MFL president criticizes Legislated End to Postal Strike

June 22, 2011

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

I was elected by working women and men in Manitoba, members of unions affiliated to the Canadian Labour Congress, to represent their interests on matters such as labour relations. On their behalf, I object to your government’s unwarranted interference into the ongoing dispute between members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and their employer, Canada Post.

The lockout that has been imposed by the employer has completely suspended Canada Post operations across the country, creating hardship for citizens and businesses alike. This is an escalation of the rotating strike strategy adopted by the union which amounted to an inconvenience for the people of Canada. As you know, unionized postal workers were quite prepared to continue delivering pension and other government checks to individuals during the dispute so that they would not suffer the kind of hardship brought about now because of a lockout by the employer.

It is obvious that the action was taken by Canada Post in order to give you and your government a tissue-thin excuse to intervene and impose your will on working people through heavy handed back-to-work legislation. To make sure your lesson is both clear and punitive, the legislation puts in place wages that are lower than Canada Post last offered their employees.

Your actions are unwarranted and seriously damage the collective bargaining climate in Canada, both directly in the federal jurisdiction and indirectly for all jurisdictions because of the terrible example you set.

This intrusion into the legitimate collective bargaining process is the second attack on federal jurisdiction workers in less than a week. In both cases, there was no evidence of a threat to the economy or the welfare of Canadians.

Instead of allowing the union and Canada Post to settle their differences on their own by reaching a negotiated, mutually acceptable collective agreement, you behave like a bull in a china shop, tipping the scale in favour of the employer.

It is clear that the agenda you kept hidden from Canadians for more than five years is beginning to emerge. Canadian voters were right to not trust you through three minority governments. Their mistake was to set those reservations aside last May and give you a majority mandate.

But what are the issues that you are so determined to crush Canada Post employees over? Working conditions that don’t injure postal workers; fair wages for future Canada Post workers; and adequate retirement income. That’s what you are opposed to.

Shame on you.

Instead of supporting working people by insisting that employers maintain pension plans that will allow a secure retirement you oversee their demise. On top of that, you are allowing public pension plans such as CPP, OAS and GIS to wither into irrelevancy that will be of diminished benefit to Canadians when they are no longer able to work.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you didn’t have a direct hand in setting the stage for these events, then you at least capitalized on the opportunity when it was presented. This is not the culmination of your agenda; it is merely the opening shot of the war against working people that is now upon us.

Make no mistake about it. We will give you the fight that you are so eager to start.

Kevin Rebeck
Manitoba Federation of Labour