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7-day holiday work weeks highlight pay disparity between urban, rural mail carriers

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Postal workers across Canada are being asked to work seven-day weeks during the holiday season, but differences in how some are paid is sparking complaints of unfairness.

The federal government passed back-to-work legislation on Nov. 27, bringing an end to six weeks of rotating strikes across the country. Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said Monday that union members are now working every day of the week. 

The extra days are necessary to clear a six-million parcel backlog, according to Canada Post. Palecek said the backlog is due to poor planning by Canada Post, not the strikes.

Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC), who deliver parcels and mail to shared mailboxes, are among those being asked to work seven-day weeks.

Urban letter carriers, who deliver door-to-door on foot, are paid double-time for working on weekends.​

RSMCs who work on weekends are only paid based on the number of parcels delivered, thanks to a different contract than urban letter carriers.

We do the same work, we just do it in different areas.– William Johnson, president, Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 820

While working weekend days is not mandatory for RSMCs, a Canadian Union of Postal Workers representative told CBC News it’s not that simple.

“Someone else will do the work for us, or, if they can’t find anybody to work, it’ll make our Mondays just crazy,” union spokesperson Barb McMillan said.

“We’ll have to put out all of that mail on Monday and we won’t get paid any extra time for it.”

She said putting off weekend deliveries makes for longer hours on weekdays with no extra pay.

“If our route is assessed at seven hours and we have parcels from the weekend, plus another ten hours of work from Monday, then we’ll have to work like 15 hours of work on the Monday and still only be compensated for the seven hours,” she said.

Extra money or extra stress: the RSMC choice

Nancy Gizem, an RSMC, said skipping weekend work can sometimes create backlogs of hundreds of parcels.

“The parcels, they don’t even know where to put them anymore, because there’s no room around, they’re just piled wherever they have a spot to pile them,” Gizem said.

She said Canada Post has asked employees to work weekends during the holiday season for the last seven or eight years, as parcel deliveries have increased due to the popularity of online shopping.

Nancy Gizem, a rural and suburban mail carrier, says many of her peers work weekends despite not getting paid overtime for doing so, to avoid feeling overburdened during the weekdays. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Gizem said that in the past, she’s ended up working 12- to 14-hour days on weekends on top of her regular shifts.

She said employees face a choice between earning a small amount of extra money or working extra hours on Mondays.

“Most of us just go in [on weekends] because we don’t want to be overburdened for the rest of the week,” Gizem said.

RSMC ‘absolutely’ vital to Canada Post operations

William Johnson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 820 in Regina, said there are about 70 RSMCs locally and they “absolutely” play a vital role.

Johnson said RSMCs often find it unfair to come in and work on weekends because the pay simply isn’t worth their time.

“A RSMC is going to be asked to come in on a Sunday and deliver parcels, and they get one dollar per parcel they delivered,” he said. “They find it unfair to come in for a dollar a parcel.”

Johnson said RSMC contracts dictate they have to get permission to earn overtime pay. He said the employer refuses to pay overtime and essentially pressures employees into working extra hours to get packages delivered.

He said it’s “fundamentally unfair” for RSMCs, who work side-by-side with letter carriers like himself, to be paid differently.

“We do the same work, we just do it in different areas,” Johnson said.

Pay equity matter to be settled ‘as quickly as possible’: Canada Post

McMillan said the union hopes to address the disparity through contract negotiations.

“One of the things that we’re asking for is [RSMCs] to be paid the same way as letter carriers,” she said. “We just want our pay equity.”

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Canada Post said an arbitrator ruled on the pay equity matter in September of this year.

“As a result, rural and suburban mail carriers will receive 25 per cent higher pay and an alignment of benefits,” the statement read.

Canada Post said it was working with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to implement the pay and benefit changes as soon as possible.

Gizem, however, said she is skeptical any change will come in a timely manner.

“We’re not even going to see a penny of that until September of next year,” Gizem said. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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