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Canada’s government introduces bill to end Canada Post rolling walkouts

Photo: Shutterstock

(Mark Solomon contributed to this story.)

Canada’s federal government Thursday morning introduced legislation that would end the rolling strikes that have been hitting Canada Post for several weeks, according to press reports.

The action comes a day after the government’s Labour Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters that the government that day had given the House of Commons notice that they are ready to order a legislative fix that would put the striking workers back to work. That notice kicks off a 48-hour period.

But the notice, according to the reports, does not actually mandate that a legislative fix would be implemented and the striking workers be ordered to return to work. Instead, the 48-hour process needs to be completed and then a legislative solution can be put in place. But based on the action taken Thursday morning, the process already has begun for a legislative fix.

“”We have complete flexibility about when we’ll introduce that legislation,” Hajdu was quoted as telling reporters before a caucus of her Liberal party. “I really don’t want to have to use back-to-work legislation, but this is a really busy time of year and our economy needs Canada Post to be able to function in a smooth way.”

The government also reappointed Morton Mitchnick as a special mediator in the standoff between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Earlier mediation efforts in the more than one year of discussions have failed.

Canada Post earlier this week offered the union a cooling-off period through January and a new offer. But the union rejected it, demanding that Canada Post return to the bargaining table.

In a statement released Wednesday after Hajdu’s remarks went public, CUPS said it remains “ready to negotiate,” and expressed concern about any action on the walkouts from the House of Commons. “We do not know what will be in the back-to-work legislation,” the CUPW said. “No matter what, you have to be prepared to fight for your constitutional right for free collective bargaining.”

The current list of locations on strike numbers 17, all in Alberta, British Columbia or Ontario. Calgary is the biggest location on the list. The rotating nature of the strikes is evidenced by the fact that just a few days ago, Edmonton was on the list, which in turn was shorter than 17. Edmonton no longer is on the list and the number of locations has risen.

The national contract with the CUPW expired last Saturday at midnight.

The other major development between Wednesday and Thursday in the labor dispute is that the CUPW said it didn’t accept the numbers that Canada Post is providing on the growing pile of packages. “The CUPW Toronto local reports that rather than the ‘hundreds of trailers’ that Canada Post reported, they have about seventy–a backlog that can probably be cleared in a few days,” the CUPW said in a statement. “Postal workers have seen one truck in London, six trailers in Hamilton, two in Halifax, 15 in Moncton, zero in Saint John (NB) and St. John’s (Newfoundland).”

Mike Palecek, the union’s president, said the union was “convinced that Canada Post manufactured a crisis just to get the government to intervene. If so, that’s a huge concern, and it will further poison our work environment and labour relations for years and years to come.”

Two presumed beneficiaries of labor chaos would be private parcel delivery companies. In Canada, Purolator is the biggest. In an email to FreightWaves, a spokeswoman said of the dispute: “The current situation is putting some pressure on our network as we enter the busiest time of the year for shipping. We are closely monitoring and managing volume growth in regional locations, especially with our small- and medium-sized customers. We are also working closely with our large customers and planning accordingly to ensure we manage parcel deliveries throughout the holidays.”

UPS (NYSE: UPS) offered a similarly anodyne statement: “With the implementation of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers at Canada Post, our priority will be to serve current customers with the same reliable service they have come to expect. We have seen an increase in volume due to the holiday season and our UPS Access Point network is ready to serve new customers. “

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.