OTTAWA â€“ The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) says the Harper government has sent a message to all workers with its unjust and punitive bill legislating postal workers back to work.
â€œThe government is clearly willing to side with employers to grind down wages and working conditions,â€ said CUPW National President Denis Lemelin. â€œIts decision to use back-to-work legislation in the Canada Post and Air Canada disputes was not neutral. The Conservatives have shown themselves to be very anti-worker after only two months of majority government.â€
Lemelin said the governmentâ€™s assertion that its legislation was necessary to protect the economy is illogical. He said postal workers had offered to return to work. â€œThe government has attacked our right to freely negotiate the conditions we work under,â€ said Lemelin. â€œIt appears that only markets and employers will have freedoms in this country.â€
â€œThe unionâ€™s struggle for safe work, decent jobs and pensions will continue in spite of this unjust and punitive bill. Fortunately, the government canâ€™t legislate away our determination to fight for our rights,â€ said Lemelin.
Lemelin added that postal workers are very grateful for the support they received from people all across the country and opposition Members of Parliament, especially members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) who eloquently defended free collective bargaining for 58 hours straight. He said the NDPâ€™s filibuster was successful in provoking a resumption of negotiations between CUPW and Canada Post over the last few days, but that the negotiations had ultimately failed.
â€œCanada Post was uncompromising from the moment Harperâ€™s government introduced back-to-work legislation,â€ said Lemelin.
The Conservative government’s back-to-work bill on the Canada Post labour dispute passed a key hurdle on Saturday, while the Opposition NDP says it will propose changes that could end a three-day impasse in the House of Commons.
The Opposition said it would propose two amendments later Saturday evening for MPs to debate following second reading, which passed in a 158-112 vote. The vote moved the bill to a process known as the committee of the whole, in which amendments can be introduced on the House floor and not at a smaller meeting.
The first would remove clauses in the bill that would force the two sides into a form of binding arbitration known as final offer selection, meaning each side would table its final offer and the arbitrator would pick one or the other. The second would remove the salary provision off the bill, which the NDP said proposes a wage increase lower than what Canada Post had wanted to offer the union.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued the following statement:
Thanks to the stamina of the opposition MPs, led by Jack Layton and the NDP caucus, CUPW resumed bargaining with Canada Post Corporation (CPC).
Last night, we held extensive discussions involving representatives of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt. This morning, we met twice with CPC in direct negotiations. Even though we modified our position, the negotiations were unsuccessful. CPC remained as intransigent as it has been since the introduction of the back-to-work legislation by the Harper government.
Given these circumstances, we have requested the NDP to introduce amendments which would remove the most oppressive aspects of this legislation.
â€œWe are grateful for the remarkable support from the opposition MPs, especially the NDP caucus,â€ said Denis Lemelin, National President of CUPW. â€œTheir efforts provoked a resumption of negotiations. These talks failed, but the responsibility for that lies squarely on Canada Post management and the Harper government.â€
We also thank the tens of thousands of people, including students, women’s groups, anti-poverty activists, other unionists, seniors, and local community activists who have been walking on our picket lines, sending messages of support, and participating in rallies and other activities.
Canadian Union of Postal Workers President Denis Lemelin sent the following letter to NDP leader Jack Layton earlier today:
Subject: Bill C-6
On behalf of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, I wish to congratulate you, your NDP colleagues, and the other opposition members of Parliament who have continued to oppose Bill C-6.
Your efforts were successful in provoking a resumption of negotiations between CUPW and the Canada Post Corporation. During the evening of June 24, we held extensive discussions involving representatives of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt. This morning, June 25, we met twice with CPC in direct negotiations.
Despite your efforts and the support and solidarity activities of tens of thousands of people across the country, the negotiations were unsuccessful.
CPC once again refused to amend their position. They remain as intransigent as they have been since the introduction of the back-to-work legislation by the Harper government.
Given these circumstances, we believe it would be appropriate for you to introduce amendments which would at least remove the most offensive aspects of this legislation.
Once again, we offer you and your colleagues our deepest thanks for your efforts to oppose this unjust law. We especially appreciate the fact that you were prepared to continue the debate during the national holiday of Quebec.
Your actions, which were successful in provoking a resumption of negotiations, demonstrate the importance of a strong progressive opposition. We remain committed to continue to work with you and the members of your caucus in the broader struggle for decent jobs for ourselves and for future generations of workers.
The record-setting debate over the Conservative government’s back-to-work bill showed little sign of letting up, with Members of Parliament well into their third day of uninterrupted debate over legislation designed to get Canada’s mail moving again.
There was some talk Saturday afternoon about ending the impasse that has kept MPs in the House talking nonstop for more than 40 hours, but the Conservative government and Opposition NDP had not agreed on anything definitive.
Members of Parliament remain locked in debate early Friday over legislation that would send Canada Post employees back to work and end a lockout.
At daybreak in Ottawa, opposition MPs continued to make lengthy speeches designed to delay passage of the government’s bill.
The NDP began speaking in an attempt to stall the bill, with NDP Leader Jack Layton starting around 9 p.m. Thursday.
His speech, in its opening minutes, touched on the commitment of postal workers, the repetitive stress injuries some of them suffer, the Charter of Rights and wind turbines. NDP and Liberal members were still talking at 6 a.m. ET Friday, with no sign of stopping.
The debate can run until all 103 NDP MPs have spoken, at which point they will vote on the bill’s second reading and move to committee of the whole, where MPs have even more time-delaying tactics at their disposal.
Legislating postal workers back to work is not ideal but is necessary to protect Canada’s economic recovery, the government argued Tuesday as debate on its controversial bill got underway.
Parliament began dealing with the bill to put locked-out Canada Post employees back to work by debating a motion to speed up its passage and the Conservatives were on the defensive in question period over their proposed legislation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the government’s action and the bill’s measures which include wage increases that are lower than the ones offered to the union by Canada Post.
OTTAWA, June 20, 2011 /CNW/ – The federal government’s back-to-work bill penalizes postal workers and rewards Canada Post for locking out employees and stopping mail delivery nationwide.
The bill legislates wage increases that fall significantly below Canada Post’s last offer. Canada Post’s last offer was 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and 2.0 % in 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation. The Tories’ bill would lower that even further with 1.75 % in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014.
"Imposing wage increases that are lower than Canada Post’s last offer punishes postal workers for a disruption that was caused by the corporation’s national lockout," said CUPW National President Denis Lemelin.
"The bill would take $875.50 out of the pockets of an average full-time postal worker during the four years of the agreement. All told, it represents a theft of $35 million from postal workers and their families."
Lemelin said the government’s heavy-handed interventions will damage labour relations for years to come. The last time the federal government imposed back to work legislation in 1997, it included a provision that ensured the mediator arbitrator considered the importance of good labour-management relations. The current legislation contains no such provision.
"The arbitrator who is assigned to do the final offer selection will not have to live with the results," said Lemelin. "An imposed settlement will not help the post office in the long term."