Canada Post workers on strike in much of Metro Vancouver as Senate debates legislating them back to work

Canada Post workers on strike in much of Metro Vancouver as Senate debates legislating them back to work
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.”

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”.

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 more recently when mail carriers and other postal workers launched rotating strikes Oct. 22.

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.

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.

Those walkouts have led to backlogs of mail and parcel deliveries at the Crown corporation’s sorting plants, with Southwestern Ontario being one of the hardest-hit areas in the country because of a backlog of hundreds of transport trailers sitting idle at Canada Post’s main Toronto sorting facility.

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

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

Rotating strikes at Canada Post hit London again

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.

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 employees in London have taken over a postal facility to protest the federal government’s decision to table back-to-work legislation that would end nationwide rotating mail strikes.

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.

Members of Canada Post pose with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh for a group photo following news conference Friday November 23, 2018 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld ORG XMIT: ajw109

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.

The back-to-work legislation, Bill C-89, was debated in the upper chamber on Saturday after the Liberal government fast-tracked the legislation through the House of Commons.

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.

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

“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.

The issue has quickly become tense for many Canadians because Canada Post is crucial to delivering gifts, cards and other mail during the Christmas season.

Ground rules laid out for striking Canada Post workers | Watch News Videos Online

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.

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.

A Senate official says final debate on the legislation is expected to begin by mid-afternoon, likely followed by an early evening vote.

The Alberta government is opening a new front in the Canadian beer war by targeting Ontario for what it says are its unfair trade barriers to Alberta suds and other alcoholic products.

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous says Alberta is launching a formal trade challenge against Ontario over policies he says prevent Alberta manufacturers from accessing that much larger market.

He says Alberta's private liquor stores sell 745 alcoholic beverages made in Ontario but the government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario lists only about 20 products made in Alberta.

CUPW national president Mike Palecek warned that all options are on the table as the union decides how to fight the back-to-work legislation once it becomes law, which the union said violates the rights of postal employees.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the province will retreat on craft beer subsidies that were found by a judge to be unconstitutional last spring.

Under threat of back-to-work legislation that could pass through the Senate by late Monday, negotiators remained at the bargaining table Sunday in a last-ditch effort to bring an unforced end to rotating walkouts at Canada Post.

He says he will cancel by Dec. 15 Alberta's program of grants for smaller Alberta craft brewers, to bring its beer regulations in compliance with Canadian trade law.

The province will return to a system similar to that in place before 2015, with markups of $1.25 per litre applied to all beer sold in Alberta by producers of more than 50,000 hectolitres per year. Smaller brewers, regardless of province of origin, are able to apply for markups of between 10 and 60 cents per litre.

A final vote on the bill is possible by early evening with royal assent soon afterwards, barring any proposed amendments that, if passed, could see the legislation returned to the Commons, a Senate official said.

"Alberta has the most open liquor policy in the country, offering Albertans a choice of over 3,700 Canadian products … Alberta merchants stock and sell 745 alcoholic beverages from Ontario," said Bilous.

"Ontario is the largest market in the country, three times larger than our own, yet we can only find about 20 Alberta liquor products listed for sale in Ontario."

Postal workers have been holding rotating strikes across the country since Oct. 22, creating substantial backlogs at Canada Post’s main sorting plants in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Postal negotiators still talking as Senate vote on back-to-work bill inches closer

A Fredericton student who was told that the crop top she wore to a campus gym was too distracting will get an apology from St. Thomas University.

MacKenzie Parsons said she was embarrassed and shocked when a male gym employee warned her there was a policy being developed that would not allow crop tops.

It’s not just a matter of our Charter rights. This bill legislates continued injuries, unpaid work, gender inequality and general dishonesty and disrespect.

The 21-year-old took to social media to complain, and noted that male students often went shirtless or wore muscle shirts that were ripped down the sides.

CUPW’s 50,000 members, in two groups, are demanding better pay for rural and suburban carriers, as well as greater job security and minimum guaranteed hours.

"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."

Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice-president of communications at St. Thomas, said the situation was terribly mishandled by the university and the student would be getting an apology.

Picket lines were up on Sunday in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., as well as in a few areas of British Columbia, with the union vowing to continue the walkouts Monday.

"We mishandled this from the get go. We shouldn't have communicated with the student the way that we did. We shouldn't have embarrassed her," Carleton said.

He said the university is developing a policy but it's based on health and safety in an effort to keep sweat off the gym equipment.

Some Canadians, meanwhile, were receiving packages delivered through the Crown corporation, but at a much slower pace than normal for this time of year.

"The policy will be dealing with clothing only in the light of perspiration on machines and things like that. It's not going to be gender specific or dealing with any specific kind of clothing. It will be driven by what's best for health and safety in the gym," Carleton said.

The former Conservative government forced an end to a lockout of postal workers during a dispute in 2011 by enacting back-to-work legislation.

Parsons said Monday she hopes that after the apology she will be able to wear her crop tops in the gym.

Weekend deliveries occur during the holidays to keep pace and balance the workload through the week, he said.

"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."

Parsons took to Facebook again Monday to thank people for supporting her, and to restate her feelings on being told that her gym wear was distracting.

The legislation was sent to the Senate early Saturday after the Liberals pushed it through the House of Commons.

"Women are NOT responsible for men’s actions, if they cannot 'control' themselves, that’s their problem, not ours," she wrote.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is deeply disappointed General Motors is closing its Oshawa assembly plant and will do everything possible to help workers who will lose their jobs.

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.

Trudeau says he spoke on Sunday to GM CEO Mary Barra to express his unhappiness about the decision, which is one of several closures of GM facilities in Canada, the United States and overseas.

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains says the government is looking at all options but that GM has been very clear that its position on the closure is not negotiable.

Those discussions are expected to resume Monday afternoon and if the back-to-work bill is approved there, the legislation could take effect Tuesday.

The Oshawa plant closure in 2019 will throw more than 2,500 people out of work and end a century-long connection between GM and the city east of Toronto.

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

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says there should be an emergency debate in the House of Commons today.

But despite an initial plan to continue debate — and possibly hold a vote — on Sunday, senators chose instead to give themselves an extra day to digest hours of witness testimony on the labour dispute.

Scheer says the closure is devastating to thousands of families in southern Ontario and the government needs to immediately explain how it will help them and protect other manufacturing jobs in Ontario.

Strike action in the Lower Mainland comes as senators in Ottawa are to resume a special sitting Monday to examine a back-to-work bill that would force an end to the rotating strikes at Canada Post.

General Motors will close its production plant in Oshawa, Ont., along with four facilities in the U.S. as part of a global reorganization that will see the company focus on electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

There is concern that these strikes could mean the backlog of parcels ordered for the holidays will take until the New Year to clear up, but the union disagrees, saying it would not take that long.

The auto manufacturer announced the closures as part of a sweeping strategy to transform its product line and manufacturing process in order to meet changing demand in the transportation industry, a plan that it says will save the company US$6 billion by the year 2020.

Pickets are up in Richmond, Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver, as the union pushes for better pay, job security, better hours and rules that CUPW says would reduce workplace injuries.

"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."

A Senate official said final debate on the legislation is expected to begin by 11 a.m. Pacific time, likely followed by an early evening vote.

GM also says it will reduce salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 per cent, which includes 25 per cent fewer executives.

Bill C-89 was debated in the upper chamber on Saturday after the Liberal government fast-tracked the legislation through the House of Commons.

The US$6-billion in savings includes cost reductions of US$4.5 billion and lower capital expenditure annually of almost US$1.5 billion, GM said.

Canada Post workers are on strike across the Lower Mainland on Monday morning. Neetu Garcha is live outside the processing plant in Richmond.

This morning, dozens of workers were seen walking out of the Oshawa Assembly Plant, with some saying they were very unhappy with news of the planned closure.

General Motors will close its production plant in Oshawa, Ont., along with four facilities in the U.S. as part of a global reorganization that will see the company focus on electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

Unifor, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at the plant, says it has been told that there is no product allocated to the Oshawa plant past December 2019.

Members of Local 566 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) will be occupying the depot located at 25 Waterman Avenue throughout the day.

Unifor Local 222 shop chairman Greg Moffatt said Monday the plant is not closing "without the fight of our lives."

The Oshawa Assembly Plant employs 2,522 workers with Unifor Local 222, according to GM's website. Production began on Nov. 7, 1953, and in the 1980s the plant employed roughly 23,000 people.

Postal workers are occupying Postal Depot 5 in London, Ont. in protest of back-to-work legislation proposed by the federal government.

Many morning-shift workers were seen leaving the plant shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. Several told reporters that they had been instructed to leave by their union.

Canada Post and CUPW said they were negotiating Sunday, hoping to reach an agreement ahead of the bills passage.

“There’s people in there bawling their eyes out. We can’t get any answers,” one man told reporters.)

Senators in Ottawa are expected today to examine a back-to-work bill that would force an end to rotating strikes.

Workers said they hoped a union meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. would provide some clarity as to the future of the operation.

“You’ve got to take a stand at one point, so that’s what we’re doing,” one woman said as she left the plant.

GM plans to pull out of Oshawa as part of a global restructuring aimed at refocusing the company on lower-emission vehicles

Workers at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont., have stopped working as they wait for details on the company's plan to close the facility.

A source familiar with the situation has told The Canadian Press that General Motors Canada will shutter the plant as part of a shift in global production that will also affect operations in other countries.

Unifor, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at the plant, said it has been informed that there is no product allocated to the Oshawa plant past December 2019.

On Monday morning, dozens of workers were seen walking out of the Oshawa Assembly Plant, with some saying they were very unhappy with news of the planned closure.

One man said the union had told workers at the plant to go home and would be speaking with employees at an afternoon meeting.

A spokeswoman for GM Canada said Sunday that the company had "no news or comment tonight" and would not be commenting on speculation.

According to GM's website, the Oshawa Assembly Plant employs 2,522 workers with Unifor Local 222. Production began on Nov. 7, 1953, and in the 1980s the plant employed roughly 23,000 people.

Canadians can expect a "mixed bag" of winter weather in the coming months, according to The Weather Network.

The network is predicting Western Canada will have warmer than normal temperatures this winter, while the eastern half of the country will experience a long-lasting and colder than normal season.

"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.

Scott said when the network makes seasonal forecasts it looks at the oceans, specifically the Pacific Ocean, which he called the "engine" that drives global weather patterns.

"This year we have El Nino…. That means warmer than normal water off the coast of South America," said Scott, adding that usually portends a milder winter.

Scott said "nobody is really getting off easy this year," but the western part of the country is the winner for people who don't like the cold.

"But if you want snow in the West, this isn't the best winter for that. If you want to get a prolonged winter it's really Central and Eastern Canada," he said.

The network is predicting an overall long and cold winter across Canada's two most populous provinces, and Scott said the second half of the season will be especially bitter.

He said below-normal temperatures are expected for both Quebec and Ontario, but that doesn't mean every week will see frigid temperatures.

"Through December and even parts of January, this is going to be a back-and-forth kind of winter," he said.

"But we do think the back half of winter has some serious cold to it, and some longevity. That's going to make people rather weary, unfortunately, by the time we hit February and into March," said Scott.

The network is also forecasting fewer winter storms, and overall near-normal amounts of snow for the region.

Scott said the network is forecasting a mild winter for the West Coast, and significantly less snowfall than normal.

"This does not look like one of those epic winters that we can sometimes see," said Scott. "We may get one or two storms that deliver snow, but it does not look like a big snowy winter."

However, he said the overall dry weather pattern will break at times, with the province's South Coast region getting a closer to normal amount of precipitation.

Overall, the network is also forecasting British Columbia will get an early arrival of spring weather.

"We think if any part of the country has got an epic winter in store, it's Atlantic Canada," Scott said.

He said the region will overall get a long and stormy winter, with "significant snowfall" that will persist into spring.

Scott said above-normal amounts of snow are expected for most of Atlantic Canada, particularly the southern part of the region.

The network is forecasting colder than normal temperatures for the northern part of the region, and normal winter temperatures for the southern part of the region.

"We're expecting a roller-coaster of weather" in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, said Scott.

The network said the region will be a "battle zone" between the mild Pacific air to the west and Arctic air to the east.

Temperatures are expected to be warmer than normal in Alberta and western Saskatchewan, while temperatures are expected to be closer to normal for eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Above-normal temperatures are forecasted for Yukon, Northwest Territories and western Nunavut, and near to below-normal temperatures are predicted for eastern Nunavut.

The network said above-normal snowfall is expected across Yukon and into western Northwest Territories. "The rest of the North won't see any major signs of above- or below-normal precipitation," said Scott.

Senators are to resume a special sitting today to examine a back-to-work bill that would force an end to rotating strikes at Canada Post as the walkouts enter their sixth week.

Bill C-89 was debated in the upper chamber on Saturday after the Liberal government fast-tracked the legislation through the House of Commons.

But despite an initial plan to continue debate — and possibly hold a vote — on Sunday, senators chose instead to give themselves an extra day to digest hours of witness testimony on the labour dispute.

A Senate official says final debate on the legislation is expected to begin by mid-afternoon (2 p.m. ET), likely followed by an early evening vote.

The bill could receive royal assent and become law a short time later, which would force striking postal workers back to work by noon on Tuesday.

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 more recently when CUPW members launched rotating strikes Oct. 22.

Those walkouts have led to backlogs of mail and parcel deliveries at the Crown corporation's main sorting plants in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Picket lines were up Sunday at Canada Post facilities in northern Ontario, as well as in parts of British Columbia.

The union wants better pay and job security, guaranteed hours for its 8,000 rural and suburban carriers, and equality for those workers with the corporation's 42,000 urban employees.

CUPW also wants Canada Post to adopt rules that it says would cut down on workplace injuries — an issue the union has said is now at a "crisis" level.

A grief counsellor was made available for people in the small Nova Scotia town of Yarmouth in the wake of a tragic accident that saw a four-year-old killed during the annual Santa Claus parade.

Police say the little girl fell underneath a moving parade float while running alongside it during the procession Saturday.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says several children and people along the route witnessed the accident, which happened on one of the town's main thoroughfares.

She says a grief specialist was available Sunday to speak with some of the people dealing with the loss.

Vance Webb witnessed the incident and says the entire scene descended into "mayhem" as people realized what had happened.

"People within 50 feet of it — none of us are OK. All the adults were crying. Everywhere I saw, there were hundreds of people crying," Webb said.

Nova Scotia RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dal Hutchinson says the investigation is ongoing and will at some point involve taking statements from the girl's parents and the person driving the float.

Under threat of back-to-work legislation that could pass through the Senate by late Monday, negotiators remained at the bargaining table Sunday in a last-ditch effort to bring an unforced end to rotating walkouts at Canada Post.

Some Canadians, meanwhile, were receiving packages delivered through the Crown corporation, but at a much slower pace than normal for this time of year.

A spokesman for the Crown corporation said work restrictions imposed by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, including a ban on overtime, meant only about 30,000 parcels would likely be delivered to Canadians over the weekend.

Parcel delivery volumes are normally in the range of 500,000 packages on late November weekends, said Jon Hamilton.

"Weekend deliveries occur during the holidays to keep pace and balance the workload through the week," he said.

The Senate was set to resume special debate Monday afternoon (2 p.m. ET) on back-to-work legislation that was introduced by the Trudeau Liberals and passed Friday in the House of Commons.

A final vote on the bill is possible by early evening with royal assent soon afterwards, barring any proposed amendments that, if passed, could see the legislation returned to the Commons, a Senate official said.

Postal workers have been holding rotating strikes across the country since Oct. 22, creating substantial backlogs at Canada Post's main sorting plants in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

The move would impact thousands of employees and the union indicates high-paying auto industry jobs would be lost.

Right now there are 2,500 union jobs and another 300 management positions in Oshawa. The city of 159,000 people has already survived thousands of job losses. At one point Oshawa was home to approximately 40,000 auto workers.

Seven tickets worth $50,000 were also sold in B.C. Those were in Kamloops, Langley, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Victoria, Vancouver and Powell River.

After spending hours studying a bill that would order an end to postal workers' rotating strikes, the Senate has voted to think things over for another day.

Senators adopted a motion Saturday evening to adjourn their discussion of the federal government's back-to-work bill until Monday afternoon.

The legislation, known as Bill C-89, was sent to the Senate early Saturday after the Liberals pushed it through the House of Commons in a special sitting that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

Senators heard testimony from several witnesses, including Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough, Canada Post interim president Jessica McDonald and CUPW president Mike Palecek.

Sen. Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate, said in a statement that he was pleased the bill had moved forward, "particularly given the holiday season."

But he added that senators wanted more time to consider witness testimony, as well as whether the legislation complies with the charter.

"I am pleased work is well underway on this urgent legislation, which is very important to Canadians and Canadian businesses," Harder said.

"I had hoped we could complete the debate this weekend, but I also understand that some senators might have wanted more time to study the bill in light of the testimony from ministers, Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers before it moves to the final stage."

If the upper chamber approves the bill, it will go into effect at noon eastern time the day after it receives royal assent.

The bill would appoint a mediator-arbitrator to help Canada Post and the union representing its workers come to an agreement. If mediation fails, the two sides would enter binding arbitration.

"It's a position I didn't want to be in, but our government has come to the point of last resort," Hajdu told the Senate on Saturday as she urged senators to give Bill C-89 their collective nod of approval.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have held rotating walkouts for a month, causing massive backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots.

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.

A four-year-old girl is dead after a tragic accident at a Santa Claus parade in Yarmouth, N.S., police said Saturday, as a witness described a scene of terror that shattered the small port town's holiday celebration.

The girl, who has not been publicly identified, was running along a passing parade float on one of the town's main thoroughfares when she fell underneath it just before 7 p.m. local time, police said.

Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, a public information officer with the Nova Scotia RCMP, described the event as "very, very tragic — and also very traumatic for everyone there.

"My understanding is there was a large group of people there — families — watching the Santa Claus parade when this incident took place," Hutchinson said in an interview Saturday night.

He added that anyone who may have witnessed the incident should talk about it with others and seek support to deal with the trauma.

"Our thoughts are with this little girl's family during this very, very difficult time."

Vance Webb, a retired machinist who lives on the outskirts of Yarmouth, attended Saturday's parade with his wife, stepson and three grandchildren.

"We were just watching the parade, and then about 30 feet away, I hear — all of a sudden, the float stops, and I kinda see something on the ground," Webb said in a phone interview.

"People within 50 feet of it — none of us are OK. All the adults were crying. Everywhere I saw, there were hundreds of people crying," said Webb.