OTTAWA — Striking postal workers have rejected a call from Canada Post for a “cooling off” period to accompany mediated talks aimed at ending the labour dispute that has seen mail and packages backed up at distribution centres across the country.
Canada Post said this morning it would agree to another round of mediation with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, but only if its striking workers end their rotating walkouts.
It also called for binding arbitration if no settlement is reached by the end of January.
In a statement, CUPW national president Mike Palecek says the union isn’t holding rotating strikes to harm the public.
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But Palecek says he won’t ask his members to return to work under conditions that effectively have some employees working without compensation.
“The proposal asks our members to go back to work at the heaviest and most stressful time of year, under the same conditions that produce the highest injury rate in the federal sector,” he said in a statement.
“It asks women to continue to do work for free. How can we do that?”
Canada Post proposed the so-called cooling off period, and binding arbitration should talks fail by Jan. 31, as pressure mounts to resolve the ongoing labour dispute ahead of the busy Christmas delivery season.
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In a statement, the Crown corporation said it wanted CUPW members to put down their picket signs while talks are on, and offered a special payment of up to $1,000 for each member if there is no labour disruption while mediated talks were on.
“With the rotating strikes, resulting backlogs, and the massive Black Friday and Cyber Monday volumes that will arrive within days, we are trying everything we can to work together with the union – urgently – to deliver the holidays to Canadians,” Jessica McDonald, chair of the board of directors and interim president and CEO of Canada Post, said in the statement. “This proposal also includes a way for the parties to resolve their differences and these negotiations.”
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Canada Post said it would start talks “with a jointly agreed, government-appointed mediator,” while reinstating both its collective agreements with CUPW during the cooling off period.
If an agreement were not reached by Jan. 31, the corporation said a mediator would provide recommendations for settlement. If the sides didn’t agree, it said binding arbitration would follow.
The proposal came as Canada Post workers continued their rotating strikes Monday after rejecting the Crown agency’s latest offer and also requested the government appoint a mediator to help end the ongoing dispute.
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The union had let pass a time-sensitive proposal from Canada Post meant to stop the strikes affecting about 42,000 urban employees and 8,000 rural and suburban carriers.
Labour Minister Patty Hajdu wouldn’t say whether Ottawa would oblige the request for a mediator, but indicated it was a good sign that both sides were still talking.
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On Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a last-minute plea to the two sides to resolve their differences, just hours before a midnight deadline on the Crown corporation’s latest offers expired.
The strikes have created a huge backlog of undelivered mail, prompting some businesses to issue pleas for a resolution.
The Retail Council of Canada urged Ottawa to “bring an immediate end” to the rotating strikes through back-to-work legislation.
Canada Post says the suspension of strikes could allow it to begin reducing the massive backlog of mail and parcels now sitting in hundreds of trailers at sorting centres across the country.