Idle Canada Post trucks sit in the parking lot of the Saint-Laurent sorting facility in Montreal as rotating strikes hit the area on Thursday November 15, 2018. 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. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Senate passes back-to-work bill, putting end to rotating postal strikes

Mail service will resume all across the country at noon today

Mail service will resume all across the country at noon Tuesday after the Senate passed legislation ordering an end to five weeks of rotating strikes by postal workers.

Royal assent was granted late Monday shortly after senators approved Bill C-89 by a vote of 53-25. Four senators abstained.

The government had deemed passage of the bill to be urgent due to the economic impact of continued mail disruptions during the busy holiday season. It rushed the bill through the House of Commons last week.

RELATED: Canada Post back-to-work bill passed in late-night Commons sitting

But senators, after holding a special sitting Saturday to debate the bill, insisted on taking a little more time to reflect on the constitutionality of stripping postal workers of their right to strike.

They held another special sitting Monday and only put the bill to a vote after more than five hours of additional debate.

“I thought the extra time we took was valuable and was a demonstration of how the Senate should be reviewing government bills,” said Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, leader of the independent senators’ group.

Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, urged senators earlier Monday not to delay any further.

“I’m gratified that after two days of intense debate the Senate did what, in my view, is the right thing and passed this legislation,” he said after the vote.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers issue a statement declaring that it is “exploring all options to fight the back-to-work legislation.”

“Postal workers are rightly dismayed and outraged,” said CUPW national president Mike Palecek. “This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

UPDATED: Vancouver Island postal worker accuses Canada Post of questionable tactics during strike

Some senators — independents, Liberal independents and even some Conservatives — agreed with that assessment and voted against the bill.

But the majority either disagreed or concluded that it’s up to the courts, not senators, to rule on constitutionality.

An amendment by independent Sen. Murray Sinclair, who proposed delaying implementation of the back-to-work order for at least seven days after royal assent, was rejected.

Earlier Monday, Labour Minister Patti Hajdu said that the special mediator had concluded his work and the two sides were no longer negotiating.

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 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.

During debate, Harder told senators that failure to speedily pass Bill C-89 would have severe consequences for those who rely on stable mail delivery service, including the elderly, residents in rural and remote areas and, most especially, retailers who use Canada Post to deliver online purchases.

“It is the government’s strong view that if it does not act now to protect the public interest, it will have acted too late,” he told the Senate, arguing that postal disruptions are “not merely inconvenient.”

“The strikes come at a critical period for retailers,” Harder said.

“Unlike other kinds of e-commerce transactions … lost holiday sales are unlikely to be deferred to a later date. They represent real and actual lost business for these companies.”

Canada Post said Monday that the backlog of mail and parcels is “severe” and expected to “worsen significantly” once online orders from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are processed.

In a statement, the post office said it is experiencing delivery delays across the country and that’s expected to continue throughout the holiday season and into January.

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.

Under the new legislation, the union said postal workers will be forced to go back to work under the old collective agreement, which it asserted would result in at least 315 disabling injuries and thousands of hours of forced, unpaid overtime.

The previous Conservative government forced an end to a lockout of postal workers during a 2011 dispute by enacting back-to-work legislation, which was later declared by a court to be unconstitutional.

But the Liberal government argues Bill C-89 is different, in that it does not impose immediate outcomes affecting postal contracts.

Whereas the 2011 bill imposed a settlement that favoured Canada Post, the current 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.

In drafting the bill, Harder said the government has taken into account court rulings and is confident that its limitations on the right to strike would be upheld as a reasonably justifiable infringement of charter rights in a free and democratic society.

Independent Sen. Marc Gold, a former constitutional law professor, said he’s inclined to agree with the government.

But another independent, Sen. Andre Pratte, said the bill makes “a fair, negotiated agreement impossible by depriving workers of the lone source of their bargaining power, their right to strike.”

“Because the right to strike is a fundamental right … I am convinced that more time should be allowed for negotiations to come to a fruitful conclusions,” he said.

While not all Conservative senators supported the bill, several of their colleagues slammed the Liberal government for failing to put an end to the strikes sooner.

“This government was so concerned with appearances, not wanting to look like previous governments, wanting instead “to wag their finger and lift their chin in righteous indignation, that they sat on their hands until it was almost too late. And it still might be too late,” Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos told the upper house.

Fellow Conservative Sen. Don Plett said “the government sat on its hands until the 11th hour and then in a panicked rush suddenly decided something needed to be done.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mugshots Cafe: renovated and reopened

The Fernie-favourite once again has its doors open to the public

Pick all your apples and save the bears

As summer ends, bears become more active looking for food

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

B.C. Premier announces fall election

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka reacts to election announcement

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Four more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 31 active cases in isolation in the health region

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Totem pole considered cultural appropriation removed from Nelson’s Hume School

The pole had also become rotted and was seen as dangerous to students

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Most Read