The Harper government says it hopes to finish debating the Canada Post back-to-work bill by Thursday so that it can quickly send the bill on to the Senate for final passage.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan says that he believes legislation will be passed by the end of the week when MPs in the House of Commons are dismissed for summer holiday. The NDP, however, is vowing to delay its passing.
Meanwhile, rallies are being held around the country by members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) to demonstrate against the government's attempt to force them back to work if a contract agreement can't be reached. The government has said it hopes the possibility of the bill will make Canada Post and its workers reach their own agreement.
Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, introduced in Parliament yesterday, contains wage increases that are less than those in Canada Post’s last offer and “well below” the inflation rate of 3.3 per cent, according to the union.
The bill contains the following wage increases:
· 1.75 per cent in the first year
· 1.5 per cent in the second year
· 2.0 per cent in the third year
· 2.0 per cent in the fourth year
In contrast, Canada Post’s last offer contained a 1.9 per cent increase in the first three years and 2.0 per cent in the last year.
“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.”
Lemelin also noted that legislation introduced after the Canada Post strike in 1997 included a provision that ensured the mediator arbitrator considered the importance of good labour-management relations. He says 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.”
If Bill C-6 is signed into law, an independent arbitrator will make a binding decision between the final offer from management and the final offer from the CUPW.
When Labour Minister Lisa Raitt introduced the legislation in the House of Commons Monday, she said the two parties had an “ample amount of time” to negotiate an agreement.
"It is both parties at the table who are negotiating and have been unable to obtain an agreement," Raitt said. "That's why we are acting on behalf of Canadians, on behalf of small businesses, on behalf of charities who are being affected by this work stoppage across the country."
Raitt also said she spoke with both parties and the conversation left her optimistic that a settlement could be reached without the legislation.
The main issues in the dispute are placing new employees on a different wage grid and introducing a new pension plan. The union of 48,000 urban employees is also concerned about some health and safety issues.
Canada Post has offered raises to existing employees, but has said that a lower wage scale for workers hired in the future is essential for its long-term survival.
Canada Post has also said it needs to change its pension plan because it is currently suffering a $3.2 billion pension deficit. The union insists that this figure is exaggerated.
CUPW began a series of 24-hour strikes on June 3, rotating among different communities across the country. Canada Post locked out the workers last week saying rotating job action had become too costly. Hours later, Raitt informed Parliament that the government would introduce back-to-work legislation.
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