Federal Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu is defending the government’s decision to use back-to-work legislation to end the rotating strike by Canada Post workers.
She was asked if this kind of legislation was essentially removing the right to strike of Canada Post workers.
“The government has provisions to use back-to-work legislation in cases where people are relying on a service that’s essential to Canadians,” says Hajdu. “The kinds of stories that we’re hearing from across the country, it’s not just about small business, although of course small businesses are being dramatically affected.”
Hajdu went on to say for very small businesses that sell items like marmalade, or other handmade goods, this is the most profitable time of the year, and if they “aren’t able to make their earnings this time of year, they very well may be facing the end of their business.”
Hajdu was questioned about whether taking this step is making negotiations more difficult.
“For well over a year, the two parties have had the support of federal mediation services, I’ve appointed a special mediator, I’ve reappointed a special mediator, the parties are not interested in voluntary arbitration,” says Hajdu. “You know, the time has come where action has to be taken.”
She says there are still a few steps to go before the bill becomes law, and she urges Canada Post and CUP-W to negotiate hard to try to reach a deal before the legislation would likely take effect early this coming week.
When asked about negotiating tactics from both parties, Patty Hajdu said they were taking the actions they feel they need to take.
“I’m not going to negotiate for them in public, that would be completely inappropriate, what I will say is that we expect them to negotiate, and to negotiate hard,” says Hajdu. “If they cannot reach an agreement we will take actions to ensure the service of Canada Post is in place and operating with efficiency.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is condemning the back-to-work legislation as a violation of fundamental workers rights.
National President Mike Palecek says they are pushing for progress on several issues, including safe working conditions, adding postal workers are the most injured group of workers in the federal sector, at five times the average.
“Our calculations show based on the injury rates of this year, if our members are forced back in to these conditions, at least 315 postal workers will suffer disabling injuries between now and Christmas, that’s unacceptable,” fumed Palecek.
He continued by saying that rate is double the injury rate of the next group of workers, adding “it is now more dangerous in this country to be a postal worker than a longshoreman, or a miner.”
Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuf concurred with Palecek, adding his belief the back-to-work legislation is unconstitutional.
“Previous Conservative government tried to, of course, legislate Canada Post workers back to work in 2011, the Court subsequently ruled it was unconstitutional,” says Yussuf. “I think something should be learned by that experience.
The CLC and CUPW have said they will likely take the government to court if the legislation is passed after the Senate studies it this weekend.
The House of Commons passed the back-to-work legislation in the early hours of Saturday morning in a 166 – 43 vote.