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Senate debates legislation that would order postal workers back to work

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, occupy Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna's community office in Ottawa, Friday, November 23, 2018.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
November 24, 2018 - 1:00 PM

OTTAWA - Senators spent hours on Saturday studying legislation that would order an end to postal workers' rotating strikes, as the bill quickly passed the first two readings in the upper house.

The bill was sent to the Senate early Saturday, just hours after the Liberal government pushed it through the House of Commons in a special sitting that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

"It's a position I didn't want to be in, but our government has come to the point of last resort," Labour Minister Patty Hajdu told the Senate as she urged senators to give Bill C-89 their collective nod of approval.

If the upper chamber approves the bill, it will go into effect at noon eastern time the day after receiving royal assent.

If passed, the bill would appoint a mediator-arbitrator to help Canada Post and the union representing its workers come to an agreement. If mediation fails, the two sides would enter binding arbitration.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have held rotating walkouts for a month, causing massive backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots.

Canada Post says it could take weeks — even stretching into 2019 — to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

CUPW's 50,000 members, in two groups, are demanding better pay for rural and suburban carriers, as well as greater job security and minimum guaranteed hours.

Those in favour of the back-to-work legislation say it would help small businesses that rely on parcel delivery around the holidays.

Critics — including New Democrat MPs, some of whom walked out of the Commons in protest on Friday evening — say it infringes on postal workers' right to strike.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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