A Harper history of back-to-work legislation

OTTAWA – Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has tabled back-to-work legislation in the House of Commons Monday to end a six-day strike by 4,800 Canadian Pacific workers.

Talks between the striking locomotive engineers and conductors and Canadian Pacific Railway fell apart over the weekend.

Raitt has said the strike threatens the Canadian economy and that she would move to table back-to-work legislation to ensure the strike doesn’t continue to hurt the mining, farming and other industries that depend on the rail system to move their goods.

Governments first started using back-to-work legislation in 1950 and have tabled it over 30 times since.

It has been a favourite tool for dealing with labour unrest for the reigning Conservatives since they were elected to a majority in May 2011.

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Here’s a look back at the labourers who have faced back-to-work legislation since the Conservatives were elected to their majority government.

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Air Canada – (June 16, 2011) Air Canada’s 3,800 striking sales and service agents returned to work after striking a deal with the company. The deal was announced shortly after Raitt tabled back-to-work legislation in the House of Commons. The Conservatives justified the legislation by saying the strike threatened Canada’s economic recovery and threatens the country’s reputation as a reliable trading partner. The workers were on strike for three days.

Canada Post — (June 20, 2011) The Tories introduced back-to-work legislation to force 50,000 postal workers to resume mail delivery. The legislation came after striking postal workers were locked out by Canada Post following two weeks of rotating strikes.

The move ignited a war in the House of Commons, with the NDP using procedural tactics to delay the passage of the bill. The debate lasted for more than 48 hours straight before the bill was passed.

Canada Post blamed the strikes for losses of $100 million. The Conservatives argued the strike and subsequent lock-out was hurting the economy by keeping invoices and payments flowing in and out of small and medium-sized businesses.

Air Canada – (September 20, 2011) 6,800 flight attendants returned to work after they reached a deal with Air Canada. The federal government had threatened to table back-to-work legislation if they walked off the job.

Air Canada – (March 14, 2012) The House of Commons passed back-to-work legislation to prevent a work stoppage at Air Canada during the March break vacation season. The law stopped the airline from locking out employees and stopped employees from striking. Raitt said at the time a work stoppage could cost the economy as much as $22.4 million per week.

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