BUSINESS
06/20/2011 09:48 EDT | Updated 08/20/2011 05:12 EDT

Canada Post Strike: Back-To-Work Legislation Expected Monday

AP

CBC -- Legislation that would send locked-out Canada Post employees back to work is expected to be tabled in Parliament Monday afternoon.

A bill to end rotating strikes, which began June 3 and then became a full-time lockout on June 15, would restore postal service across Canada.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt was expected to introduce the bill in the House of Commons, but it would be up to the NDP to set the debate Monday, because it's allocated to the Opposition's agenda.

If debate began Tuesday, an act could be signed into law as early as Thursday.

The weekend brought no advance toward a settlement, as negotiations remained stalled. Both Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers had said they were scheduled to meet, but face-to-face talks failed to take place.

Rallies and demonstrations were planned by the union for Monday in Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Kamloops, B.C., and three centres in New Brunswick.

Denis Lemelin, national president of the 48,000-member union, said he's bracing for an order from Ottawa to get back on the job.

"We expect the government will put forward something," he said. "It's like the real negotiation between Canada Post and the union is finished."

Lemelin said the fact the government has indicated it might step in and "rescue" the post office in the labour dispute suggests Canada Post has been waiting for Ottawa to intervene.

The Crown corporation has said the main sticking point in the dispute is the union's demand for staffing levels beyond the capability of Canada Post, adding that wages were not the key disagreement.

The union has been emphasizing working conditions and safety issues, as well as decrying the corporation's push to have new employees receive substantially inferior wages and pensions. CUPW also says Canada Post turned a profit in each of the last 16 years.

Raitt has said she intends to introduce legislation this week after all urban postal operations were suspended last Wednesday, when Canada Post locked out employees who had been staging rotating strikes since June 3.

"We will fight it, that's clear," said Lemelin, adding that the union has been in talks with the opposition parties, looking for support.

"For us, the back-to-work legislation won't be any good for the future of the post office."

Still time for a deal: Canada Post

Canada Post said it is still eager to work out a negotiated settlement with the union.

"We've said all along we are committed to negotiating," spokesman Jon Hamilton said. "We have come to the table with a sense of urgency that hasn't been met."

The Crown corporation said Sunday that there was still time to reach a deal, even with Ottawa stepping in, if the union would look more closely at the existing deal on the table.

"The union strike activity had us in a death-spiral of uncertainty," Hamilton said. "We took action to try and move things forward, kickstart the process. Unfortunately we're not seeing that in return from the union."