Senate passes Canada Post back-to-work legislation

Mail could resume across the country on Tuesday
||Last Updated: 10/13/2011

Mail could be back in Canadian mailboxes on Tuesday after the Senate on Sunday endorsed back-to-work legislation ending the labour dispute that shut down the postal service.

The Senate held a rare weekend session to approve the government measure that was passed by the House of Commons on Saturday after a 58-hour filibuster by opposition MPs who said the bill was unfair to the workers.

Postal workers started rotating strikes to back contract demands on June 3, leading to a lockout by Canada Post, a government-owned corporation, on June 15 that shut the mail service down.

The Conservative government said it had no choice but to intervene because contract negotiations between the company and union had failed, and a prolonged dispute posed a threat to the national economy.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) said its members will return to work as ordered, but warned that the order does not resolve the issues that lead to the dispute. It may challenge the legislation in court.

The legislation provides for an arbitrator to pick between the offers made by the union or Canada Post, but it includes a controversial measure that sets the pay increase at less than the company had already offered the union.

If the arbitrator accepts Canada Post's offer, the company would also be allowed to offer new hires lower salaries, pensions and vacations than its existing workers now get.

House of Commons Debate

The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) stretched out the debate on back-to-work legislation. The Conservative government vowed the House of Commons would not adjourn for its summer recess until the bill to restore postal service passed.

CUPW, which represents 48,000 urban postal workers, says that in talks for a new contract management has demanded unfair concessions in areas including wages, staffing and safety.

Canada Post says in an age of e-mail and the Internet, it must offer new hires less generous salaries and pensions to be competitive, particularly with courier companies.

The opposition NDP received support from many unions and in stalling the back-to-work bill it is running a fine line in trying to back the postal union without angering the broader population. A poll found 70 per cent of Canadians support the legislation.

— with files from Reuters

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