UPDATE – Workers are back to work following the Senate vote.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Canada Post employees in Fort St. John have joined the rotating strike after the Senate voted in favour of back to work legislation.
With the vote Monday night, mail service is supposed to resume at noon Tuesday. Royal assent was granted late Monday shortly after senators approved Bill C-89 by a vote of 53-25. Four senators abstained.
The government had deemed passage of the bill to be urgent due to the economic impact of continued mail disruptions during the busy holiday season. It rushed the bill through the House of Commons last week.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a statement declaring that it is “exploring all options to fight the back-to-work legislation.”
“Postal workers are rightly dismayed and outraged,” said CUPW national president Mike Palecek. “This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Some senators — independents, Liberal independents and even some Conservatives — agreed with that assessment and voted against the bill.
But the majority either disagreed or concluded that it’s up to the courts, not senators, to rule on constitutionality.
Negotiations have been underway for nearly a year, but the dispute escalated more recently when CUPW members launched rotating strikes Oct. 22.
Canada Post said Monday that the backlog of mail and parcels is “severe” and expected to “worsen significantly” once online orders from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are processed.
In a statement, the post office said it is experiencing delivery delays across the country and that’s expected to continue throughout the holiday season and into January.
The union wants better pay and job security, guaranteed hours for its 8,000 rural and suburban carriers, and equality for those workers with the corporation’s 42,000 urban employees.
CUPW also wants Canada Post to adopt rules that it says would cut down on workplace injuries — an issue the union has said is now at a “crisis” level.
Under the new legislation, the union said postal workers will be forced to go back to work under the old collective agreement, which it asserted would result in at least 315 disabling injuries and thousands of hours of forced, unpaid overtime.
The previous Conservative government forced an end to a lockout of postal workers during a 2011 dispute by enacting back-to-work legislation, which was later declared by a court to be unconstitutional.
But the Liberal government argues Bill C-89 is different, in that it does not impose immediate outcomes affecting postal contracts.
Whereas the 2011 bill imposed a settlement that favoured Canada Post, the current legislation would give a mediator-arbitrator appointed by the government 90 days to try and reach contract settlements. Failing that, a settlement could be imposed either through a decision from the arbitrator or by choosing from one of the final proposals put forward by Canada Post or CUPW.
(THE CANADIAN PRESS)