Government warns it may end Canada Post lockout

OTTAWA, Ontario — Canada’s federal government is preparing back-to-work legislation for Canada Post, setting the stage for a resumption of mail service as early as next week.

Labor Minister Lisa Raitt informed Parliament on Wednesday she will introduce back-to-work legislation. The bill could be up for a vote next week.

On Tuesday, the government issued a similar warning in the Air Canada strike involving 3,800 customer service agents and other staff.

Postal workers started rotating walkouts almost two weeks ago and the government-owned corporation Canada Post locked out its 48,000 unionized workers early Wednesday.

Raitt said the lockout, which suspended mail service in urban centers, changed the situation fundamentally.

“It is now affecting the Canadian economy and it has an effect on third-party Canadians who are not part of this dispute, but are the ones who are suffering from the hardship,” Raitt said.

The day before, Raitt served the same notice on striking customer service agents and other staff at Air Canada.

Under the rules of Parliament, the government must give 48 hours of notice before it can introduce new legislation. With Parliament not sitting on Friday, the bills are expected to be debated next week.

But the government has said it still hopes the striking parties will take advantage of the remaining few days to redouble efforts to reach a deal before legislation is needed.

The federal government legislated striking postal workers back to work in 1997 — the last time the union went on strike — after they were off the job two weeks.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has also said it doesn’t want to be ordered back to work, blaming the government-owned Canada Post for escalating the dispute Tuesday night by locking out the workers and suspending service in urban centers nationwide.

Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton denied the lockout was intended to pressure the government into action, but acknowledged the negotiations were going nowhere. He said the firm decided to suspend most mail delivery to bring a “sense of urgency” to the talks.

The current situation had begun untenable, he said, because Canada Post had already lost about $100 million and uncertainty was crippling the system.

The two sides had been in formal bargaining for seven months before the union of 48,000 employees began rolling work stoppages June 3.

Hamilton said the main sticking point was the union’s demand for staffing levels beyond the capability of Canada Post, adding wages were not the key disagreement. The union has been emphasizing working conditions and safety issues, as well as arguing that new employees would receive inferior wages and pensions.

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