Spe­cial me­di­a­tor called in to help end postal strike

Calgary Herald - - FINANCIAL POST - TERRY PED­WELL

OT­TAWA The fed­eral gov­ern­ment named a spe­cial me­di­a­tor Wednes­day in hopes of end­ing ro­tat­ing walk­outs at Canada Post that forced clo­sure of the Crown cor­po­ra­tion’s big­gest sort­ing plants for a sec­ond day and spread to the West.

Labour Min­is­ter Patty Ha­jdu an­nounced the ap­point­ment of Mor­ton Mitchnick just hours af­ter the Cana­dian Union of Postal Work­ers said it would keep its mem­bers on the picket lines in the Greater Toronto Area.

Ha­jdu said in a state­ment that Mitchnick, a for­mer chair of the On­tario Labour Re­la­tions Board, is a highly re­spected se­nior ar­bi­tra­tor and me­di­a­tor. She said he will be join­ing a team of fed­eral me­di­a­tors from the Fed­eral Me­di­a­tion and Con­cil­i­a­tion Ser­vice that have been work­ing with the two par­ties.

Ha­jdu said she hoped the new me­di­a­tor would “bring a new per­spec­tive to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.”

“There are still a num­ber of chal­leng­ing is­sues that both par­ties have to work through, and hav­ing some­times a fresh set of eyes on a chal­leng­ing prob­lem like that will help the par­ties to con­tinue to look for creative so­lu­tions,” the min­is­ter said af­ter meet­ing with her Lib­eral cau­cus col­leagues early Wednes­day.

Nearly 9,000 CUPW mem­bers walked off the job in the Toronto re­gion early Tues­day as part of ro­tat­ing walk­outs that be­gan Mon­day to back con­tract de­mands. They re­mained on picket lines Wednes­day and were joined by roughly 250 postal work­ers in Kelowna, B.C., who joined the walk­out at 6 a.m. lo­cal time, Canada Post con­firmed.

The job ac­tion at the gi­ant Gate­way par­cel fa­cil­ity in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., which pro­cesses roughly two-thirds of all parcels mailed in Canada, and the South Cen­tral mail plant in the Toronto’s east end, forced de­lays in ship­ments of tens of thou­sands of let­ters and parcels across the coun­try.

Those de­lays were ex­pected to con­tinue Wednes­day, although Canada Post said it would do what it could to de­liver mail and parcels out­side Toronto.

“Cus­tomers across the coun­try should ex­pect to see de­lays for par­cel and mail de­liv­ery,” said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamil­ton, adding the agency con­tin­ues to op­er­ate across the rest of Canada and is ac­cept­ing and de­liv­er­ing mail and parcels in all other lo­ca­tions.

The union has said the walk­outs will con­tinue un­til Canada Post sweet­ens its con­tract pro­pos­als for ru­ral and ur­ban car­ri­ers.

The union and postal ser­vice have been un­able to reach new col­lec­tive agree­ments for the two bar­gain­ing units in 10 months of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

On Mon­day, walk­outs shut down postal op­er­a­tions in Vic­to­ria, Ed­mon­ton, Wind­sor, Ont., and Hal­i­fax, caus­ing few de­liv­ery dis­rup­tions out­side of those cities.

CUPW, which rep­re­sents 50,000 postal em­ploy­ees, said Wednes­day that it would work with the spe­cial me­di­a­tor, as well as Pe­ter Simp­son, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the fed­eral me­di­a­tion ser­vice, in the hope of achiev­ing new col­lec­tive agree­ments.

The union has called on Canada Post to ad­dress is­sues stem­ming from the ex­plo­sive growth of par­cel de­liv­er­ies, in­clud­ing health and safety con­cerns and pre­car­i­ous work.

The agency said Tues­day it has made over­tures to the union with the aim of mit­i­gat­ing some of those con­cerns.

But a big is­sue for CUPW is the per­ceived overuse of tem­po­rary work­ers.

The union wants Canada Post to pro­vide greater job se­cu­rity through the cre­ation of more full-time po­si­tions, ar­gu­ing that tem­po­rary work­ers are con­sis­tently paid less, are not cov­ered by health, den­tal and sick or dis­abil­ity in­sur­ance plans, have no guar­an­teed hours and can­not plan their fu­tures.

FRANK GUNN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Strik­ing Canada Post work­ers walk the picket line in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., on Tues­day. Mor­ton Mitchnick has been ap­pointed to join a team of fed­eral me­di­a­tors in talks with Canada Post and the Cana­dian Union of Postal Work­ers over con­tract de­mands.

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