The former chair of the Canada Industrial Relations Board has been appointed to settle the labour dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) two weeks after the federal government approved back-to-work legislation to end five-week rotating strikes.
Elizabeth MacPherson will have up to 14 days to reach a negotiated contract settlement with the Crown corporation and the CUPW, which began rotating strikes on Oct. 22. After back-to-work legislation forced mail carriers to return to their job on Nov. 27, leading to protests to support postal workers outside several Canada Post facilities across the country.
“Canada Post and CUPW were unable to agree on a mediator-arbitrator as per the process outlined in the legislation,” said Labour Minister Patty Hajdu. “I remain hopeful that the two parties will be able to negotiate new agreements and continue to monitor the situation closely.”
If no agreement is reached, MacPherson will have the authority to impose a settlement.
“We believe in our right to free collective bargaining but we will reluctantly participate in this legislated process,” the CUPW said in a statement, adding it hopes to avoid any imposed binding arbitration.
“Postal workers will continue to defend our right to negotiate fair settlements for all our members,” added CUPW National President Mike Palecek. “We know that an arbitrated contract will only prolong our problems with injuries, inequality, and overwork.”
DELAYED THROUGH JANUARY
After five weeks of undergoing rotating strikes, Canada Post is expecting to have delivery delays through next month with “unpredictable” parcel delivery dates.
“Significant and uneven parcel backlogs persist across the country and continue to challenge our operations as heavy holiday parcel volumes arrive daily,” Canada Post said in a statement. “Understanding the central role we play in delivering the holidays for Canadians and Canadian retailers, it is our priority to deliver as much as possible before Christmas. However, existing backlogs, along with other complicating factors such as protest blockades at our facilities and any potential severe winter weather events, means delivery will be hampered.”
The CUPW filed a constitutional challenge with the Ontario Superior Court today following the legislation of the back-to-work bill two weeks ago.
“You cannot legislate labour peace,” said Palecek. “This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Bill C-89 forced postal workers to return to work under their previous collective agreements, which, according to a CUPW statement, means that until Christmas:
- “at least 315 disabling injuries will happen to postal workers”;
- Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) will work about 250,000 hours without pay; and
- urban postal workers will work thousands of hours of forced overtime.
In 2011, the Conservative government imposed back to work legislation after Canada Post locked out CUPW members for two weeks.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Stephen Firestone later ruled this legislation violated the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the right to strike to be fundamental and protected by the Constitution.
“The Liberal government’s legislation, just like the previous Conservative’s, unilaterally prohibits any lawful strike,” said Paul Cavalluzzo, a constitutional lawyer representing the CUPW. “Canada Post created a false emergency, the supposed backlog of parcels, to get the government to intervene with back to work legislation. This legislation was enacted under circumstances that did not justify the interference of constitutional rights.”