Canada Post union wins stay of proceedings, arbitration stalled

Union objects to appointee over ties to Conservatives, Canada Post
||Last Updated: 05/15/2012

Arbitration hearings between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) will be put on hold after the union won a stay of proceedings from the Federal Court.

The union is challenging the appointment of arbitrator Guy Dufort in its dispute with Canada Post because of his previous work for Canada Post and history as a Conservative party candidate in Quebec.

CUPW asked Dufort to step down in March, but he declined saying the union’s concerns about any possible conflict of interest weren’t justified.

The Federal Court will now hold a hearing on July 25 in Montreal to review Dufort's appointment.

The Federal Court’s decision to review the appointment was a legal victory for the union, CUPW national president Denis Lemelin said in an update to members.

“The real solution lies in a negotiated settlement not an imposed arbitration," Lemelin said. "Going the arbitration route is likely to take many months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since the party that loses will likely try to regain what they have lost in the next round of negotiations, the whole arbitration process will solve nothing."

Dufont is the second arbitrator the union has objected to. Ontario judge Coulter Osbourne stepped down as arbitrator after CUPW complained he wasn’t bilingual and had no labour relations experience.

Canada Post is frustrated by CUPW’s efforts to prevent the arbitration process from moving forward, Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said.

"After eight months of negotiations and a damaging work disruption, arbitration remains the best way to address rising labour costs and begin to address the long-term viability of the postal system," Hamilton said in a statement. "The latest delay in the arbitration process is particularly galling given that the challenge of Mr. Dufort is a reversal by the union. CUPW had recommended the bilingual retired labour lawyer be the arbitrator in this matter."

The union said it was unaware of Dufont’s connections to the Conservative government and Canada Post. It objected to his appointment as soon as officials learned of the ties.

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. Some 50,000 CUPW members 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.

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