Postal union asks new arbitrator to step down

Latest appointee has ties to Conservatives, Canada Post: Union
||Last Updated: 03/16/2012

Canada’s postal union is asking the arbitrator appointed to resolve an ongoing contract dispute with Canada Post to not accept or excuse himself from further proceedings. The union says the arbitrator has ties to the Conservative party and has represented Canada Post as a labour lawyer in the past.

In a notice to union members, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) president Denis Lemelin says the union learned this week Labour Minister Lisa Raitt appointed Guy Dufort as the new arbitrator in the dispute after the previous arbitrator stepped down in November 2011. At that time, the labour ministry asked the union to submit names of acceptable potential arbitrators.

The union’s list included Dufort, who was on another list of arbitrators that had been approved by Quebec employers and labour organizations, Lemelin said in a notice to CUPW members, adding no further research was done.

When Dufort first contacted the union, it became evident that he had been involved with the federal Conservative party and worked for Canada Post for several years on a pay equity dispute.

“These issues were unknown to us when the decision to put his name on the list was made,” Lemelin said in the notice.

The union has directed its lawyer to contact Dufort to ask him to decline the minister’s mandate. Alternatively, if he has already accepted the appointment, the union is asking him to recuse himself.

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.

Justice Coulter Osborne stepped down as the arbitrator in the dispute in November 2011 after the CUPW launched a court challenge against his appointment, saying he lacked labour relations experience and bilingual language skills.

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