When Action Defies Logic – A Canadian Postal Strike

Canada Post LLV in service
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An interesting look at some of the facts and issues around the current Canada Post labour dispute:

Canada Post‘s  usage is down by 17%.  

If there is a postal strike what do you think will happen?  That’s right, more people will find a way to do without Canada Post services.  Yes, we all still have some component of ‘snail mail’ in our lives, but the withdrawal of services will encourage us to limit our usage even further.  A strike will certainly increase public support for more e-services and a wider reach of broadband internet to rural areas, but not create a demand for more people based services.  I bet with a strike we could see the decrease in usage get to over 20% this year.  Less usage equals less revenue for the corporation which equals less postal workers employed.

However, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is pushing for a strike.  Given that it is counter-intuitive to job security, there must be some real issues facing these employees, let’s look:

1) CUPW has Wage increase demands of 3.3% in 2011 and 2.75% each of the following year (2012, 2013, and 2014)

According to Human Resource and Skills Development Canada, major collective bargaining settlements reached in March 2011 provided base rate wage adjustments averaging 1.1% annually. ( These numbers are based on a review of 18 agreements which cover at least 500 employees a piece and 40,740 employees overall.)  CUPW claims that for its lower paid Groups 1 and 2 this is an $0.80/hour increase.  With a little reverse math that means the lowest paid employees make roughly $24.35 per hour.  A quick search on the Canada Post site for job openings that revealed entry level positions require only a Grade 10 education.

I’ll refrain from making any direct comments, but let’s move on to see if we can find a bigger issue.

2) Hours of Work

CUPW has claimed their lowest paid workers make less than $48,000 per year.  Again with a little reverse math and the hourly rate we calculated above we can deduce that their average weekly hours are no more than 37.5 hours per week.  Yet, CUPW has stated its demand as “As postal workers, we deserve a reduced workload and improved benefits and working conditions. ” (www.cupw.ca).

So they must mean the improved benefits and working conditions…

3) Benefits

The Canada Post website states:

“As a regular employee, you’ll enjoy a broad health-care plan, extensive dental coverage, including orthodontic services and a wide-ranging vision and hearing care plan. Benefits also include vacation leave that increases with your length of service, sick-leave protection and a wide range of other paid and unpaid leave options, including compassionate care and parental leave. As well, you will benefit from life and disability insurance, and can take advantage of various other insurance products at preferential rates.”

With a little digging and we find:

  • vacation ranges from 3 to 7 weeks/year with service
  • a defined benefit pension plan (you private sector folks will want to Google that so you know what it is)
  • a full pension earned after 30 years of service (can be taken as early as age 55)
  • employees can bank sick days

So it must be the working conditions…

5) Working Conditions

No cheeky comments here.  We have snow in many parts of this country for months.  Our winters are cold and our summers are hot.  Those postal workers who are responsible to walk door to door do so in all types of weather.

That being said, can Canada Post control that?  Has it really gotten any worse since the last collective agreement?

There must be other issues regarding working conditions that need to be addressed.    Occupational Health and Safety concerns have been cited but there is legislation to address those. CUPW also claims they have concerns regarding respect and equality.  However they define respect in part as ‘maintaining and improving employee benefits’ and equality as ensuring full-time, part-time, and temporary employees are treated equally regarding benefits.  I can’t see these issues as being enough to strike over.

Regardless, I wish them well in their battle, and hope to goodness they see more value in their fight than I do.  To me it seems. these men and women are looking at going on strike to protest what seems to be little more than working conditions in a time where there services are at risk of becoming extinct.

My advice:  Sit down with management and knock out agreement on everything other than working conditions.  Include some cost saving measures to help improve services and maintain a public postal system.  This is a reorganizing and restructuring agreement.  Push to make changes to working conditions after a model that is seeing a steady level of services has been established.   This can be done between bargaining rounds through your labour management committee. Come up with an MOU to ensure specific concerns are discussed during the life of the agreement.   After all, there is no sense making improvements to working conditions if you do not have a job.


Worst Performance Appraisal Mistake Ever!

A friend asked me to look over his annual performance review.  I did not make it past the third sentence before I looked up at him with sad eyes.   The review read as if it were drafted by a mediocre kindergarten student.  I next began a series of questions about his manager in hopes of making my friend feel better about the dreadful document in my hands.  They were:

1.  Wow, how many languages did your manager learn before English?  It must be very difficult to write a review in your 8th language.

(No luck, the manager was an Anglophone)

2.  Isn’t it great that someone who did not go to high school but worked hard all his life achieved such a senior position in your organization?  Good for your organization to recognize effort as well as education.

(Strike 2 – the manager has a graduate degree)

3.  Did you speak to the manager about this review? (I’m now assuming the answer will be negative)

Response – No, he did not have time (Finally, I know what happened…can you guess?)

I sat my friend down and told him the sad truth.  His manager does not suffer a literacy limitation…he is a lazy jerk!!  The manager clearly asked an administrative support person to write a performance appraisal for him!

The result of his actions?  A demoralized employee who looks back on a year of hard work and sacrifice with regret.  (Did I forget to mention the review – outside of the spelling and grammar, was actually meant to be very positive!)

I know writing several perhaps dozens of performance appraisals can be arduous, but your employees deserve the effort.  You may not like the performance appraisal system in your organization but don’t punish an employee with your attitude.

When writing a performance appraisal be sure you:

  • Proof read your reviews
  • Use spell check/grammar check
  • Don’t cut and paste everything from one review to another
  • Get your employee’s gender correct (e.g his not her)
  • Spell your employee’s name correctly
  • Brief your employee on his or her review

After all, wouldn’t you expect the same on your review?

What is your worst performance appraisal experience?

Employee Engagement 101

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Connect your employees with the organization. Employees want to feel a sense of

ownership over opportunities and challenges. This will ensure that they are fully committed to the success of the organization.

  • Post the mission, values and organizational objectives so they are visible to all employees.
  • Refer to these when setting goals and communicating decisions so employees understand how they influence the day-to-day operations of the organization.
  • Keep the employees informed of new opportunities, challenges and seek their ideas.


Be honest — Employees value honesty and trust.

  • Be honest about your expectations and your objectives, and keep your word. Employees will feel respected and will commit to you and the organization.
  • Communicate regularly your expectations and objectives for the team and for individual employees.
  • Be aware of how your statements can be perceived.


Give regular feedback — Employees want to hear about their performance.

  • Rather than wait for the quarterly or annual performance review to make comments on an employee’s performance, make a point of giving feedback as situations arise.
  • Provide feedback in face-to-face meetings and deliver it in a constructive manner.
  • Encourage the employees to engage in discussion and to ask questions about their performance.
  • Review skills required and be proactive in helping employees gain those skills (where appropriate).


Recognize good work — Employees want to be acknowledged.

  • Recognize new ideas, creativity, excellent customer service, teamwork, etc., by providing individual or public acknowledgement, depending on the employee and his or her preferences.
  • Recognize small employee efforts as well as big ones.
  • Send a note to the entire team about an employee’s or a team’s contributions.
  • Encourage other employees to share the unique contributions of their colleaguesby asking them to submit their name for a monthly prize draw.
  • Celebrate successes and milestones with the entire team.


Employee Engagement and Retention – Ask employees how they would like to be recognized, and follow through on their ideas where possible.

Offer competitive salaries and benefits — Employees want to feel fairly compensated for the effort provided.

  • Competitive salaries and benefits are key components of employee retention programs.
  • Appropriate compensation will reduce the temptation to go to other organizations.
  • Provide information sessions or FAQs about the employee benefit plan.
  • Be transparent about salary scales and inform employees of what needs to be accomplished to move within the scale.


Plan for growth — Employees want to know what the organization can offer them in terms of career growth, training opportunities or general development.

  • Ask what employees’ personal goals are and develop with them a plan to achieve their objectives.
  • Follow up on and update the plan regularly.
  • Align with Skills Profiles where applicable.


Value Work-Life Balance — Employees want their life to be more than work.

  • Be flexible and understanding of family or personal commitments.
  • Comply with relevant employment legislation and standards.
  • Be highly supportive of employees during critical life events such as personal health and family emergencies; accommodate employees’ work-life balance needs when possible.

4 Tips to Reduce Workplace Conflict

Conflict can ruin employee potential, production, and well being.

Conflict can cause enormous headaches for managers and has a negative impact on the bottom line.

Conflict is difficult to manage and makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

How then can we deal with it ?

Step One:

Determine what your employees want from a work environment?  That’s right, ask questions!

  • Forget exit surveys; why do people stay?
  • What do you want from your work environment?
Step Two:
Talk about people’s differences amongst your team.  What makes your team great?  What does each person bring to the team? Acknowledging differences will help to alleviate tension.
Step Three:
Develop an action plan specific to your team.  You now know the strengths and areas of opportunity for your team; so make a plan to use the strengths to overcome challenges.
Step Four:
Talk about conflict – do not let it fester.  When conflict arises – deal with it!  Having a dialogue early on in the disagreement is easier to do than after the conflict has persisted for some time.

Interview Tips for Employers – Part Two

Image by JaBB via Flickr

We left off with the cliff-hanger gap between steps 3 and 4.  And so we continue from last time….

Step 4:  Establish Rapport

  • Do not betray (by word, gesture or facial expression) approval or disapproval, agreement or disagreement.
  • Do not challenge answers or engage in debate with the candidate.
  • Keep your body language neutral and keep writing.
  • Look up once in a while, nod, smile and otherwise encourage the candidate.

Step 5:   Pacing the Interview

  • If the candidate is going over time on a particular question, gently intervene to move on to the next question
  • If the candidate is not expanding on answers use silence (up to 10 seconds) to encourage candidates to say more
  • Prompt the candidate, if required, to obtain missing/additional information.
  • In addition to the specific probes for each question, you can also use general prompts such as “Can you please tell us a bit more about that?,” “Could you please be more specific?,” “What did you do next?,” etc.
  • If candidates have difficulty thinking of an example, ask them to think about another example they have used and consider its relevance.
  • Remind candidate that they can always come back to a question and expand on their answers if there is time left at the end of the interview.

Step 6:  Take Notes

  • Do not be selective in your note taking — write down everything and sort it out later, when you do the evaluation.
  • Take notes of factual data (examples, quotes), not your judgments.
  • Allow the candidate to make notes or record the question.
  • Even though these notes may be solely for you and the individuals who are involved in the hiring decision, never write notes that relate to prohibited grounds (e.g., “Haitian woman, 35-ish”).

Stay tuned…more to come later this week.  Same Bat-Channel!

Interview Tips for Employers – Part One

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Most job candidates spend a great deal of time preparing for interviews.  They want to make sure they will make a good impression and they want to be the person who lands the job.
What about the interviewer?  Shouldn’t they spend just as much time preparing?  don’t they want to make a good impression on each candidate?  Don’t they want to ensure their organization is the one that attracts the best candidate?

Of course they do!  In this day and age, an interview is for both parties to get to know each other so both parties can decide if the other is a good fit for them.  If an interviewer does not prepare and remember the key points to any interview, he or she may not put forward the right image to candidates.  Worse yet, the interviewer may not set the candidate at ease and therefore not solicit the right information from the candidate.  This will lead to a hiring error where the best candidates are not selected for the job.

Let’s look at some of the thing s an interviewer can do to ensure a successful hiring regardless of the industry, role or location of the job:

Step One – Select the format of the interview and a list of questions to be asked of all candidates.  Make sure that each question has scoring criteria assigned to it so that all candidates will be assessed based on the same factors.

Once this is established, interviews can be scheduled.

Step Two -Keep to the interview schedule.  It is just as important for the interviewer to be on time as it is for the interviewee.  Punctuality is a sign of respect.

Step Three – Open the interview

  • Greet the candidate. Give the name and position for yourself and each interviewer
  • Explain the purpose of the interview (e.g. help the company fairly decide on candidate most qualified for the job and to help the candidate understand the organization/position)
  • Describe the interview process

Step Four – visit again later this week to see more tips!