Canadian Senate moves to end postal shutdown

Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:31pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians could begin receiving mail again within two days after the Senate on Sunday endorsed back-to-work legislation ending the labor dispute that shut down the postal service.

The Senate held a rare weekend session to approve the government measure that was passed by the House of Commons on Saturday after a 58-hour filibuster by opposition MPs who said the bill was unfair to the workers.

Canada Post locked out the nearly 48,000 workers June 15 after more than a week of rotating strikes that the company said had caused mail deliveries to drop by nearly 50 percent.

The Conservative government said it had no choice but to intervene because contract negotiations between the company and union had failed, and a prolonged dispute posed a threat to the national economy.

Mail deliveries could resume Tuesday, officials said.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said its members will return to work as ordered, but warned that the order does not resolve the issues that lead to the dispute. It may challenge the legislation in court.

In addition to wages and pensions, the company and union are at odds over how the system should adjust to technological changes that seen customers drop traditional mail in favor of writing emails and using the Internet to pay bills.

The legislation provides for an arbitrator to pick between the offers made by the union or Canada Post, but it includes a controversial measure that sets the pay increase at less than the company had already offered the union.

If the arbitrator accepts Canada Post's offer, the company would also be allowed to offer new hires lower salaries, pensions and vacations than its existing workers now get.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Anthony Boadle)

 
<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 15, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>