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Back-to-work legislation ends Canada Post labor dispute

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Mail service is expected to resume across Canada Tuesday, after back-to-work legislation affecting approximately 48,000 Canada Post employees was passed over the weekend.

Unionized workers began one-day revolving work stoppages in different Canadian cities on June 3. Management responded by locking workers out on June 14.

The ruling Conservatives said intervention was necessary to restore service and protect the Canadian economy. With a solid majority in the House and Senate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had more than enough votes to pass back-to-work legislation. But Parliamentary debate included an unsuccessful filibuster from the New Democratic Party, and signaled further disagreement ahead.

Lucy Martin has more.

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Lucy Martin
Ottawa Correspondent

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The bill mandates a four year contract with an even lower wage than management's last offer.

Other work related issues will be settled by nonnegotiable arbitration. The conservatives ommitted time limits on the debate, perhaps intentionally, even though parliament is scheduled to start a summer break by the weekend.

The NDP seized the chance for an energetic filibuster, keeping parliament in session around the clock despite a major holiday weekend in Quebec. The 58 hour marathon ended with a decisive passage of the measure late Saturday, followed by senate approval in a rare Sunday session. Necessary assent from the Governor-General came the same evening.

Canada Post quickly announced mail boxes would be unsealed Monday and service should resume by Tuesday. With the outcome never in doubt, the filibuster became a focus of attention. Was it all a waste of time? Or a test of labor battles to come?

Numerical imbalance aside, it did become a useful team building exercise for the NDP's rookies, many of whom were elected with almost no prior political experience. Speaker after speaker from the NDP condemned the conservatives intervention on the side of management, warning that other unionized workers can expect to see collective bargaining, pensions and benefits become cost reducing targets.

The conservatives suggested the NDP clearly demonstrated a pro-labour bias that is out of step with current fiscal reality.

This particular battle may be over in terms of getting the mail moving once more, and it remains to be seen if weeks of disrupted service simply forced consumers to seek alternatives.

An even larger war between budget strapped governments and embattled unionized workers in Canada is heating up.

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