VIDEO: Langley postal workers frustrated by back to work legislation

VIDEO: Langley postal workers frustrated by back to work legislation
Senators to resume debate on postal legislation after taking a day to reflect
Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers could be kicked out of the union if they go against CUPW’s pressure tactic of refusing overtime during the rotating strikes.

“Working on your rotation day (RDO) is a violation of the National Overtime Ban. This is a legal strike action. All CUPW members must follow this direction. You will be subjected to Articles 8 charges under the National Constitution.”

The legislation would give a mediator-arbitrator appointed by the government 90 days to try and reach contract settlements. Failing that, a settlement could be imposed either through a decision from the arbitrator or by choosing from one of the final proposals put forward by Canada Post or CUPW.

Process Nerd: Why did the Senate pause the Canada Post back-to-work bill?

Article 8 of the CUPW National Constitution refers to discipline that could be imposed on members who violate national orders such as a national strike, as laid out in section 8.02(e), “if he/she impeded or acted in opposition to a strike or any other collective action of the Union”.

CUPW spokesperson Emilie Tobin wouldn’t comment on the memo, but did say those penalties apply to every member even in times where there is not a labour disruption.

Picket lines were up Monday in parts of British Columbia, including Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey, and in parts of Ontario, including Hamilton, Ajax, North York, Pickering and London. Workers also walked off the job in Halifax and Dartmouth, N.S.

Canada Post strike resumes in Hamilton as back-to-work bill gets closer look

A spokesperson for Canada Post told Global News that the corporation often asks workers to come in at this time of the year on rotation days, in order to clear the backlog of holiday parcels.

Once enacted, Bill C-89 would impose fines of between $1,000 and $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the Act, and up to $100,000 per day against Canada Post or the union if they are found guilty of violating its terms.

London facility among those occupied by Canada Post workers to protest back-to-work bill

“On weekends during the holidays last year we delivered 3.6 million parcels,” said Jon Hamilton, Canada Post spokesperson.

Hamilton notes that Canada Post had planned to deliver 500,000 parcels across the country this weekend to keep pace. With the labour disruption, however, their projections have them delivering around 30,000 parcels this weekend.

“If that bill gets passed, the postal workers in London and all across Canada will be going back to work in the same working conditions, with the same collective agreement we have had and that we are trying to get fixed,” she said. “It will force people to work extra hours, beyond what they want to, they won’t have family life, and it’s very unsafe.”

Saturday, in a rare weekend sitting, the Senate was told there are are 1,000,000 pieces of mail waiting to be delivered.

Canada Post’s interim president and CEO Jessica McDonald told senators that the backlog could take weeks to clear, pushing them well past January. However, CUPW National President Mike Palecek told the upper chamber it would only take his members one day to get back on track.

Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said their negotiators remained at the bargaining table Sunday, hoping to reach contract agreements in advance of the bill’s passage. Negotiations have been underway for nearly a year, but the dispute escalated Oct. 22 when mail carriers and other postal workers launched rotating strikes.

Senators spent much of the day grilling witnesses about the rotating strikes and the apparent urgency to pass back-to-work legislation. Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu and Public Works and Government Services minister Carla Qualtrough were questioned for more than 90 minutes, while McDonald and the CUPW’s national president were both grilled for more than an hour.

Bill C-89, the Canada Post back-to-work legislation, could have gone to a vote on Saturday, but several members of the Independent Senators Group (ISG) worry it might be unconstitutional because it violates the workers rights to free bargaining.

More than a dozen striking workers could be seen outside the facility on Waterman Avenue in London, just west of Wellington Road, early Monday morning holding signs and blocking the entrances to the distribution centre amid rainy and chilly weather.

“If senators are being asked to pass legislation that breaches the Charter, we should know that there’s a breach of the Charter and now we’re left to contend with that issue on our own, and it’s unfair,” said ISG member and senator Murray Sinclair.

Unionized Canada Post workers are on strike there, and the union has also shut down operations at the York Distribution Centre in Scarborough. It’s the second time this month job action has affected operations in London.

Vote today by lawmakers could have Canada Post workers back on the job by noon tomorrow

In 2011, the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper passed back-to-work legislation to end the last Canada Post strike, but it was later struck down in the Supreme Court of Canada after being deemed unconstitutional.

This could be the last full day of strike action, though, because the federal government passed three readings of back-to-work legislation over the weekend and sent the bill over to the Senate for further debate.

Postal workers strike, occupy HRM plants ahead of possible back-to-work legislation

The final vote on C-89 could come Monday afternoon, meaning Canada Post workers could be forced back on the job as early as Tuesday at noon.

Before looking at why the Senate made the last-minute call to hit pause on Team Trudeaus bid to end the rotating strikes at Canada Post, a quick caveat: As an unabashed non-expert on labour law, Process Nerd is wildly unqualified to comment on the pros and cons of the legislation itself, so none of the following analysis is aimed at the substance of the legislation, and will instead focus on… well, the process, and specifically, the right (or not) of the upper house to defy the governments preferred timeline in exercising its constitutional duty to deliver sober, second thought.

Bargaining between CUPW and Canada Post continues as the two sides attempt to reach a negotiated settlement.

For those who may have missed the latest twists and turns in the legislative plot, a brief recap: After forcing through a pre-emptive motion limiting debate on its back-to-work proposal to just four hours, the government used its majority to propel the bill through the House of Commons in just one sitting day, with the bill landing on the Senate agenda on Saturday morning.

"I spend quite a bit of money on my gym stuff because I like to wear quality stuff. I don't like to wear long shirts because they are uncomfortable when I work out," she said. "If I can't wear them I won't go back because I can't support a gym that's going to say that to women when men are there and they can be shirtless or wear their muscle shirts, but women can't even wear a crop top."

Postal workers occupy London facility

Initially, the upper house had planned to sit through the weekend in order to get it to the Royal Assent finish line by Monday.

"As a woman, we are always taught what’s appropriate to wear and what’s not, while men can wear anything and everything and get nothing said to them," she wrote. "I’m not there to distract those around me, I’m there to workout and work on myself. I’m not going to buy a whole new wardrobe, when all I own is crop tops to workout in because that’s what I feel COMFORTABLE IN."

But following a lightning-round committee of the whole with Team Trudeau leads Employment Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough, as well as senior officials from both Canada Post and the union representing striking postal workers, they decided to take a day to mull over what they heard before moving on to the final stage of debate, which is set to resume later today.

"This industry is changing very rapidly, when you look at all of the transformative technologies, be it propulsion, autonomous driving… These are things we're doing to strengthen the core business," GM chief executive and chairman Mary Barra told reporters on Monday. "We think it's appropriate to do it at a time, and get in front of it, while the company is strong and while the economy is strong."

In a nutshell: A critical mass of chamber denizens — including those aligned with both the Senate Liberal and capital-I Independent caucuses — simply havent been convinced that the current impasse is so dire that government intervention is needed. Theyre also concerned that the bill as drafted could violate the Charter of Rights, which past court rulings have concluded explicitly protects collective bargaining rights.

"When you look at the country in two halves, we think winter will end sooner in Western Canada … whereas farther east, we think while it might not be harsh at all times, it does have some longevity and we're going to be begging for spring by the time we get to early March," said The Weather Network's chief meteorologist Chris Scott.

For its part, the government did eventually produce a Charter impact statement on the bill, which was delivered to senators just after midnight on Saturday morning.

The Government Is Voting To End The Canada Post Strike Today, Heres When Theyll Be Back To Work

That statement, which is available for review online, attempts to make the case that the bill is consistent with the Charter, and lists all the ways the government attempted to bridge the gap between the two sides before turning to legislation, including appointing several mediators and urging the parties to consider voluntary arbitration.

"We're extremely unhappy about this unnecessary back-to-work legislation that's stripping us of our Charter rights," he told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show. "We've specifically gone out and done rotating strikes throughout this country so the mail continues to move."

But as retired federal judge-turned-parliamentarian Sen. Murray Sinclair noted, it fell considerably short of his expectation that it lay out the legal argument in support of the draft bill.

It doesnt even acknowledge that there is a Charter breach, he pointed out to his colleagues.

Bill C-89 was debated in the upper chamber on Saturday after the Liberal government fast-tracked the legislation through the Commons, but senators chose to take an extra day to digest hours of witness testimony.

Senate expected to make final decision on Canada Post back-to-work legislation

For a Charter assessment to be helpful to us, I think it at least has to acknowledge that the legislation is, on its face, very similar to what was done in 2011 with regard to that particular legislation, in that, by interfering with the right of employees to withdraw their services, it does, in fact, become a breach of the Charter.

A news release sent by Canadian Union of Postal Workers said the actions are part of rotating strikes that are taking place across the country, but there will be no picket lines in either location.

Mail carriers protest back-to-work legislation outside Canada Post distribution centre in London

According to the precedent set by the courts, he noted, such breaches are not automatically verboten, but must be justified under section 1 of the Charter, which the statement fails to do.

Corporate retail outlets on Almon Street and Bedford Row in Halifax, along with Queen Street and Akerley Blvd in Dartmouth are still open "as to limit the inconvenience to the public."

We dont see an acknowledgment that there is a Charter breach, he stressed. We dont see the section 1 analysis. There is a brief discussion about the importance of the legislation because its interfering with the publics right to get mail, and businesses are suffering; however, there is no proof provided in the document, or in any of the information provided to us, that that is, in fact, the case.

Senate adjourns vote on Canada Post back-to-work bill until Monday

Independent Liberal Sen. Serge Joyal — who tends to act as the chambers in-house constitutional scholar at large — commented that it seemed to have been put together very quickly, and, in his view, doesnt, in my opinion, satisfy those aspects of the course to be run to be sure that this legislation is constitutionally sound.

Several senators, including Sinclair and one-time provincial New Democrat minister Frances Lankin, also questioned the use of anecdotal evidence to highlight the ostensible urgency of the matter — such as an oft-repeated claim related to the backlog of hundreds of trucks, which Canadian Union of Postal Workers president Mike Palecek dismissed as fiction.

So, leaving aside the merits (or lack thereof) of the bill itself, its worth noting that the Senate is, of course, master of its own destiny, at least as far as allocating time to consider proposed legislation — and that holds true, even if the government is pushing for a swift outcome.

In fact, the new reality of the Independent-dominated Senate makes the decision to hold off until Monday even more defensible, as it would be difficult, if not impossible, to claim that the majority who want more time to weigh the implications of the bill are being driven by partisan politics (particularly since most of the senators who expressed concerns about the bill during the initial debate were appointed under the current government).

Its even possible — though unlikely — that when the debate resumes this afternoon, one or more senators could attempt to amend the bill, which would also be entirely within their mandate, even if it could delay final passage of the back-to-work order even further.