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Postal workers protest back-to-work legislation

Mail could be arriving in letter boxes as soon as today (Tuesday), following passage of back-to-work legislation in the House of Commons and the Senate.

The legislation was passed Saturday night in the House, following a 58-hour filibuster by Opposition NDP MPs.

It was passed by the Senate after a lengthy sitting Sunday, during which senators heard testimony from federal ministers, Canada Post and members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

It received a rough ride from some senators during subsequent debate, including Liberal Terry Mercer, who was quoted as calling it “the beginning of an attack on public service unions” and Progressive Conservative Lowell Murray who described it “contemptuous in its attitude toward a labour union of any kind.”

Reaction by local postal workers to the impending legislation reflected the defiance exhibited by union members across the country – and their position that they were being denied the chance to work and negotiate by Canada Post’s  June 10 lockout, which had followed a series of rotating strikes by the union.

With chants of “negotiate, not legislate” and “we wanna work,” – and frequent honking horns from passing motorists – some 70 postal workers gathered outside Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s South Surrey constituency office June 24.

Hiebert, himself, was in Ottawa, where the NDP filibuster was continuing on Labour Minister Lisa Raitt’s bill – which called for “a final offer binding selection” between Canada Post and the union to end the dispute.

Hiebert had told Peace Arch News at the time the legislation was introduced that it was “the way to go.”

“Both sides put forward their best offer and the arbitrator decides which one is the winner,” he said last week. “What this does is it forces them to be reasonable – it’s a healthy way to resolve a labour dispute. It’s fair and it results in a final contract.”

The South Surrey protesters represented job sites throughout the Fraser Valley West local of the CUPW, local president Stephen Gale said.

“We want Russ and all the MPs to understand the fact that we need to get back to work,” he said. “All day yesterday we heard Conservatives (in the House of Commons) referring to a strike. It’s not a strike – we’re locked out.”

Gale said Friday the union would go back “tomorrow” under the terms of the expired collective agreement, and continue negotiations for a new contract. He noted that in response to an appeal from Raitt, the union had agreed to cease rotating strikes – under those conditions – as far back as June 10, after which workers were locked out by Canada Post.

He said the workers were appreciative of last ditch NDP efforts to amend the bill to take out conditions that would make it hard for them to submit a final offer to the arbitrator, including a wage level that is actually below Canada Post’s most recent offer.

“This is punitive legislation,” he said.

“We want to negotiate. It’s a fundamental right and the government is trying to take it away from us.

“We’re not going to tolerate that; we’re not going to go down quietly. We want to do what we do, which is to provide a service to people in the community.”

 

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