Dozens of Canada Post workers occupied Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault’s consituency office in Edmonton Centre on Thursday afternoon to demand a meeting with the politician regarding their concerns amid an ongoing labour dispute with their employer.
The protest came as the Liberal government introduced back-to-work legislation that could force Canada Post employees to end their rotating strikes.
“We’re looking for our Liberal MPs to not legislate us back to work,” said Nancy Dodsworth, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Edmonton.
“It does sound like it’s going to go forward. We don’t know for sure yet, but I do know that they have served notice,” she added. “We’re hoping that the Liberals will stick to their word about wanting everyone to have a fairly negotiated collective agreement, we’re hoping that they’ll stick to their word about pay equality… it’s just crazy.”
Watch below: On Thursday, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu tabled back-to-work legislation that could force an end to the Canada Post strike.
The crowd at Boissonnault’s office was boisterous, chanting loudly and holding signs. Dodsworth said Canadian postal workers have been seeing plenty of support from Canadians since the rotating strikes began and that Thursday’s demonstrators in Edmonton were a mix of postal workers and everyday Canadians.
“We feel that we have the right to free collective bargaining,” Dodsworth said about why she is upset over talk of back-to-work legislation. “So when they come in with legislation, that strips it away from us.
“There’s been twice where it’s been challenged — even in 2011. We were legislated back to work… we challenged that and it was found to be unconstitutional.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while he believes legislating an end to a labour dispute is never the best option, his government wants to protect small businesses and others affected by the month-long rotating strikes.
“While we are continuing to hold out hope that there’s going to be a settlement or an agreement at the bargaining table, we also have to do what’s responsible and prepare for the possible need for legislation,” Trudeau said Thursday at an event in Calgary.
While back-to-work legislation has been tabled in the House of Commons, the government has said it will hold off on moving forward with it while management and workers work with a mediator to try and end the dispute.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called the Liberals’ threat to force an end to the strike “a serious threat to workers’ constitutional rights.”
Dodsworth said she wants Canadians to know what the main concerns postal workers have that they want solved in their collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s health and safety,” she said. “I mean we’re looking for a reduction in overburdening, we’re looking at forced overtime that’s being caused right now. We want proper staffing done and we’re looking for all hours paid.”
Canada Post has said it will stay at the bargaining table to try and reach a deal with the union. The Crown corporation said it could take weeks to clear the mail backlog that has built up as a result of the rotating strikes.
Watch below: Shipment delays expected ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday as rotating strikes continue at Canada Post.
Dodsworth said she believes management is exaggerating the backlog.
“They’re wrong,” she said. “They’ve said that there’s lots of trailers backed up in Toronto, in Vancouver, here in Edmonton our trailers are clear.
“Everything that came in over the weekend is already cleared. So we have the ability to process parcels but that’s what we do… last year we had 40 days in a row over the Christmas season where we had a million parcels processed and delivered in that day.”
The protesters outside Boissonnault’s office cleared out after they were promised a meeting with the MP by phone from Ottawa.
–With files from The Canadian Press’ Terry Pedwell
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