On June 21, 2011, the federal government introduced Bill C-6, the Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act to bring an end to the Canada Post labour dispute that had commenced with rotating strikes on June 2, 2011, and became a lockout on June 14.
Like Bill C-5, the Continuing Air Service for Canadians Act, Bill C-6 provides for resolution of the dispute by means of interest arbitration, using the “final offer selection” method.
The criteria that the arbitrator is to consider are listed in section 11(2) (emphasis added):
(2) In making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator is to be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that will provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure the short- and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation, maintain the health and safety of its workers and ensure the sustainability of its pension plan, taking into account
(a) that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of the new collective agreement; and
(b) that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.
But the legislation goes further still, setting the level of wage increases that are to be granted to postal workers and fixing a 4-year term:
15. The new collective agreement is deemed to provide for the following increases to salaries:
(a) effective February 1, 2011, salaries in effect as of January 31, 2011 are increased by 1.75%;
(b) effective February 1, 2012, salaries in effect as of January 31, 2012 are increased by 1.5%;
(c) effective February 1, 2013, salaries in effect as of January 31, 2013 are increased by 2%; and
(d) effective February 1, 2014, salaries in effect as of January 31, 2014 are increased by 2%.
CUPW is up in arms, asserting that the mandated wage increases are actually lower than the increases proposed by Canada Post, and that the government is trying to punish workers for exercising their right to strike. According to a press release issued by the Union:
The bill legislates wage increases that fall significantly below Canada Post’s last offer. Canada Post’s last offer was 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and 2.0 % in 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation. The Tories’ bill would lower that even further with 1.75 % in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014.
“Imposing wage increases that are lower than Canada Post’s last offer punishes postal workers for a disruption that was caused by the corporation’s national lockout,” said CUPW National President Denis Lemelin.
The government’s response has been to indicate that the wages are consistent with the deal reached with PSAC the previous year, and they getting wages off the table will allow the parties to focus on the larger issues. One wonders if the Union will be tempted to bring a constitutional challenge to the government’s decision to determine in the statute what the wage increases and the term of the contract will be.