques in case of a work stoppage.

Agreements have been reached between CUPW and Canada Post ahead of previous potential work stoppages to deliver government payments to seniors and people with low incomes.

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Close up view of the working bees on honeycells.

However, an agreement that also includes commitments to “ensure that live animals are not trapped in the event of a strike or lockout” is new, the union said in a release.

“We don’t want the most vulnerable people in our society — pensioners and those living on low incomes — to suffer because postal workers might get locked out or forced out,” CUPW national president Mike Palecek said in the release.

“Nor do we want a repeat of what happened in 2011, when managers locked us out for two weeks, trapping animals such as bees and baby chicks in the system.”

According to media reports during the 2011 lockout, postal staff were allowed into warehouses to track down such live cargo; a Canada Post spokesperson was quoted at the time as saying all such cargo, to the corporation’s knowledge, was found.

The new agreement, signed by representatives from the company and union and dated June 11, calls for Canada Post to “develop a mechanism for segregating or tracking live animals prior to a possible strike or lockout.”

It also binds the corporation to consult with CUPW on “procedures that will be put in place to ensure that live animals are not trapped in the mail system.”

Volunteer CUPW workers would provide up to two days of delivery each month and would get honorariums of $50 per day for such duties, the agreement said.

CUPW has scheduled strike vote meetings across the country between May 28 and June 26.

The union, in its release, said Canada Post seeks “a raft of concessions” in contract talks and has “budged very little in negotiations over the past months,” while CUPW “is seeking equal pay for its female-dominated rural members.”

According to Canada Post, live animals don’t travel by mail unless the sender has a prior agreement in place with the Crown corporation before mailing.

Certain animals, such as bees, day-old chicks, parasites, leeches and “some other small cold-blooded animals” may be mailed within Canada “under certain conditions,” Canada Post added.

Animals in such cases must be free of disease and must be packaged according to Canada Post’s specifications. Such packages also must be clearly labelled as to their contents, using language laid out by Canada Post.

Among other requirements, hatcheries moving chicks by mail also must be registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s hatchery program. Chicks must be shipped by surface using Expedited Parcel service — and must only be shipped if they can be delivered within 36 hours, ruling out certain remote locations.

Bees, on the other hand, can be moved via Priority, Xpresspost, Expedited Parcel or Regular Parcel services. Bee colonies can only be shipped between March 1 and Oct. 31 by surface using Regular or Expedited Parcel services; queen bees and no more than eight attendants may be shipped between April 1 and Oct. 31 by Priority service. Certain remote locations are also ruled out for bees.

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