The federal government introduced back-to-work legislation Monday that, if passed later this week, would get the mail system moving again.
The move would end the postal lockout that has been going on for more than a week as well as the rotating strikes the union initiated before that.
The bill move has angered locked-out postal workers who said it was an unfair step for the government to take.
It is disappointing to see a federal government that has been elected by working people to legislate [people back to work]instead of fulfilling their role as mediator, said Bev Ray, president of the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
Ray said the legislation takes away the rights of workers to bargain.
“They have basically stripped the union and 48,000 workers in this country from any rights to freely collective bargain for what their working conditions are going to look like.”
Jon Caines, a spokesperson for Canada Post, said the corporation also prefers a negotiated settlement and will work towards that goal until the bill passes.
“We are still negotiating. We have been all along. We were at the table yesterday and we are there again today and, hopefully, we will be able to get a negotiated settlement.”
The bill would send the labour dispute to arbitration, with each side submitting a final offer. The arbitrator would then put all of the resolved issues into a final settlement, including pay raises in each of the four years of the deal.
Both sides would then have a chance to put forward their final offers on the unresolved issues in the dispute and the arbitrator would pick one of those final offers.
Ray said she is worried the arbitrator will not be able to blend the two proposals or meet in the middle.
“It definitely has us concerned. This legislation could have been written where the arbitrator could take from what both sides have put on the table to create a final offer.”
The legislation could pass as early as Thursday. The opposition parties have indicated they will not support fast tracking the bill, which means it is unclear precisely when it will pass.
If the legislation is passed, it would not take the corporation long to have the system returned to normal, Caines said.
Ray is not optimistic a deal will be reached before the legislation is passed and said she believes Canada Post has not been seriously negotiating and is fine with this outcome.
“Let’s not forget that it was Canada Post that locked out the workers.”
The union and Canada Post have agreed on many issues, but remain at odds over a proposed wage structure for new employees, a proposed modernization plan and staffing levels.
Even though rural carriers are not covered under the CUPW, mail in rural areas has largely stopped because the system has run out of mail.
The Gazette does not expect Sturgeon County readers will get their Wednesday edition, but newspaper boxes are in place throughout the county.
A link at www.stalbertgazette.com has full information on where to get the paper during the lockout available online.