Weeks of rotating postal strikes have come to an end on Tuesday, November 27th, after the senate passed a back-to-work legislation.
The new legislation, Bill C-89, called for an end to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ (CUPW) strikes today at noon, while also assigning an independent mediator-arbitrator to work with both sides to continue negotiations that will allow them to come to a collective agreement.
The Bill was tabled on Saturday and approved on Monday, November 26th, following a 53-25 vote in favour of the legislation in the Senate. It then received royal assent on the very same day.
“Back-to-work legislation is a last resort and not something we take lightly,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour in a statement on Monday.
“However, having exhausted all other options, it is necessary to protect the public interest and avoid further harm to the Canadian economy.”’
The Canadian Union of Postal Worker (CUPW) had been holding rotating-strikes across the country for the past 37 days, with Victoria being one of the first cities affected.
In response to the federal back-to-work mandate, CUPW President Mike Palecek called the legislation “unconstitutional”, and asked union members and supporters to prepare for forms of protest.
“After 37 days of rotating strikes, unconstitutional legislation has removed the right to strike for postal workers,” said Palecek.
“In the coming days, we will be calling on our allies and membership for a campaign of mobilizations, demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience.”
“All options remain on the table to achieve negotiated collective agreements that address health and safety, equitable treatment, fair wages and working conditions, and the democratic right to free collective bargaining.”
Tensions between Canada Post and the CUPW have risen over the past 40 days after three rounds of failed negotiations. The federal government then increased the pressure to reach a deal in the wake of the winter holidays – the busiest season for parcel and mail deliveries in the country.
“The work stoppage at Canada Post has had significant negative impacts on Canadians, charities, businesses of all sizes, international commerce, Canada Post, its workers and their families,” said Minister Hajdu.
“Canadians and businesses rely on Canada Post and its workers, especially during the busy retail season.”
While the interests of the economy and rights of business owners is cited as a concern for the federal government, labour leaders and the NDP have criticized the move for undermining the CUPW’s negotiations with Canada Post.
In 2015, Canadian workers were given the fundamental right to strike, protected by the constitution, in a Supreme Court ruling.