The Whole Canada Post Thing

I suppose I should write my thoughts on this whole Canada Post debacle that happened over the last month or so. I will open with the chronological facts as I understand them. If they're wrong, my thoughts may be wrong, so please correct me if they are.

  1. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) began rotating strikes after their talks with Canada Post (CP) broke down. These strikes were in no more that two cities at once (though they may have expanded given the chance).
  2. CP locked the CUPW out.
  3. After a week, the Government of Canada (Conservative) introduced Bill C-6 to get Canada Post operating again, which:
    1. Orders CP to stop the lockout;
    2. Orders the CUPW back to work;
    3. Sends the remainder of the outstanding issues to arbitration, except for salary and term of contract; and
    4. Orders the final settlement to have lower salary increases than CP's last offer before Bill C-6.
  4. The Official Opposition (NDP) filibustered the bill over the weekend.
  5. Following that, the Opposition proposed amendments to the bill, which were rejected by the Government.
  6. Bill C-6 passed.
  7. Mail service has resumed.

In how things turned out, everyone was stupid and a loser in one way or another, except possibly the Conservative Party, but I'm not even sure about that.

Canada Post was stupid by locking their workers out. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians switched to online billing over the lockout period. So in trying to help lower their expenses, they also lowered their revenue. Even if they were promised by the Government that they'd get a resolution in their favour, they might not be considered an essential service next time.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers was stupid in that they didn't accept the offer on the table the instant the Government announced its intention to get involved. The Conservative Party of Canada is not known for it's kindness to Unions. Now the CUPW has been legislated back to work with lower wages than they could have had.

The NDP was stupid in that they filibustered the bill before they proposed amendments. In doing so, they lost some of their credibility with the general populous. They came into the opposition on the promise of restoring civility to the house. The civil thing to do is to try to work together on legislation first, then to filibuster if you believe it's fundamentally bad for the country. I haven't seen polling data on the event, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were bad news for the NDP.

The Government was stupid because they overstepped their bounds. It's the governments job to mediate and push labour disputes to arbitration if they affect essential services, i.e. to get them back to work. It's not their job to specify terms in that agreement, and especially not their job to specify terms "worse" (from the union's perspective) than what is on the table.

I'm not pro-union by any measure. Unions can be some of the most destructive forces in our society. I've watched unions negotiate themselves into a worse deal than the original offer from management. I've seen unions intentionally give away their workers rights, because some of the management was unionised. What I am is a supporter of the right to bargain collectively. We know what life is like without unions. If you don't know, just listen to the song Sixteen Tons.

When mediating a negotiation, you know you've done your job right if no party to the negotiation is happy with how things went, but also no party is angry. That is how you know that the right balance has been struck. I can't help but feel that the Conservatives have walked away happy, while the CUPW are pissed off.