Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself.

W. C. Doane

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Canada goes postal

A great piece from a friend of mine

Canadian politics piqued the interest again of the international community and gripped the nation by their mailbox. The debate in parliament that fixed time and set a new record for debate was over the issue of the mail.

It all began on the 2nd of June when the Postal Workers Union went on strike (CUPW) over negotiations over their contract and concerns regarding the health of their workers surrounding new machinery that has been introduced for sorting the mail. The Union launched a rotating strike that went around the country freezing paper communications in one city and then the next. This action lasted for twelve days to no avail.

Canada Post then took the step on the 14th of June to ‘Lock Out’ their workers once the strike hit its Toronto Office, the reason they claimed was that it was costing them millions of dollars. They were planning in a move that has been echoed across numerous public bodies in Canada and the West in an attempt to bring down costs, they suggested new employs begin at a lower pay grade than before but are able to work up to the same pay point as their colleagues. This claims the Union would have lead to a clear ‘two tiered’ system where two people doing the same job would get different pay.

Other mail companies such as Puralator were counting their lucky starts as soon as negotiations broke down between the two sides as neither one were willing to budge on principles. With increases in their deliveries reaching the triple digits as people desperate to pass on messages and packages had to turn to the private sector. The government however and its vast bureaucracy was left caught in the hell fire caused over the lock out.

On Monday the 20th six days later a Bill was introduced to Parliament, the get Canada Post back to work bill was immediately deplored by the new Opposition the New Democrat Party as draconian and an attack on the principles of fair bargaining with clauses covering final offer binding arbitration. They also opposed the fact that the Bill specifically outlined the wages for the workers, which was set to lower to than what Canada had offered the Union at the last negotiations. The Conservative government however retaliated claiming that the debacle was costing the economy between 9 million and 35 million a week and was particularly troublesome for those depending on government assistance.

What happened between the 23rd and now is monumental. As debate opened on Thursday the 23rd the parliamentary calendar was set to that work day, the NDP however were determined to call the Conservatives to account for perceived anti-labour overtures. The ensuing filibuster lasted over 3 days and two nights. The epic 56 hour debating session broke the previous record set in the 80’s and the true hero of it all must truly have been Elizabeth May, the only and also the leader of the Green Party she represented a caucus of one and remained at the debate for at least 30 hours only leaving for brief breaks. The two entrenched oppositions parties battled it out, at one point with the NDP tabling a ‘hoist’ motioned which would have pushed the issue back six months. The Liberals and Conservatives however shot it down. Eventually the Conservative majority steam rolled the Bill through and at 8pm on Saturday it was passed through the lower house. It will be going to Senate on Sunday morning and is expected to face no real opposition there. It looks set that the now unedited Bill will be ordering the 46 thousand postal workers back to work by the middle of next week.

A real record has been set this week, as the Parliament calendar passes onto the next work day confused to discover its now Sunday, the crunch on postal workers to clear the back log by Canada Day will be a gruelling task and probably highly opposed to the now further disgruntled Union. The Conservatives have flexed their muscles to get this Bill through, but there has been little doubt at all that the 56 hour filibuster is just the beginning of the fight that going to be put up by the novice Official Opposition Party.

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