Arbitrator quits in Canada Post union contract dispute

The arbitrator appointed by the Canadian government to decide on a new labour contract for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has resigned. Retired judge Coulter Osbourne had been facing pressure from the union regarding his experience in hearing labour arbitrations – and his inability to speak French.

He was appointed in July to decide on detailed working conditions within a new deal for CUPW’s 48,000 urban-based members up to 2015, following the back-to-work legislation enacted after June’s strike and national lock-out.

Osbourne’s resignation came a little over a week after a federal judge decided that his appointment should be examined in court, since convention usually saw both parties in an arbitration dispute agreeing on the appointed arbitrator.

In a brief statement to the press, a spokesperson for Canada’s labour minister Lisa Raitt said a new appointment would be made once the minister had a chance to consider all candidates.

The minister’s spokesperson added that back-to-work legislation does leave the door open for the union and Canada Post to agree a contract before arbitration proceedings are complete.

Yesterday, CUPW said Osbourne’s resignation renewed the opportunity for negotiations to take place over a new contract with Canada Post, rather than continuing with the forced arbitration process.

CUPW president and chief negotiator Denis Lemelin said: “We will encourage Ms Raitt to appoint an experienced and bilingual mediator to work with the parties to negotiate a collective agreement, instead of replacing the arbitrator.

“A negotiated settlement would be far preferable for all concerned. Judge Osbourne’s resignation creates an opportunity for the parties to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement.”

A spokesperson for Canada Post said the Corporation was looking to the minister to decide on the best way forward.

“We would have preferred an expeditious process but remain hopeful for a resolution that will address Canada Post’s structural cost issues and improve the Corporation’s long-term sustainability. We will be looking for direction from the Minister and remain committed to the process,” Canada Post told Post&Parcel.

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