Canada eyes forcing an end to postal strike

Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:16pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The government said on Wednesday it plans to legislate an end to the postal system labor dispute, hours after Canada Post locked out employees who had been staging rotating strikes.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told Parliament the government would file notice on Wednesday that it intends to restore mail service, allowing it to introduce back-to-work legislation 48 hours later.

"In this case, Canada Post and the union have been unable to reach a negotiated settlement, which is a great disappointment for us because of the effect it has on Canadians and the economy," Raitt said.

Canada Post and the workers are engaged in a contract dispute complicated by questions over how the postal system can survive in a era when letter writers use email and bills are delivered and paid via the Internet.

Key discussion points are pensions and wages as well as health and safety issues.

Before announcing the planned intervention, Raitt defended her decision not to introduce back-to-work legislation earlier, saying that the rotating 24-hour strikes had not shut down the postal system nation-wide, but the lockout had done so.

"We've had ... rolling strikes, and we really haven't heard a lot of public outcry. It's different from 1997, when we saw a lot of people concerned about a general mail strike. Now we have email, we have package services," she said.

Contrasting the current situation with the initial rolling strike, she said: "This is different. This is now a lockout... We're going to go back and take a look at the parameters."   Continued...

<p>Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) members stand in front of a Canada Post sorting facility in Toronto, June 15, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>