Back-to-work order ‘no surprise’

Local Canadian Union of Postal Workers employees are not surprised that the federal government is resorting to back-to-work legislation to end a lockout.

Local Canadian Union of Postal Workers employees are not surprised that the federal government is resorting to back-to-work legislation to end a lockout.

“We expected that legislation was the goal of the employer,” said Griff Bartlett, one of 155 locked-out workers with Local 818, which represents Red Deer, Innisfail, Lacombe, Stettler, Olds and Rocky Mountain House. “It was somewhat expected by us because they have used that tactic in the past.

“The union is pretty upset because it takes away our right to free bargaining.”

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt informed the House on Wednesday that she was tabling notice of intention to introduce the legislation.

Under House rules, 48 hours notice must be given before the government can introduce new legislation. The bill is expected to be introduced on Monday and debated Tuesday.

Similar back-to-work legislation for Air Canada employees was tabled on Thursday but quickly became unnecessary when the airline and 3,800 customer service agents reached an agreement.

Bartlett said it’s tough to predict whether the Canada Post labour dispute — which saw 48,000 union members locked out as of Tuesday night — will follow a similar path.

“It sort of worked in 1997, where we ended up negotiating a collective agreement. But this time it’s hard to tell,” he said, as he walked a picket line outside the Red Deer sorting plant.

“The employer hasn’t moved on some of their demands. We don’t really have a lot of expensive demands, contrary to what we’ve been hearing.

“This is really about keeping what we have.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Bob Rae both accused the government of heavy-handed tactics to end the disputes.

With both the NDP and Liberals pledging to fight the legislation, it was unclear whether it could pass by Thursday, when Parliament is scheduled to recess for the summer. However, the government could likely succeed by extending House hours or by limiting debate.

Regular mail delivery could resume as early as next week.

Canada Post president Deepak Chopra delivered a video announcement on the company’s website explaining employees were locked at to “bring issue to a head.

“This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. I’m painfully aware of the hardship it will cause our employees — they all have families to feed and bills to pay.”

However, he said, the alternative would have been to allow rotating strikes to go on for another two or three weeks followed by a full strike.

“Neither you nor Canada Post could afford that,” he said, adding that the strikes have already cost Canada Post $100 million in lost revenue.

The two sides had been in formal bargaining for seven months before the union began rolling work stoppages June 3.

The Crown corporation says the main sticking point was the union’s demand for staffing levels beyond the capability of Canada Post.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com with files from Canadian Press

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