Legislation ordering postal workers back to work was passed in the House of Commons during a special session that dragged on into the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Bill C-89 passed third reading by a vote of 166 to 43.
The Senate is now set to sit Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday, to deal with the bill, which would go into effect at noon eastern time on the day following royal assent.
The legislative push came as Ottawa, as well as smaller towns in Ontario and British Columbia, and Sherbrooke, Que., became the latest targets of rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Despite the rush to pass the legislation, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu encouraged Canada Post and CUPW to remain at the bargaining table.
“They can still pull a deal off,” she said.
That said, Hajdu added: “Obviously, we would prefer that the parties are able to negotiate an agreement together, but the time has come that we need to be prepared to take action if they cannot.”
Hajdu referred to mail delivery as an “essential service” and said small businesses that rely on the postal service to deliver their goods over the busy Christmas season could go bankrupt if the situation isn’t remedied quickly.
“And when I say small, I mean really small. I mean people that, you know, sell marmalade or handmade goods, that this is the most profitable time of their year and if they are unable to make their earnings this time of year, they very well might be facing the end of their business.”
Labour leaders and New Democrat MPs slammed the government for undermining the collective-bargaining process. The government has removed all incentive for Canada Post to reach a negotiated settlement now that the agency knows workers will be ordered back to work by early next week, they charged.
“The right to strike is an integral part of the collective bargaining process,” said Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff. “Without it, an employer has no incentive to bargain in good faith, and workers have no recourse to demand a fair process.”
Canada Post seems to have convinced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Christmas wouldn’t come without a back-to-work bill, added CUPW president Mike Palecek.
“The mail was moving, and people know it,” he said. “People have been getting their mail and online orders delivered. That was the point of our rotating-strike tactics, not to pick a fight with the public.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused the Liberals of hypocrisy, professing to believe in the right to collective bargaining while bringing in what he called the “worst, most draconian” back-to-work legislation.
“They’ve shown their true face … that this government is not a friend of working people,” Singh said.
The Canadian Press