Canada Post workers to rally against back-to-work bill

As expected, the Canadian government introduced its back-to-work bill yesterday that will force a resumption of postal services at Canada Post if it is passed by Parliament before the summer recess. As expected, the Canadian government introduced its back-to-work bill yesterday that will force a resumption of postal services at Canada Post if it is passed by Parliament before the summer recess.

The bill bans strike action, and also any lock-out by the employer, until a new permanent collective bargaining agreement is reached.

And, it also puts in place a temporary contract with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers urban unit effective February 1, 2011, until a new permanent deal is agreed.

A government-appointed arbitrator would then have 90 days to discuss terms of a new deal with the union and Canada Post before imposing a new collective bargaining agreement that would run until January 2015.

In areas where there is still disagreement between the union and employer, the arbitrator would select either the union’s final offer or Canada Post’s final offer.

However, the bill introduced yesterday includes a “guiding principle” that requires the arbitrator to take account of the short- and long-term viability and competitiveness of Canada Post, the health and safety of its workers and the solvency of its pension plan.

The guiding principle also emphasises that the deal should allow Canada Post to operate efficiently with acceptable standards of service “without recourse to undue increases in postal rates”.

The legislation sets annual wage increases at 1.75% for February 2011, 1.5% in February 2012, then 2% for each of the last two years of the deal.

During the three-month arbitration process, Canada Post and the union would be free at any time to agree their own deal, without the arbitrator’s involvment. Such a move would automatically end the arbitration process and temporary contract.

The bill, entitled An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, is scheduled for a second reading today (Tuesday) in the House of Commons.

Before debate can take place on the substance, Members of Parliament must agree an expedited passage for the bill to get the legislation in place within the three days left before the summer recess.

“Reward”

The CUPW last night described the legislation proposal as a “reward” for Canada Post’s lock-out.

It said the bill set annual wage increases below even Canada Post’s last offer, of 1.9% in each of the first three years followed by 2% in the final year.

“Imposing wage increases that are lower than Canada Post’s last offer punishes postal workers for a disruption that was caused by the corporation’s national lockout,” said CUPW National President Denis Lemelin.

“The bill would take $875.50 out of the pockets of an average full-time postal worker during the four years of the agreement. All told, it represents a theft of $35 million from postal workers and their families.”

Lemelin said the government intervention would “damage labour relations for years to come”.

CUPW has organised a series of demonstrations against the government action from today until Thursday in cities including Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton and Victoria.

Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt said yesterday: “Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have had an ample amount of time to discuss their issues at a bargaining table and, indeed, to use the collective bargaining process.”

The minister added: “We are acting on behalf of Canadians, on behalf of small businesses, on behalf of charities, who are being affected by this work stoppage across the country.”

Canada Post and CUPW have been negotiating a new wage deal since October, but failure to agree a compromise led to strikes starting June 3, with the Crown Corporation locking its workers out of its facilities 12 days later because mail volumes had plummeted.

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