Postal workers fight back to work legislation 2018

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Community Picket Lines Set Up in Ottawa; Three Allies Arrested

Early this morning, union and community members in Ottawa, Ontario set up picket lines outside Canada Post’s mail processing plant on Sandford Fleming Avenue to protest back to work legislation imposed on postal workers last week and fight for the right to free collective bargaining. In solidarity with postal workers, the protest-line allowed workers in, but did not allow mail out.

Although the protests were peaceful, three people were arrested, released and given tickets for “trespassing.”

This action comes after six allies demonstrating in Halifax over the weekend were arrested and kept in jail overnight. Protests and demonstrations have arisen across the country since postal workers were legislated back to work last week.

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BREAKING: Community picket line is up in Fredericton. No mail in or out!

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THE HAS PLEDGED A $25,000 LOAN to 's fund to help them fight anti-worker, back-to-work legislation.

https://twitter.com/IATSECANADA

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Oshawa and Postal Workers: Big and Small Lies We Accept

In 1979, Canada’s postal union (CUPW) bargained and bargained with the employer. Eventually, having exhausted all possibilities, it made the decision, supported by a huge majority of its voting members, that its members would no longer provide their services on the basis of the existing terms and conditions of the now expired collective agreement. Workers had determined, democratically, not to sell their labour power on those terms. In a liberal democracy, they had every right to take such a decision. Only a slave society would deny them this right.

The government of Canada decided otherwise. Unlike the union it did not consult its constituency. It enacted legislation to order the postal union and its workers to call off the strike, to sort and deliver the mail. They would be paid the amounts they were entitled to under the old agreement until an arbitrator would impose some other ones on them. The leadership of the union was legislatively instructed to tell its members that the strike was no longer legal, no longer legitimate. They were told what to say; they were told to say that they had not led their members properly and that their democratic practices were not worth a tinker’s cuss.

Jean-Claude Parrot, a union leader with principles, said he could not do that. He was prosecuted for this act of defiance, for this insistence on his right of belief, of his right to think and speak as he chose. The prosecution opened its case as follows: “The sole question for this court is: Who runs this country – the government or the unions?” Parrot was convicted and spent three months in jail. The workers were forced to go back to work on properly rejected terms and conditions. While the jailing of a trade union leader is rare today, forcing workers to work on terms and conditions they do not want to accept is a norm in this freedom-loving country.

The justification for such oppression is based on a big lie. This lie is that Canada is a liberal democracy.

Forced Back-to-Work

A properly elected government has plenary powers to act on its free, and freely-participating citizens, to act on their behalf to ensure the welfare of the polity. In doing so it may take away some of the rights of the people, such as freedom to speak, assemble, associate, as long as the government can persuade a court that it is curtailing these rights by introducing measures that are reasonably compatible with the tenets of a free and democratic society. Forcing workers to accept terms of employment they were legally entitled to reject is considered to be compatible with our basic democratic principles as long as the government is reasonable in its belief that it is coercing workers to serve the public good. Over and over, back-to-work legislation is justified on the basis that the otherwise legal goals of workers may harm the public good. A government charged with looking after the general welfare of the nation is entitled to say that it has no option but to act to save the public from harm.

This November, we heard this bombastic, worker-hurting, claim again. Photos of allegedly mail-laden trucks in depots (shades of Colin Powell and his visuals of Saddam Hussein’s weapon-laden trucks) are said to be evidence of how selfish workers are creating chaos and intolerable hardship. This cannot be tolerated. After all, workers merely want a better deal for themselves, heedless of society’s needs. It is true that, abiding by the legal rules which allow workers to use collective economic action to pursue their claims, postal workers conducted some rotating strikes to pressure the employer to be more pliable. This is what free collective bargaining is designed to permit. But, once again, our government felt that it just had to override the workers’ rights, rights that had been won after long political struggles. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his flunkies and the mainstream media repeatedly told us that the workers’ self-serving rotating strikes were anti-social and could not be allowed to inconvenience the innocent, particularly small businesses whose selfish needs required protection. So, our liberal democratic government said: “Back to work, you greedy, intransigent, anti-public welfare unionists!”

Then General Motors (GM) announced that it was no longer satisfied with its market conditions. It exercised its right to take its property and run. It is going to close four North American plants. Oshawa is one of those. Now this will do the public a lot of harm. I know this because the same people who attack postal workers are telling me this. Trudeau, his flunkies and the mainstream media are in agreement. Stories about how expectations will not be met, how sad loyal workers are to lose jobs of which they had been proud, how many families would be pushed into poverty, how much incidental harm would be inflicted, filled our television screens and newspapers. Everyone expressed anxiety and indignation at the anti-social, self-serving, behaviour, by General Motors. Premier Doug Ford said he was distressed. Prime Minister Trudeau said he was very distressed. Andrea Horwath was seen hugging upset workers at the stricken plant. All said they would do their best to help the hurt people. No one said they would order the anti-social, public harm-doing General Motors back to work.

The big lie is in the open.....

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It’s Been 9 Days Since the Back-To-Work Legislation Was Adopted…

What is Canada Post doing?

While your Negotiating Committee is getting ready for the mediation phase outlined in the Act, Canada Post is packing up and leaving the hotel without even letting the Union know. What a show of class and respect!

It appears that Canada Post has no intention of fully taking part in the mediation set out in the back-to-work legislation.

The Union believes in free collective bargaining with mediation

From the outset of these negotiations, the Union has insisted on getting assistance from the Federal Mediation Services.

We thought that having someone from the Federal Mediation Services throughout the process would help the parties do things differently and achieve good results for the well-being of our members. It looks like Canada Post had once again no intention of negotiating. It simply waited patiently for the government to step in and deprive us of our constitutional right to free collective bargaining, based on questionable reports from Canada Post.

The newly-appointed interim President of Canada Post, Jessica McDonald, talked a big game around “cooperation” and “a new vision”, but it was just empty rhetoric. She chose instead to manufacture a crisis to convince the government to stifle us once again.

The 2011 lockout and unconstitutional back-to-work legislation – which forced us to make sacrifices we would never have made otherwise –, as well as the two 2016 lockout notices and now the 2018 special legislation, clearly show that the new Canada Post leadership is no different than previous ones. If Canada Post thinks its actions will meet with no opposition, it is seriously mistaken.

We have legitimate demands and we will do whatever is necessary to achieve fair working conditions that ensure our safety and provide decent jobs.

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Community Picket Lines Set Up in Hamilton and Kingston

Early this morning, we were informed that union and community members set up picket lines outside the mail processing plants in Hamilton and Kingston in Ontario to protest back to work legislation imposed on postal workers last week and fight for the right to free collective bargaining. In solidarity with postal workers, the protest-line allowed workers in, but did not allow mail out.

This action comes after three allies were arrested for demonstrating in Ottawa on Wednesday, and six in Halifax over the weekend. Demonstrations continue across the country since postal workers were legislated back to work last week

“You cannot legislate labour peace,” says CUPW National President Mike Palecek. “There are fifty thousand union members that have been prohibited from picketing at post offices in this country, and three million who haven’t. We are not the only ones willing to defend the right of free collective bargaining.”

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Back-to-work legislation may come back to haunt Justin Trudeau

The Justin Trudeau government’s use of back-to-work legislation effectively put an end to the rotating strikes waged by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). But the legislation could haunt the governing Liberals in the months and years to come.

First, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, known as CUPW, has a history and culture of militancy, making it unlikely the union will simply roll over in the face of back-to-work legislation.

What’s more, the health and safety and wage disparity issues that precipitated the labour dispute are unlikely to be fully resolved in mediation.

Unions co-ordinated in an unprecedented manner to help defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in 2015, and while the Liberals are not nearly as reviled in labour movement circles, their back-to-work law will almost certainly alienate labour activists.

Is it constitutional?

Second, union leaders, New Democrat MPs and several independent senators have expressed concerns that the government’s back-to-work law is unconstitutional because it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of freedom of association.

As we wrote in our 2017 book Unions in Court: Organized Labour and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized in a series of cases that freedom of association includes both a right to collectively bargain and a right to strike.

In arriving at the conclusion that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right to strike, the Supreme Court found in both 2007 and 2015 that there was an inseparable relationship between meaningful collective bargaining and the right of workers to withdraw their labour.

In the landmark 2015 case in favour of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, the court also determined that workers needed a credible threat to withdraw their labour in order to meaningfully exercise their right to collectively bargain.

While the Supreme Court has conceded that governments can interfere with Constitutionally enshrined labour rights in order to maintain essential public services, it’s also established a pretty high threshold for governments’ ability to unilaterally take away these rights.

Inconvenience no reason to intervene

So while the court is willing to concede that protecting the life, personal safety or health of Canadians may justify interfering with the right to strike, governments cannot intervene because a strike merely inconveniences members of the public.

How the courts might interpret the constitutional validity of the Liberal back-to-work bill is an open question, but Labour Minister Patty Hajdu’s concern about the economic wellbeing of Canadians or the “growing economic harm to the country” as a justification for back-to-work legislation could be considered dubious as far as a judge is concerned.

If the courts do rule against the government, the Canadian public could be on the hook for millions in compensation to CUPW members denied their Constitutional rights.

Similar multi-million dollar payouts were ordered when governments in British Columbia and Ontario were found to have violated the Charter by interfering in the collective bargaining process with education workers.

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CUPW legislated back: The Struggle Continues

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Solidarity with postal workers

The December 1 National Day of Action saw over 25 cities take part in rallying in support of postal workers and the right to strike. The events, planned by the Friends of Public Services, aimed to send a message of support to the postal workers legislated back to work and to tell the government and Canada Post management to negotiate not legislate.

Following the passing of the back to work legislation, Mike Palecek, President of CUPW said, “in the coming days we will be calling on our allies and membership for a campaign of mobilizations, demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience.”

Bill C-89, the Postal Services Resumption and Continuation Act, which ordered CUPW back to work imposes thousands of dollars in fines on CUPW members, union officers and the union itself if defied.

Local labour councils, unions and community groups have launched solidarity actions in response to the legal restrictions placed on CUPW and their membership. The strategy of these community pickets involves letting workers starting and finishing their shifts through the blockades, while impeding trucks with mail from entering or exiting the Canada Post facilities.

Trade unionists and community members have chosen this strategy recognizing the necessity of putting pressure on the corporation and the federal government to rescind the legislation, while not harming the postal workers themselves.

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Arrests made in Halifax

Sunday evening’s actions at the distribution centre in Halifax, which began at 6PM resulted in arrests of Tony Tracy, Atlantic representative of the Canadian Labour Congress, Darius Mirshahi, an organizer with Service Employees International Union and four others. At the previous Halifax picket on November 30, Halifax Regional Police had informed picketers that they had the right to protest. Despite the injunctions in effect in other provinces, no such ban on protesting had been in place in Nova Scotia at the time of these arrests.

“The right to full and fair collective bargaining, and the fundamental Charter-protected right to strike, are always worth defending. Bosses and governments have never given us rights that we haven’t fought for, and those “rights” are meaningless if not defended,” said Tracy, in a statement on Facebook.

While the back-to-work legislation only affects postal workers, police stated that the arrests were made for refusing to move off a roadway, charging the six with mischief and obstruction. The six arrested were held overnight, and made an appearance at the courthouse Monday morning, after being released in the afternoon. Those charged have been ordered not to be within a 100 metres of a Canada Post office unless mailing or receiving mail, and will appear in court again in January.

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Supporting CUPW

On November 29, the BCGEU passed an emergency resolution to work with CUPW to regain the right to strike, promising a 3 million dollar interest free loan to achieve the union’s fight for a collective agreement. Other unions, such as CUPE and COPE, also pledged financial support to CUPW in the form of interest free loans.

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Government Appoints Mediator-Arbitrator

On Monday, December 10, 2018 the Minister of Labour Ms Patty Hajdu appointed Ms Elizabeth MacPherson as the mediator-arbitrator as per the back‑to-work legislation.

You negotiating committee did everything possible to avoid this legislation. However, because of the legislation, we will work with the mediator-arbitrator to attempt to negotiate good collective agreements and avoid arbitration. We believe in our right to free collective bargaining but we will reluctantly participate in this legislated process. Your demands to improve health and safety, work-life balance, a reduction in precarious employment and achieve equality for all postal workers are what we are determined to achieve.

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CUPW Challenges Back to Work Legislation in Court

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) will file a constitutional challenge today with the Ontario Superior Court after being legislated back to work by the Liberal government two weeks ago.

“You cannot legislate labour peace,” says Mike Palecek, CUPW National President. “This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Bill C-89 forced postal workers to return to work under their previous collective agreements on November 27th after five weeks of rotating strikes, which means that between then and Christmas:

  • At least 315 disabling injuries will happen to postal workers;
  • Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) will work roughly 250,000 hours without pay; and
  • Urban postal workers will work thousands of hours of forced overtime.

In 2011, the Conservative government imposed back to work legislation after Canada Post locked out CUPW members for two weeks. It was later determined by Ontario Superior Court Justice Stephen Firestone that the legislation violated the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the right to strike to be fundamental and protected by the Constitution.

“The Liberal government’s legislation, just like the previous Conservative’s, unilaterally prohibits any lawful strike,” says Paul Cavalluzzo, constitutional lawyer representing CUPW.  “Canada Post created a false emergency, the supposed backlog of parcels, to get the government to intervene with back to work legislation. This legislation was enacted under circumstances that did not justify the interference of constitutional rights.”

“Postal workers will continue to defend our right to negotiate fair settlements for all our members,” adds Palecek. “We know that an arbitrated contract will only prolong our problems with injuries, inequality, and overwork.”

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Protesters rally at Canada Post before AGM at headquarters

About 100 protesters rallied at Canada Post headquarters Wednesday to send a message to those attending the Crown corporation’s annual general meeting being held inside.

The demonstrators came from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, including well-known labour leader Jean-Claude Parrot, and a handful of other labour organizations showing solidarity over an ongoing labour dispute that has led to rotating strikes across Canada.

The protesters were urging Canada Post to get back to the bargaining table. Several dozen later went inside and pressed their grievances during the meeting. The union members are upset that back-to-work legislation has eroded their right to collective bargaining....

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Parties Meet with Mediator-Arbitrator

On Wednesday, December 12, 2018 the CUPW and CPC negotiating committees had their first meeting with mediator-arbitrator Ms Elizabeth MacPherson. The two parties met with her jointly in the morning to go over logistics and planning. For the rest of the day she met with the CUPW negotiating committee to get an understanding of the outstanding issues.

Ms MacPherson is very knowledgeable and has spent most of her career involved in mediation and arbitration. This included time as the Director General of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services and the Chair of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. Ms Macpherson will use her knowledge and experience to attempt to bring the parties together to achieve negotiated collective agreements.

The first seven day period for mediation ends on Monday, December 17, 2018 at midnight. This can only be extended by agreement of both parties. If no deals are reached during the mediation process, then an arbitration process will start in early January.

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Safe Work and Safe Protests

Over the last number of weeks, allies have set up picket lines at postal facilities across the country to protest Trudeau’s back-to-work legislation and Canada Post’s refusal to negotiate fair contracts for CUPW members.  We appreciate the support of our allies.  It is clear that postal workers are not alone.  The entire labour movement is standing behind us and is prepared to fight to defend the right to free collective bargaining.

But these picket-lines raise important health and safety issues for our members, and the public.  We have received disturbing reports that management has, on multiple occasions, asked or even ordered members to drive through a crowd of people.  This is completely unacceptable and totally unsafe.

NEVER DRIVE A VEHICLE THROUGH A CROWD OF PEOPLE!

Pedestrians have the right-of-way.  If there are people standing in front of a vehicle, that vehicle should not move.  End of story.  Nobody should be putting people’s lives at risk.  Asking a worker to do this not only illegal, but grossly negligent. We have the right to refuse unsafe work, that is work that may immediately endanger the health and safety of ourselves or others.

So far, reports are that every demonstration that has been set up across the country has prevented mail from leaving, but has not asked workers to refuse to cross the picket line.  If this changes at any point, members should be aware of their rights.

We do not have the legal right under the labour code, or either of our collective agreements to refuse to cross a picket-line based purely on principle.  We do however have the right to refuse work, under any circumstance that is not safe.  If members feel intimidated or threatened by protesters, they have the right to refuse to cross.  This is not strike activity, if it is a question of health and safety.

Paladin1

epaulo13 wrote:

NEVER DRIVE A VEHICLE THROUGH A CROWD OF PEOPLE!

Pedestrians have the right-of-way.  If there are people standing in front of a vehicle, that vehicle should not move.  End of story.  Nobody should be putting people’s lives at risk.  Asking a worker to do this not only illegal, but grossly negligent. We have the right to refuse unsafe work, that is work that may immediately endanger the health and safety of ourselves or others.

So far, reports are that every demonstration that has been set up across the country has prevented mail from leaving, but has not asked workers to refuse to cross the picket line.  If this changes at any point, members should be aware of their rights.

We do not have the legal right under the labour code, or either of our collective agreements to refuse to cross a picket-line based purely on principle.  We do however have the right to refuse work, under any circumstance that is not safe.  If members feel intimidated or threatened by protesters, they have the right to refuse to cross.  This is not strike activity, if it is a question of health and safety.

 

People standing on roads and infront of vehicle traffic seems unsafe as well. Asking a worker to stand in the middle of the road seems dangerous. 

Are protesting workers allowed to refuse standing in the way of traffic as it's dangerous?

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Are protesting workers allowed to refuse standing in the way of traffic as it's dangerous?

..it's not and never has been a dictatorship issue. strike tactics are decided locally and no one is forced to participate. unlike the police who break heads. do the bidding of the government or get replaced.

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