Postal union launches protest campaign as employees halt rotating strikes

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Federal back-to-work legislation may have ended rotating strikes by postal workers — but their union now says it’s switching to a campaign of “non-violent civil disobedience” to press its contract claims.

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In a statement issued Tuesday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers Union (CUPW) National President Mike Palecek said that while legal strike action is ending, the pressure campaign is just beginning.

“You cannot legislate labour peace. We are now moving to a different phase of the struggle,” he said.

Union members were instructed to return to regularly scheduled shifts as of noon ET today, and to await further instructions.

Striking Canada Post workers stay warm around the fire as they walk the picket line in front of the Saint-Laurent sorting facility in Montreal on Thursday November 15, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“In the coming days we will be calling on our allies and membership for a campaign of mobilizations, demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience,” Palecek said.

“All options remain on the table to achieve negotiated collective agreements that address health and safety, inequitable treatment, fair wages and working conditions, and the democratic right to free collective bargaining.”

Legal action a possibility

The union also warned it’s considering legal action against the federal back-to-work legislation, but offered no details.

The rotating strikes ended after senators voted Monday night in favour of the Liberal government’s legislation to force Canada Post employees back to work.

Bill C-89 was debated in the upper chamber Saturday after the Liberal government fast-tracked the legislation through the House of Commons. The Senate vote passed by a margin of 53 to 25, with four senators abstaining, as walkouts by Canada Post workers entered their sixth week.

C-89 imposes fines of between $1,000 and $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the Act, and up to $100,000 per day against Canada Post or the union if they are found guilty of violating its terms.

Negotiations between Canada Post and the union have been underway for nearly a year, but the dispute escalated when CUPW members launched rotating strikes on Oct. 22.

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 said would address workplace injuries — a problem the union has described as a “crisis.”

Canadian Union of Postal Workers National President Mike Palecek. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Palecek has called the back-to-work bill a slap in the faces of Canada Post employees and accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of turning his back on postal workers.

The former 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.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu has insisted the Liberal legislation is dramatically different, since it tasks an independent mediator-arbitrator with reaching a contract settlement in 90 days. Failing that, a settlement could be imposed by the arbitrator.

The back-to-work bill, called C-89, sets out “guiding principles” for the mediation/arbitration process, which include:

  • Protecting the health and safety of employees.
  • Ensuring equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Fair treatment for temporary, part-time and other employees in non-standard employment compared to full-time, permanent employees.
  • Ensuring the financial sustainability of Canada Post.
  • Encouraging a culture of collaborative labour-management relations.
  • Enabling the employer to provide high-quality service at a reasonable price to Canadians.
     

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cupw-legislation-strike-action-response-1.4922372?cmp=rss