Fightback sat down with a worker at Canada Post’s Gateway plant to discuss the conditions in the facility. This interview explains how management does not care for the health and safety of the workers, instead prioritizing production quotas. The Mississauga plant was recently the site of a mass outbreak of COVID-19, and workers are calling for Gateway to be shut down in the event of further infections. There is real anger on the shop floor with the desire for workers to have more control over the running of the plant. We have withheld the name of the worker to protect them from victimization.
Fightback: How long have you been working for Canada Post?
Worker: Almost ten years.
FB: What has your experience of working for the corporation been like in general? How has that changed over the course of the pandemic?
W: The way I see it, it’s a toxic work environment. I have noticed that for the most part the workers train each other since there is no point asking most team leaders (supervisors) how to do something. They won’t know the answer because most of them aren’t trained properly either. When you ask questions a lot of the management do not know the answers. In my experience any complaints are given fake concern. They will say things such as “Thank you for bringing this to my attention,” but it is just lip service. Afterwards when you go back to work, you get harassed in subtle ways that are hard to prove. But I feel like it is their way of sending a message and that is that you should stop complaining.
For team leaders to climb the corporate ladder they have to show the higher-ups that they are tough on the employees. They use intimidation and harassment against us to show the higher-ups that they can “handle” us, in hopes of a promotion. The management are manipulative and they are reluctant to share information with us. They lie to us on a regular basis.
In my opinion the corporation has not changed much in how they run things during covid. They have made the bare minimum of changes. They say they care about our safety but it is clear that they care about numbers more. When I say numbers, I mean production, i.e. money.
FB: You mentioned the role that over-time work has played in the midst of the current outbreak. Could you elaborate on that?
W: I don’t know why it is ok for the corporation to keep scheduling overtime during a COVID outbreak. It was suggested to “stagger” shifts to prevent shifts overlapping. This was suggested as a way to prevent spread of the virus. But they are still scheduling overtime, which means people either come in early for shift or stay late after shift, so they overlap onto the previous shift or the next shift. Gateway runs 24 hours and there are three shifts (days, afternoons, nights).
As I see it the Public Health experts have been giving suggestions to the corporation on how to control the outbreak so I don’t see how they would not know the corporation is still scheduling overtime. I don’t know why they would not tell the corporation to stop scheduling overtime during this outbreak since it seems obvious that this would be a way to flatten the curve in Gateway. Is overtime more important than people’s lives?
FB: Is there anything else you feel is worth bringing up?
W: Canada Post should close the plant and pay the workers to stay home. This should happen if there is even one case in the plant! Regular testing and temperature checks are important. Forcing workers to continue working during an outbreak is unsafe and I think everyone knows this. Why are we pretending that we don’t?
FB: Although Canada Post is a public crown corporation, it certainly sounds to me like the environment on the shop floor is not altogether different from some of the most notorious private distribution warehouses, such as Purolator or Amazon (see our recent interview with Amazon workers, for example). Why do you think this may be the case?
W: Wow yes it sounds very very similar to Gateway. I don’t know about Purolator but from the sounds of it, Amazon is similar to work in Gateway. We do critical pull times, PPH (pieces per hour) is the rate. They always tell you not to sit down or lean against equipment, giving the same reason because it is “unsafe”; although I feel that is just an excuse and the real reason is they just don’t want you to rest when you’re tired. They want to work you to the point of exhaustion! It’s unnatural to stand for your entire shift. The team leaders get chairs of course.
And yes there are so many people in Gateway who are in pain from walking on concrete all day. People have knee pain, back pain, neck pain.
FB: You indicated that despite the lack of training that new workers regularly receive from management, their co-workers on the shop floor seem to pick up the slack in most cases. Do you think the workplace could be run more efficiently and humanely if workers were able to democratically exercise control over its day-to-day operations? If, instead of corporate ladder-climbing management, workers were able to democratically elect to their own peers to help manage production and take care of the workforce?
W: Yes, I believe the employees in Gateway should have more control and we should vote on more things than we do currently. We should be able to vote on everything actually. The day-to-day operations have an impact on us, on our work lives and our home lives. So why shouldn’t we have a say in the process?