Canadian postal union set to challenge back-to-work legislation

Union’s lawyer says the case may make its way to Supreme Court of Canada

The union representing Canada Post employees is launching its court challenge against the legislation used by the Conservative government to force its workers back to work in June 2011.

The union says they are taking the government to court to protect workers' rights to free collective bargaining and their right to strike.

“The Conservatives have rigged the legislation to reward management for shutting down the post office. It enforces wage rollbacks and compels the arbitrator to pick management’s side,” said CUPW national president Denis Lemelin. “This sets a very dangerous precedent for everybody who has a job or who is going to have a job in the future.”

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) started rotating strikes to back contract demands in early June 2011, leading to a lockout by Canada Post later that month, shutting the mail service down. When the federal government enacted Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, the postal workers were legislated back to work.

The government said it needed to intervene because contract negotiations between the company and union had failed, and a prolonged dispute posed a threat to the national economy.

The postal union is working with constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, who is known for his work on the Ontario Walkerton water inquiry.

“Postal workers are doing the right thing, not only for their union but for other workers who may face being legislated in the future,” said Cavalluzzo. “Few employers will negotiate in good faith when they can count on extreme government intervention to bail them out.”

The case will be heard in Federal Court, but, in an Oct. 12 press conference, Cavalluzzo said that the issue may need to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

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