Canada Post back-to-work bill passed during late night Commons sitting

OTTAWA — Legislation ordering postal workers back to work was passed in the House of Commons during a special session that dragged on into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Bill C-89 passed third reading by a vote of 166 to 43.

The Senate is now set to sit Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday, to deal with the bill, which would go into effect at noon eastern time on the day following royal assent.

The legislative push came as Ottawa, as well as smaller towns in Ontario and British Columbia, and Sherbrooke, Que., became the latest targets of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Despite the rush to pass the legislation, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu encouraged Canada Post and CUPW to remain at the bargaining table.

“They can still pull a deal off,” she said.

That said, Hajdu added: “Obviously, we would prefer that the parties are able to negotiate an agreement together, but the time has come that we need to be prepared to take action if they cannot.”

Hajdu referred to mail delivery as an “essential service” and said small businesses that rely on the postal service to deliver their goods over the busy Christmas season could go bankrupt if the situation isn’t remedied quickly.

“And when I say small, I mean really small. I mean people that, you know, sell marmalade or handmade goods, that this is the most profitable time of their year and if they are unable to make their earnings this time of year, they very well might be facing the end of their business.”

Labour leaders and New Democrat MPs slammed the government for undermining the collective-bargaining process. The government has removed all incentive for Canada Post to reach a negotiated settlement now that the agency knows workers will be ordered back to work by early next week, they charged.

“The right to strike is an integral part of the collective bargaining process,” said Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff. “Without it, an employer has no incentive to bargain in good faith, and workers have no recourse to demand a fair process.”

Canada Post seems to have convinced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Christmas wouldn’t come without a back-to-work bill, added CUPW president Mike Palecek.

“The mail was moving, and people know it,” he said. “People have been getting their mail and online orders delivered. That was the point of our rotating-strike tactics, not to pick a fight with the public.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused the Liberals of hypocrisy, professing to believe in the right to collective bargaining while bringing in what he called the “worst, most draconian” back-to-work legislation.

“They’ve shown their true face … that this government is not a friend of working people,” Singh said.

New Democrat MPs had voted against a motion to speed up debate on the back-to-work legislation, with many making an elaborate show of walking out of the Commons after voting, raising their fists in salute to postal workers watching from the public gallery. The votes of those who walked out were not counted.

Six New Democrats remained in the chamber — representative of the small number the party maintained would get a chance to speak during the subsequent expedited debate on the bill.

CUPW maintains the bill is unconstitutional and is threatening to challenge it in court.

The union won a court challenge against back-to-work legislation imposed on postal workers in 2011 by the previous Conservative government. The court ruled in 2016 that by removing workers’ right to strike, the bill violated their right to freedom of association and expression.

Hajdu argued that her bill is “dramatically different” from the “heavy-handed” approach taken by the Harper government and takes into account the concerns of both the union and Canada Post.

But two independent senators, Frances Lankin and Diane Griffin, wrote Hajdu to express their concern that the bill may not be constitutional. The pair said Hajdu had promised to issue a government analysis detailing how the bill does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but it still had not materialized by Friday evening.

CUPW members have held rotating walkouts for a month, causing massive backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots, though Canada Post and the union dispute how big the pileup is.

Canada Post says it could take weeks — even stretching into 2019 — to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

CUPW’s 50,000 members, in two groups, are demanding better pay for rural and suburban carriers, more job security and minimum guaranteed hours.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Truck smashes through north Red Deer business

A medical emergency believed to have caused driver to lose control of pickup

Potential cannabis production plants must stay within Red Deer’s heavy industrial zones

Until odour control improves, they must be away from neighbourhoods, council decides

Whether to stop ticketing cars left on streets during snow plowing was discussed by Red Deer city council

Councillor suggests dropping fines for residents who sign up for notification system

Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel hosts town hall meeting in Red Deer

The provincial government’s panel examining Alberta’s role in Confederation has now heard… Continue reading

Greed drove former SNC exec’s alleged fraud, corruption scheme: Crown

MONTREAL — Summing up six weeks of testimony at the trial of… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train supports Lacombe Food Bank

Madeline Merlo and JUNO Award nominee Scott Helman both performed

Your community calendar

Friday The Annual Old-Fashioned Country Christmas is being held Dec. 13 at… Continue reading

Opinion: City’s health-care needs ignored once again

Whether it’s services for those struggling with addictions, or patients who need… Continue reading

Eagles rally past Manning, Giants 23-17 in OT

PHILADELPHIA — Eli Manning isn’t done yet. Neither are the Philadelphia Eagles.… Continue reading

Freeland heads to Mexico in effort to finalize new NAFTA revisions

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is to meet American and… Continue reading

Greed drove former SNC exec’s alleged fraud, corruption scheme: Crown

MONTREAL — Summing up six weeks of testimony at the trial of… Continue reading

No evidence presented in defence of man accused in B.C. high school stabbing

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The defence lawyer for a man accused in… Continue reading

Court challenge to federal ban on needles for drug-using prisoners postponed

TORONTO — A court hearing to challenge the federal government’s ban on… Continue reading

Liberals move to start phasing in promised tax cuts in January 2020

OTTAWA — The Liberal government says Canadians will begin to see the… Continue reading

Most Read