John passed away March 2, 2005 at the age of 47. He had not yet cleared his name… We do not know the circumstances of his death but we do know that the slanders against him had put him under extraordinary stress.
John Blomander's longstanding dispute with his employer, Canada Post Corporation (CPC), is documented in the Leader Post, on CBC and CKRM Radio and the internet site: Injustice Busters. Volumes of evidence back Blomander but CPC won't address his concerns.
After years of harassment in which the Estevan letter carrier was publicly berated for being 'too slow' on his route, his health failed. He went on sick leave and later filed for workers' compensation, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Though Blomander attempted to prove his route was over-assessed by at least 3 hours daily (too long), CPC insisted the letter carrier was wrong.
Via access to information, Blomander learned that CPC superior, Ian Irvine had asked Corporate Security to contact the Estevan Police Service, requesting protection against this "unusual individual."
"I told him that John would be getting some bad news shortly regarding his WCB (Worker's Compensation Board) and SunLife claim and that we were concerned about how he may react to this," wrote Bruce Lindsay in a September 20, 1995 memo. The WCB decision (not released until February of 1996) confirmed that Blomander's route was over assessed, but denied assistance, citing a "history of pre-existing psychological illness."
"I work for an insurance company," says John Blomander's brother, Dwight, "you don't have to make accusations… to get the client to sign an authorisation… if they did that they'd find out pretty quickly [there is] no medical history. Worker's comp tended to base a lot of their decisions on this hearsay, which is kind of strange for an insurance company."
The false 'mental' allegations were damaging to John Blomander, who says he's still countering perceptions of those who have 'heard about' him. It took him a while to figure out where the rumours started.
On October 8, 1997, G. Van Eaton submitted his report on the meeting with John Blomander on behalf of the two-member WCB panel. Blomander feels this report truthfully reflects his situation. It is posted here. Van Eaton Report: Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
Estevan resident Denise Wright accompanied Blomander when he viewed his access to information documents, "You could see where the rumours were based," she commented. Both Denise and her husband Darcy have been long time friends of Blomander, who once carried their mail. Like many other residents, they wrote letters in his support. Hundreds of residents signed a petition confirming his work habits and strict observance of CPC rules between 1985-1994. Blomander gathered evidence carefully, but his supervisors continued to make false statements about him.
"It's just like Hitler said years ago; if you tell a lie long enough and hard enough and convincing enough, people will believe it's the truth. [it was actually Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister] This is what Canada Post has done," comments former international representative and worker's advocate Greg Zaba, who has also supported Blomander. Supervisor, Abe Wolvers wrote to Blomander, stating the letter carrier was such a threat at work that he had no choice but to change the locks "on all the doors to which you may have had keys." This claim is disputed by four (4) letters written by witnesses, stating the locks were changed for Manpower - who shared the building and had a security problem unrelated to Blomander.
Supervisors put their allegations into writing and a record remains even today representing Blomander's family as riddled with problems related to alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, and criminal insanity.
"I would have hired a lawyer and taken them to court for defamation of character," states Bill Mooney, who has lived most of his life in the Estevan area. "I knew his Mom and Dad and his brother. I was totally surprised that people were allowed to say things and they did and not get taken to task for it." Like many who know the postal worker personally, Mooney describes Blomander as a "gentle person" who never raised his voice or got mad. "I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. I have never found that many that are as principled as he is. I admire those qualities. He's a very honest person. Maybe that's why he got picked on," Mooney concludes.
Randell Ploughman, former co-worker who personally witnessed harassment, says he highly respected John Blomander. "I seen somebody that was put into a position that he was mentally and psychologically abused by management. He had a legitimate grievance. When he went to one of the union guys, he started talking to him about Jesus when all he wanted was a legitimate measurement of the route. The union wasn't very cooperative at all. Estevan was a backwater. Winnipeg was the headquarters of the union." Ploughman still works for CPC in Regina and says route measurement grievances are ongoing there.
According to access to information documents, one Estevan postmaster was under pressure from management in Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon about overtime issues. Could the alleged harassment possibly be connected to CPC errors in route structuring? Blomander has provided Lifestyles with a file of Canadian newspaper clippings proving he is not alone. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) printed a story dated Fall, 1998 stating: "Many letter carriers are reporting working ten or twelve hour days… when they claim overtime. Management threatens to suspend letter carriers." The CPC system is supposed to automatically detect and correct over assessed routes but for some reason, it failed to detect three routes assigned to Blomander. CUPW was no help, he says; fellow workers routinely finished their routes early while he was harassed for being unable to finish on time. To find out why, Blomander hired a private investigator in August of 1999, who videotaped letter carriers breaking CPC rules by criss-crossing their routes and using taxis, thus finishing work several hours early. Blomander says a union representative advised him not to show the evidence to CPC. In 1997 the WCB issued a scathing report which acknowledged injustices Blomander had been claiming all along, including "disciplinary action to attempt to put a stop to the worker's continuing use of overtime" on a route that was finally agreed by CPC to be over assessed. Furthermore, "the union did not assist Mr. Blomander to what the Board would expect to be the best of their ability."
Local CUPW president Tony Peters admits: "I think the union fell down on some issues that came up with John here… If I was to go back now I think I'd probably make different decisions." He also confirms that taxi use and criss crossing are tolerated by CPC "unless somebody starts to complain or gets hurt… then the person knows they probably won't be covered under compensation." It's a gamble that postal workers take. Peters was one of many fellow employees who wrote letters of support in 1995 confirming the "intense" and ongoing harassment he witnessed. Grievances filed by Estevan postal workers are dealt with in the Winnipeg regional office, says Peters.
Although disciplinary letters on Blomander's employment record were removed, the WCB report stated, "Acknowledgement of the need to work overtime was never provided by the employer."
Though CPC spoke badly of Blomander's work, the report says: "statements provided by co-workers(and) performance reviews showed that Mr. Blomander was a steady and reliable worker."
As a result of this report, Blomander, his union and CPC were to work out a settlement. In 1998 CPC was ordered by an arbitrator to pay Blomander more than $50,000 damages to repay SunLife. By this time, Blomander had been cut off by WCB. Knowing he couldn't 'double dip,' Blomander offered to pay back the money he'd already received but was told not to do so, assured by both the arbitrator and his union that if CPC didn't live up to its obligation stated in the ruling, contempt of court charges would be filed on his behalf. CPC didn't pay. No one filed the promised charges. The arbitrator was contacted several times but took no action.
Instead, SunLife repeatedly sought their money from Blomander. "To top it off," alleges Blomander, "They kept the $50 000 from SunLife and then the WCB paid them $50,000." If Blomander had done so, he says he'd have been charged with fraud and criminally prosecuted. "They [SunLife] said to me: we're trying to find a way to get it. I said: change the letter head from John to Canada Post." That hiding of funds left Blomander without [income] for about 3 years.
The WCB had the legislative power and should have fought CPC, says Zaba. "They didn't use it because here's an insignificant little guy from Estevan, who gives a sh--? They saw what Canada Post did, the remarks they made, the sneaking around, all the conversations telling everybody he was going to go postal on them - it's all documented. The human rights people should have picked up on it and ran with that side of it."
The WCB act states that prevention of benefits can result in criminal prosecution. "If CPC prevented benefits and were not criminally prosecuted, what does that say about justice?" Blomander wants to know.
"I think it shows that the guys who've got the gold still make the rules," opines Zaba, "No matter how bad you're off if you're properly connected you can get whatever you want. It's not a fair system in that regard."
Local residents like Darcy Wright remain very concerned. "If this is the way the system works, then we're all in trouble. With the shielding that goes on to protect the corporations… if John can be labeled mentally unstable - and they keep picking at him then none of us are safe!" Zaba is even more critical of CPC and CUPW: "Any decent employer would have checked the route right away… When you got the union and the employer playing footsie, the member's got a real problem because he doesn't have anybody to go to. Your union is supposed to back you up 100% and they weren't doing that."
Blomander believes CPC should be charged with: "libel, slander, defamation, contempt of court, uttering threats, destroying evidence, falsifying documents, collusion and fraud." He has used up his RRSP's, paid tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and continues to suffer panic attacks, chest pains, nightmares, depression and other anxiety related illnesses. He wants "the record set straight and to be properly compensated for the way they've destroyed my life over the last 15 years: physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially. I've even gone so far as to say if they can prove me wrong with respect to this, I'd walk away," states Blomander.
"As far as I'm concerned, truth shouldn't get you into trouble. John has the truth," states Estevan resident Isabel Asbenlieder. "Where's the justice? It's been terrible what they've done to him," Asbenlieder typed documents for Blomander and accompanied him to meetings. "From what I can see, they're trying everything they can to get rid of him."
Blomander has been urged to drop his fight because of timeliness, and any defense offered by CPC has generally been based on such technicalities. Ironically, CPC has recently notified him that he was overpaid in 2001 (three years ago) by $5,700. CPC has already taken over $1,300 from Blomander.
"They have given him no proof," argues Asbenlieder, "Judy Swanson (CPC) said 'Oh, well, we will look into this for you and we will get you an answer right away.' Yeah, right. That was July and it is now the end of November… he has received nothing!"
Commenting on the lack of reply, CUPW local president Peters says, "If the corporation is going to stone wall you, it's going to stone wall you, no matter who you are. I have asked but haven't received anything. Where do you turn after a while?"
Financial constraints have forced Blomander back to work at CPC this month, but he is not optimistic. Experience has taught him not to trust his employer. He says he's held on so long because he was raised to live by the Golden Rule. For him, that's the way the world works, despite his experience with CPC. He followed CPC rules. Unfortunately, according to his doctor, Donald MacRae, "The work situation resulted in his anxiety and depression" and, adds MacRae, "Canada Post has never addressed John's concerns - and John's concerns are genuine."
"It's pretty incredible that he's survived," Zaba comments, "I think that's what they were figuring, that he'd just fold up and blow away. But he perseveres and I have to give him credit for that."
Canada Post Corporation was contacted but refused to comment.