North Bay postal workers angry – union official

North Bay postal workers \angry\ - union official
MPs vote to proceed with fast-tracking Canada Post back-to-work legislation through Commons
NDP MPs walked out of the House of Commons Friday evening. They did so to protest the Liberal governments "super anti-democratic motion" to trample on workers' rights according to leader Jagmeet Singh. MPs were hunkering down to force an end to the Canada Post strike, trying to pass back-to-work legislation. "This is absolutely unacceptable. this is wrong," said Singh.

Canadian members of Parliament passed early Saturday morning legislation that could see Canada Post workers back on the job early next week.

Irate postal workers fill Hajdus office

The vote saw 166 MPs vote in favour of the legislation and 43 against it — including some members of the government caucus such as Stephen Fuhr, who reports suggested would oppose the bill.

Roy pinned the labour dispute at the feet of Canada Post, adding the corporation has known all along that Hajdu and the Liberals would bail them out by forcing workers, who have been holding rotating strikes across the country since the strike began, back on the job.

Houses passes back-to-work legislation to end Canada Post strike

Bill C-89, the “Postal Services Resumption and Continuation Act,” now goes to the Senate, which will debate it starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Canada Post workers occupy ministers offices to protest back-to-work legislation

The vote marked an end to a marathon session of Parliament that began with MPs voting for a motion that would see an expedited process bring the bill to fruition, and it carried on until about 1 a.m. ET.

NDP MPs voted against the initial motion as a caucus, and some of them subsequently left the House of Commons in protest of it. Certain members raised a fist as they departed.

If required, the legislation would set out a process by which the parties would return to work while continuing negotiations with an independent mediator-arbitrator. Our government does not take this step lightly, and it is intended as a last resort.”

READ MORE: Canada Post workers occupy offices of Morneau, other MPs to protest back-to-work legislation

Hajdu said at the time that it was not a step she took lightly and still was hopeful the two sides would strike a deal before legislation would be imposed, but on Friday she was decisive that this strike needed to end, calling postal service essential. She spoke of the reliance Canadians and businesses have on timely postal services, especially during the holiday season.

Once passed, the bill went to second reading, then committee of the whole, then to third reading and was passed.

As she kicked off debate on the bill itself, Hajdu was met with chants of Shame! Shame! from the public viewing galleries where postal workers had convened. As they continued to disrupt the proceedings, Parliament Hill security escorted the demonstrators out, with at least one leaving in handcuffs and the union vowing this would only be the beginning of a bitter battle.

The bill “provides for the resumption and continuation of postal services and imposes a mediation process to resolve matters remaining in dispute between the parties.”

Even before MPs had begun debating the bill on Friday, they butted heads over a motion to fast-track C-89. All but a handful of NDP MPs staged a walkout during a vote on the motion. One by one the New Democrats nodded at the Speaker and walked out, some with fists raised towards the public viewing galleries.

Employees want better job security. They also want to stop forced overtime along with improved health and safety measures.

Bill C-89 directs Canada Post to resume postal services “without delay,” and states that every employee must “resume without delay… the duties of their employment.”

The governing Liberals took the step to legislate Canada Post back to work on Thursday, a day after a special mediator was re-appointed to help try to find a compromise following months of unsuccessful contract negotiations and rolling strikes that have led to a backlog of mail deliveries.

How the Canada Post strikes could affect your Black Friday, Cyber Monday shopping

The legislation also gives both Canada Post and CUPW two days to come up with up with the names of up to three people to act as a mediator-arbitrator between the parties, after it passes.

The union has been on a rotating strike schedule for a month. They’re seeking pay equity for rural and suburban letter carriers, more health and safety protections and job security. Canada Post offered the union some of the items they asked for in an effort to end the strike before the holiday shopping rush, but the union said the latest offer fell short.

Once appointed, the mediator-arbitrator will then have the job of mediating all matters referred by the parties.

Should the parties prove unable to come to an agreement, then the mediator-arbitrator has been directed to arbitrate the matter and come up with a decision.

A Vancouver organizer said there are at least five occupations happening across the country, including at the offices of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in North Vancouver, Finance Minister Bill Morneau in Toronto, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Ottawa, and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in Mississauga.

The mediator-arbitrator has also been directed to ask both Canada Post and the CUPW to submit their final offers — one of which will be chosen.

A Vancouver organizer said there are at least five occupations happening across the country, including at the offices of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in North Vancouver, Finance Minister Bill Morneau in Toronto, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Ottawa, and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in Mississauga.

A majority of MPs in the House of Commons have voted in favour of the Liberal government's motion to fast-track legislation through Parliament that would force Canada Post employees back to work. 

“It breaks my heart to see the amount of injuries among letter carriers,” said Marion Pollack, a retired worker who’s leading the protest at Wilkinson’s office. “We’re going to be there until the legislation is hopefully rejected.”

Canada Post is in its fifth week of rotating strikes by thousands of unionized workers, with no sign yet of a breakthrough in contract negotiations.

The Liberals won the vote 173 to 13 with the help of a handful of Conservative MPs who remained in Ottawa for the vote.

It was the second walkout in Ottawa since CUPW members began been staging rotating stoppages Oct. 22 to back their contract demands.

A majority of NDP MPs stood and left the House in protest after their vote, rendering their votes invalid. Some NDP MPs raised a fist in solidarity to postal workers gathered in the public gallery as they left the House.

The NDP had tried to amend the motion, allowing more time for debate, but their amendments failed by a vote of 172 to 38.

But two independent senators, Frances Lankin and Diane Griffin, wrote Hajdu to express their concern that the bill may not be constitutional. The pair said Hajdu had promised to issue a government analysis detailing how the bill does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but it still had not materialized by Friday evening.

MPs will now move into multiple rounds of debates and votes. A final vote on the bill to send the bill to the Senate is expected late tonight, or early Saturday morning. The Senate has passed a motion to sit this weekend. If the Senate passes the bill, it would get royal assent quickly, likely Sunday or Monday, and would come into force at noon ET the next day.

Union leaders have been mounting fierce opposition to the Liberal's legislative move, vowing to fight the government's actions in court and on the streets.

New Democrat MPs voted against the motion to speed up debate on the back-to-work legislation, with many making an elaborate show of walking out of the Commons after voting, raising their fists in salute to postal workers watching from the public gallery. The votes of those who walked out were not counted.

Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Hassan Yussuff and Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) president Mike Palecek held a news conference on Parliament Hill earlier today condemning the federal government's decision and warning that members will mobilize to protest.

Palecek said members are fighting for pay equity and safer working conditions as employees face an injury "crisis."

“And when I say small, I mean really small. I mean people that, you know, sell marmalade or handmade goods, that this is the most profitable time of their year and if they are unable to make their earnings this time of year, they very well might be facing the end of their business.”

Justin Trudeau says he hopes deal can be reached to end Canada Post strike

The Ottawa local of CUPW issued a news release saying members and "allies" were occupying the constituency office of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to protest the back-to-work bill.

"I think our members are angry. They're seeing their fundamental rights violated," he said. "We have lots of options to protest the actions of this government if they're going to remove our constitutional rights. "It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that our members are taking action."

According to the union, workers and their supporters occupied the offices of seven other MPs including: Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Minister of Employment Patricia Hajdu, Julie Dzerowicz, Kate Young, Stephen Fuhr and Jonathan Wilkinson. 

Labour leaders and New Democrat MPs slammed the government for undermining the collective-bargaining process. The government has removed all incentive for Canada Post to reach a negotiated settlement now that the agency knows workers will be ordered back to work by early next week, they charged.

Palecek said the bill flies in the face of the Liberal government's stated support for organized labour, and union members will fight back.

"And when I say small, I mean really small. I mean people that, you know, sell marmalade or handmade goods, that this is the most profitable time of their year and if they are unable to make their earnings this time of year, they very well might be facing the end of their business."

"Should the government pass the law, we will be back in the courts and we will get a ruling from the courts on whether this government is violating the most fundamental tenet of our constitution: the right of workers to strike in this country," he said.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu has expressed hope both sides would reach an agreement, saying all Canadians want postal service resumed. She said the negotiations and service disruption have dragged on too long.

“The right to strike is an integral part of the collective bargaining process,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “Without it, an employer has no incentive to bargain in good faith, and workers have no recourse to demand a fair process.”

In 2011, the former Conservative government passed back-to-work legislation for Canada Post workers which was subsequently challenged on constitutional grounds.

Five years later, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in favour of the postal workers, finding the legislation unconstitutional because it violated the workers' freedom of association and expression as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Members of Palecek’s union have held rotating walkouts for a month, causing massive backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots, though Canada Post and the union dispute how big the pileup is.

Asked why the Liberal legislation would not also violate those constitutional rights, Hajdu said Thursday the Liberals have taken a "dramatically different" approach from the Conservatives' legislation. The former government did not allow for labour disruption and took pre-emptive action that was harmful to the labour movement, she said.

On Thursday, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu tabled a bill to end mail disruptions across the country and argued the government had a responsibility protect all Canadians and businesses that drive the economy.

"We have taken every effort over a long period of time to assist these parties to come to a negotiated agreement," she said.

Canada Post says it could take weeks – even stretching into 2019 – to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Hajdu said those strikes are negatively impacting small business, people in rural and remote communities and low-income Canadians relying on cheques to pay their bills.

Palecek, of CUPW, said the government has mischaracterized the disruption to service, as strikes are rotating and essential cheques mailed to seniors and low-income Canadians are still being delivered.

"We haven't shut down the post office, yet now the government is attempting to shut down collective bargaining," he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the work conditions for postal workers have changed dramatically yet the issues of pay inequity and perilous work environment have not been addressed.

"What we would expect is the prime minister to do everything in his power to ensure that there's a free and fair negotiation," he said on Parliament Hill, surrounded by Canada Post employees. "But instead what he's doing is bringing in the worst, most Draconian legislation today, completely undemocratic, and what he's doing is trampling on the rights of working people."

Canada Post had suggested a "cooling off" for negotiations during the peak holiday period, and offered a $1,000 special payment to each employee at the end of that time.

"Canada Post remains at the table to find the common ground needed to reach a fair and reasonable settlement with the union. We continue to operate in an attempt to minimize further service impacts on the many people who depend on us, especially at this time of year," said a statement from the Crown corporation.

Kathleen Harris is a senior writer in the CBC's Parliament Hill bureau. She covers politics, immigration, justice and corrections. Follow her on Twitter @ottawareporter

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