Postal workers take feds to court over back-to-work order
OTTAWA — Canada Post workers are taking the Harper government to court in a case that could test the Conservatives' aggressive stance on the rights of unionized labour.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is challenging the constitutionality of the law which forced its members back to work in June. Close to 50,000 Canada Post workers were locked out by the Crown corporation in June after 12 days of rotating strikes by the union.
The majority Conservatives had cited the fragile economy when they decided to go ahead with a back-to-work bill, a move they've repeated in other labour disputes since.
But the union says such laws take away workers' rights. "This back-to-work legislation was unjust," union president Denis Lemelin told a news conference Wednesday. "It was the democratic rights of workers that were attacked.
"There is a fundamental principle here -- the freedom of association."
The union has already challenged several elements of the legislation, including the selection of the arbitrator. It says the judge chosen by Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has no expertise in labour relations and also doesn't speak French.
A spokeswoman for Raitt said the government was acting to protect the public interest by legislating the workers back to their jobs. "There was evidence that it was causing serious harm to small businesses across the country," Jana Regimbal said in an email. She did not comment directly on the lawsuit.
At the same time as the postal workers news conference, Air Canada's flight attendants announced they're moving to strike just after midnight, despite efforts by Raitt to prevent the action. Constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, hired to represent the postal union, says the Conservative government has become "addicted" to back-to-work laws. "It's an important case because we see now we have a federal government that is very cavalier with the fundamental freedoms of workers today," he said.
One element of the case hinges on asking the court to determine whether the Charter protects the right to strike, he added.
Cavalluzzo said he expects the case eventually will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
"It's not just the postal workers whose rights have been attacked, it's the CAW in their context, it's the CUPE and the flight attendant situation...," he said. "If workers rights are going to be trampled on so cavalierly, then I think workers have to stand up and the only avenue left for them is to fight for their constitutional rights in the courts."
CTV Winnipeg- Postal workers take feds to court over back-to-work order - CTV News