July 14, 2024

Canadian Parliament Orders Postal Union Back to Work

The country has been without mail service since Canada Post locked out its unionized workers on June 15 after a series of rotating strikes organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Officials from Canada Post, which is owned by the national government, said that mail service should resume by Tuesday.

Members of the labor-backed New Democratic Party, which held up the legislation with a 58-hour filibuster before it passed in the House of Commons Saturday night, strongly criticized the government for moving quickly to settle the shutdown through legislation. The Senate passed the measure Sunday evening.

This month, the Conservative government introduced similar legislation ordering Air Canada’s customer service and ticket agents back to work. But the strike at the airline, which is in the private sector, was ultimately resolved through negotiations.

During an unusual Sunday session of the Senate, an appointed body, Labor Minister Lisa Raitt told lawmakers that the legislation was necessary for the country’s economy. Canada Post is the only service that delivers throughout Canada and rates charged by the Canadian subsidiaries of United Parcel Service and FedEx are generally higher than those in the United States.

“This is not our first choice in how we would like to see this labor dispute resolved, but the choice is a necessary one,” she told the Senate. “Our citizens cannot afford to be left waiting.”

Canada Post, which is marginally profitable despite its no longer being directly subsidized by the government, wanted a less generous pension plan and lower wages for all employees hired in the future. While that was the central source of the impasse with the union, the two sides were also apart on several issues related to current employees.

The back-to-work legislation imposes a four-year contract with wage increases that, according to the union, are less than those being offered by the post office during negotiations. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that the increases were in line with those given to other federal government employees.

An arbitrator will choose the final proposal of either the post office or the union to deal with the other issues.

Mr. Harper gained his first voting majority in the House of Commons in a federal election this year. Several of his critics say that the government’s approach to the post office may be a sign of what awaits the public service in general as the Conservatives move to deal with a budget deficit brought about by tax cuts, a slowing economy and stimulus spending during the recession.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=828aeb5b540ab86fb93270e755235f8b

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