Postal union claims victory in arbitrator challenge

Federal government will delay arbitration proceedings until January 2012
||Last Updated: 10/25/2011

The union representing Canada’s postal workers says it has won a “significant victory” in its battle with the federal government.

A Federal Court judge is agreeing to delay arbitration proceedings for three months until the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) can challenge the government's choice of arbitrator in January 2012.

“This decision shows that the union is on the right track,” says CUPW president Denis Lemelin. “We are questioning the process by which this government has forced its will on postal workers.”

Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, forced postal workers to accept wage rates that were less than what was contained in Canada Post's final offer. The back-to-work legislation also directed CUPW and the corporation to each make a final offer, one of which would be chosen by the arbitrator.

When the government appointed retired judge Coulter Osborne to hear the case, the union objected, saying Osborne doesn’t speak French and he lacks the necessary experience in labour relations.

Federal Court Justice Luc Martineau granted the union's request to stay the arbitration on Oct. 20. In the ruling, Martineau noted the arbitrator is usually chosen mutually or approved by both of the parties.

“There is clear evidence of harm and the instances of harm alleged by the union are not hypothetical or conjectural, as argued by Canada Post,” Martineau says in his ruling.

Canada Post has said that they are unhappy with the decision and that it jeopardizes the company's long-term financial viability.

The union also says they are working on mounting a separate legal challenge against the legislation that forced members back to work.

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