Vancouver postal workers protest imposed contract

Canada Post workers are expect to return to work on Tuesday, but not before about 300 union members in Vancouver staged one last rally to oppose the government's back to work legislation.
A locked out Canada Post employee waves a flag and blows a whistle outside the main post office in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday June 17, 2011. Darryl Dyck/CP

Canada Post workers are expect to return to work on Tuesday, but not before about 300 union members in Vancouver staged one last rally to oppose the government's back to work legislation.

The federal Conservative's bill imposing a labour contract on the Canadian Union of Postal Workers was passed by the House of Commons on Saturday and the Senate on Sunday.

The law imposes a four-year contract on the workers, specifies pay increases and leaves other disputed issues to binding arbitration.

The government imposed the back-to-work legislation when talks broke down after the postal workers were locked out June 14 after 12 days of rotating strikes.

But union leaders say the government's imposed contract gives workers less money than they would have received under Canada Post's own proposal.

The deal also means any new workers will get lower wages, fewer benefits and a poorer pension plan than existing members of the union.

Pickets remain despite settlement

Despite the settlement, about 300 union members turned up outside the main Vancouver post office on Monday morning to protest the decision. Ongoing pickets were also reported in Halifax and Montreal.

Local union president Robert Mulvin said Vancouver postal workers are angry about the way the contract was imposed.

"There's no mediation or arbitration, which is unprecedented in terms of how we've done collective bargaining in the past," said Mulvin.

B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said the deal imposed by the federal government lacked any real attempt at compromise and was based on a flawed arbitration process which favoured the employer.

"Stephen Harper has definitely sent a very strong signal both at Air Canada and at CUPW: he's a no nonsense guy on the side of the employer. He has no respect for workers, particularly young workers in Canada," he said.

"I could see this getting more confrontational going forward. Workers didn't join unions to go backwards. They joined unions to protect themselves and frankly it isn't our goal to sell out the next generation of workers."

Labour dispute threatened economy: government

Although the labour disruption might not have bothered many Canadians who rely increasingly on email, the government argued small businesses and other organizations were losing millions of dollars a week and there were still too many unresolved issues in the contract negotiations to allow the labour dispute to continue.

"That was always the intent of the bill - to restore the mail service, to make sure that the economy will be held intact," Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Sunday.

Canada Post has said it had little choice but to cut wages and benefits because of the shrinking market for conventional mail.

Post offices that were closed during the labour dispute will start to reopen Tuesday, while mailboxes will be unsealed starting Monday, the Crown corporation said.

Cheques in the mail

Now that Canada Post workers are heading back to work, B.C.'s Ministry of Social Development says it is mailing out the cheques it held back from distribution during the lockout.

That will include direct rent payments to landlords and direct utilities payments for people on income assistance, and also payments for families who receive financial assistance through the Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program.

In addition, all other ministry mail held during the work stoppage, including ministry bus passes and reconsideration decisions, will also be placed in the mail, the ministry said in a statement issued on Monday.