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.
READ MORE: Canada Post workers occupy offices of Morneau, other MPs to protest back-to-work legislation
Once passed, the bill went to second reading, then committee of the whole, then to third reading and was passed.
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.”
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"We have taken every effort over a long period of time to assist these parties to come to a negotiated agreement," she said.
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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