Canadian Government Moves Towards Ending Canada Post Strike

The Canadian federal government tabled back-to-work legislation Monday afternoon to end the Canada Post lockout.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt introduced the bill in the House of Commons after the daily question period.

However, the two sides are now talking after an unproductive weekend failed to make any progress towards ending the lockout. Last week Canada Post suspended urban operations after nearly two weeks of rotating strikes by workers.

Raitt said the two sides have had more than enough time to come to a deal.

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"It is both parties at the table who are negotiating and have been unable to obtain an agreement," she said.

"That's why we are acting on behalf of Canadians, on behalf of small businesses, on behalf of charities who are being affected by this work stoppage across the country."

Speaking to reporters after tabling the bill, Raitt said the work stoppage has hurt the economy.

"We're here to put people back to work," she said. "We're acting on the interest of Canadians and the national economy."

The back-to-work legislation would bring the two sides before an arbitrator with their best offer. The arbitrator will pick one of the two offers.

Raitt said the risk of getting a worse deal from binding arbitration instead of a negotiated settlement is "the danger of asking Parliament to settle your dispute."

Raitt said she is open to facilitating negotiations between Canada Post and the union.

Earlier, Jon Hamilton, spokesperson for Canada Post, said the Crown corporation is still hoping to negotiate a settlement with the union before the government steps in.

However the two sides have failed to gain any ground in recent negotiations, and scheduled face-to-face talks failed to materialize on Sunday.

The New Democrats have signalled their intention to vote against the back-to-work bill, though they will be unable to stop the majority Conservatives from passing the legislation.

Raitt tabled similar legislation last week that would have forced striking Air Canada employees back to work, but the two sides worked out a last-minute agreement before the law took effect.

If legislation is passed before Canada Post and the union make a deal, employees would return to work and an arbitrator would have 90 days to study the proposals made by both sides before coming up with a final settlement.

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Denis Lemelin, national president of the 48,000-member union, said on Sunday he was bracing for a federal order to return to work.

"We expect the government will put forward something," he said. "It's like the real negotiation between Canada Post and the union is finished."

Postal workers had been staging rotating strikes across the country since June 3 before they were locked-out.

Raitt had repeatedly signalled her intention to introduce legislation sometime this week since all urban postal operations were suspended last Wednesday.

The Crown corporation has said the main sticking point in the dispute is the union's demand for staffing levels beyond the capability of Canada Post, adding that wages were not the key disagreement.

The union has been emphasizing working conditions and safety issues, as well as arguing that new employees would receive inferior wages and pensions.

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