Canada’s postal union to challenge arbitrator selection

Union says arbitrator lacks experience; government defends decision
||Last Updated: 08/19/2011

The union representing Canada Post workers is planning to challenge the federal government’s choice of the arbitrator who will settle the labour dispute.

The union feels Justice Coulter Osborne has inadequate labour relations experience to complete the arbitration process. The union also says that he is not bilingual, something they say is important to them.

Osborne was appointed in late July 2011, almost a month after back-to-work legislation was passed in Parliament.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) says they are unsatisfied with Labour Minister Lisa Raitt’s choice and will file an affidavit in Federal Court before Aug. 22.

In an Aug. 10, 2011 newsletter to postal workers, CUPW president Denis Lemelin indicated that he had sent a letter to Raitt asking for clarification on the federal government’s decision.

“We reminded Ms. Raitt that during the Senate hearings on Bill C-6, on June 26, 2011, she made a commitment that the arbitrator she selected ‘will be someone with great experience in labour relations’,” the newsletter read.

Raitt has defended the government’s decision to choose Osborne.

“We are confident that he is in a position to hire whatever specialists or assistance he deems necessary,” Raitt’s press secretary Ashley Kelahear said when responding to CUPW’s complaints.

Postal workers were legislated back to work when the federal government enacted Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services. The CUPW started rotating strikes to back contract demands in early June 2011, leading to a lockout by Canada Post later that month, shutting the mail service down. The government said the lockout needed to end because of the threat to the national economy.

Wage increases, pension benefits and the impact of new technology on work methods were the key issues in negotiations.

As arbitrator, Justice Osborne has 90 days to choose either the union’s or management’s final offer.

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