A rotating strike between Canada Post and a union representing postal workers has hit Cranbrook again as the two sides remain far apart in reaching a negotiated settlement.
However, the federal labour minister signalled on Thursday that the Liberals may introduce back-to-work legislation as a last resort.
“This ongoing work stoppage has had significant negative impacts on Canadians, businesses, international commerce, Canada Post, its workers and their families,” said Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. “Canadians and businesses rely on Canada Post and its workers, especially during the busy retail season. With Canadians and Canadian businesses feeling serious impacts, our government is prepared to legislate a path forward to keep goods moving for Canadians.”
That doesn’t sit well with both national and local members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
“This government has said they agree that a negotiated settlement is the best resolution in the long run, they believe in free collective bargaining and agreed to renew the mandate of the mediator Morton Mitchnick for a short period of time,” according to a bulletin posted on the union website on Tuesday. “CUPW believes that the threat of back-to-work legislation will undermine the chances of negotiated settlements. We’ll do our best to reach a negotiated settlement as quickly as possible with the assistance of the mediator. We will see shortly if this was a real attempt to achieve negotiated settlements.
Brent Bush, the president of CUPW Local 728, said the potential back-to-work legislation means that Canada Post doesn’t need to make any concessions, knowing that the federal government is going to intervene.
Bush pointed to a 2016 ruling in an earlier labour dispute between the federal government and the union, which successfully challenged back-to-work legislation introduced in 2011 after the presiding judge found it violated charter rights.
“We’ve been legislated back to work before and it’s a fundamental assault on free collective bargaining rights and we’re just not going to take it anymore,” said Bush.
A mediator has been reappointed to try and bridge the gap between the two sides, as outstanding issues include overburdening of letter carriers, employee health and safety, pay equity, time worked for time paid, and more.
“We’ve tried to use rotating strikes, minimize the impact to the public in order to put pressure on Canada Post,” said Bush. “This is our fourth week of rotating strikes and it doesn’t appear that pressure has persuaded Canada Post to come to the negotiating table. They are so far apart; it’s incredible how far apart we are.”