TORONTO — Canada Post says it will not reimburse the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) when it submits its expenses for a trip to a political conference in Brazil.
The Crown corporation is not obliged to fund the Nov. 28-Dec. 1 trip to the World Social Forum’s Free Palestine conference, said Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton. “Not one dime of Canada Post money will support this union trip.”
However, CUPW national president Denis Lemelin said the union has been staging similar trips for 12 years, and under terms of the union’s collective agreement, it has always been compensated for the costs involved. “This is the first time for return to sender,” he said.
Lemelin said he expected CUPW and Canada Post to resolve the issue.
Under the union’s collective bargaining agreement, the union can draw from a $200,000 global solidarity fund. The purpose of the fund is to maintain relationships with other postal workers around the world.
Lemelin said the visit to Brazil by a delegation of five Canadian postal workers included discussions with international colleagues on postal issues. “It’s in line with the fund.”
However Hamilton said the focus on Palestine indicates the conference was political in nature and should not be covered by the fund.
The Toronto Sun reported that one of the sessions at the Porte Alegre conference called for the release of Ahmad Saadat from an Israeli jail.
Saadat was sentenced in 2008 to 30 years in prison for heading the left-wing terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and for orchestrating the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
Canada Post received several letters objecting to the use of the fund to support a political initiative, Hamilton said.
Late last week, B’nai Brith Canada issued a news release titled, “CUPW goes postal with taxpayer dollars.”
B’nai Brith said it was “outraged by CUPW misusing taxpayer dollars to single out the Jewish state of Israel for contempt and hatred.” It called the trip an “abuse of taxpayer funds” and it called on the government “to assure the public that taxpayer dollars will not be abused by CUPW in this manner. Whether funding the pro-Hamas Gaza flotilla campaign or testifying before the Canadian Parliament trying to split hairs between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, CUPW has again discredited itself by obsessing on this issue.
“Their absurdity is highlighted by the fact that Israel is a leader in workers’ rights,” said B’nai Brith CEO Frank Dimant.
Lemelin rejected suggestions the union had misused taxpayer funds. The money used to reimburse union members abroad were negotiated and are part of the collective agreement, he said. Had the fund not been included in the collective agreement, he suggested that wages or other benefits would have been higher.
Appendix R of the collective bargaining agreement, cited by Hamilton, states that “the fund shall be used exclusively to allow the union and its members who are employees of the corporation to develop and maintain a relationship and exchange with postal workers from other countries and their unions.”