Canadian Underwriter

How a Canada Post interruption could play out

October 15, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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The federal government will probably consider legislating Canada Post employees back to work if they go on strike or are locked out, a labour lawyer told Canadian Underwriter Monday.

“I think it’s likely that the Liberals will consider” back-to-work legislation, Andrew Monkhouse, managing partner of Monkhouse Law, said in an interview.

Canada Post officials are currently in negotiations with leaders of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which represents about 50,000 unionized employees who are without a collective agreement.

Until a collective agreement is in place, the workers could go on strike – with 72 hours notice – or the postal service could lock them out.

During a time like this, insurers “typically put in place” plans to get their mail delivered using someone other than Canada Post, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for Ontario at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

But a Canada Post work stoppage would be less severe now than it would have been 10 to 15 years ago, Karageorgos suggested. This is because insurers, brokers and agents are relying more on electronic commerce and less on sending printed documents by regular mail.

“As we move forward, we will see the impact [of a Canada Post work stoppage] lessen even more,” he said.

A strike or lockout is not inevitable because talks are ongoing between the union and management.

From his experience advising unionized employers, Monkhouse has observed that deals can be made at the last minute.

“Strikes are often averted at the 11th hour,” said Monkhouse, whose specialties include advising employers on collective bargaining. For example, the sides might agree to binding arbitration if they are unable to come up with a collective agreement.

“Let’s say [union and management] agree to all but one or two contentious issues. The parties could then choose to put those issues to binding arbitration and have those issues determined after both sides make their best pitch to an arbitrator.”

In 2011, the federal government legislated Canada Post employees back to work. At the time, Canada Post locked the workers out after several days of rotating strikes. The Conservatives were the ruling party in 2011.

A postal strike in 1997 was also ended through back-to-work legislation, when the Liberals were in power.

“Historically the NDP have been the least likely to use back to work legislation and the Conservatives have been the most likely to use back to work legislation and the Liberals are somewhere in between,” Monkhouse said.

If there is a work stoppage now, it would probably last a couple of weeks before the Liberals bring in back-to-work legislation, Monkhouse added.

“The Liberals are more dependent on union support than the Conservatives but less than the NDP,” he said.

The NDP, he added, could delay back-to-work legislation by more than a week through a filibuster, meaning opposition MPs spend a long time debating legislation before it comes to a vote.

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9 Comments » for How a Canada Post interruption could play out
  1. robert Kerr says:

    back to work legislation has already been deemed illegal by the supreme court

  2. Daryl Organ says:

    I am an Amazon customer. Since the talks about Canada Post employees going on strike started in early September, I haven’t made another online purchase since then because I fear that if I did make a purchase and a strike suddenly happened, I wouldn’t be able to receive my package until (God only knows) once the strike is over.

  3. S Chan says:

    CBC: “It’s a special law passed by the government — federal or provincial — that orders an end to a labour-management dispute. The power to force an end to a strike or lockout was reinforced by the Supreme Court in 1987, after the Alberta government asked if unions had a constitutionally protected right to strike. The court said they did not.”

    Further ALL Essential Services CAN NOT STRIKE! only work to rule

  4. Brittany M says:

    “Canada Post work stoppage would be less severe now” ??????? oh really? The number one Parcel company and being a week out from the highly anticpated delivery of legal canabis. Highly unlikely that a work stoppage this close to the holidays wont be severe.

  5. Tim says:

    Funny how so many complain about how they don’t use mail anymore and that Canada Post is an antiquated service blah blah blah… Then word of a disruption and it’s omg, my precious package… legislate the bums back to work, oh the small businesses. Now of course, legions of budding (yep, I did that) weed customers will be cut off from their supply… more caterwauling to come. C’mon just support the poor people that are humping through desert heat and blizzards alike to bring you your spoils of the internet!

  6. Jeremy Dangerhouse says:

    Back to work legislation is not itself illegal. The 2011 b2w order during the Canada Post lockout had conditions that violated workers’ rights. The Harper govt imposed wage caps lower than had already been agreed in negotiations as well as imposing final offer arbitration and picking a biased arbitrator. Essentially they punished the workers for being locked out by the company, a crown corporation, whose profits (annual profit being the most common result) go into govt coffers: keeping your taxes down.

  7. Jeremy Dangerhouse says:

    By now everyone knows lettermail is in permanent decline. What this article overlooks is that while the common man may not care about how his bills and payments are delivered, more and more folk are ordering goods online and Canada Post delivers more of them than anybody.

  8. Amanda says:

    I wish you ppl would inform yourself with the correct information before voicing your opinion. I do work for canada post and the Supreme Court actually sided with us the right to strike with no possibility of being legistlated back to work. Whoever the gentleman that gave the false info in the article should actually have done his research. And the problem is not with the workers. We have been trying to get this new contract locked in place and started talks last November. They want the public to hate the worker n not the company. But do you know that management still received their big bonuses and we have not received one since 2011. We are the ones doing the work and they are benefitting.

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