Thursday, June 30, 2011

On needless aggression

While I wrote today's column before word came out about the Harper Cons' meddling in the negotiations between Canada Post and CUPW, it looks like the Cons' desire to provoke a war with workers extended even further than I'd thought - including through their rejection of a deal which both the union and Canada Post were prepared to accept:
The NDP launched a filibuster in the House of Commons to delay the proposed law in hopes of giving more time for a negotiated settlement. Behind the scenes, Godin and fellow New Democrat MP Joe Comartin acted as go-betweens with Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers as well as the Canadian Labour Congress.

Interviews with officials familiar with the talks reveal they came close to breaking the stalemate.

Indeed, even before the filibuster got underway Thursday night, the NDP thought a deal had been reached with the Conservatives to amend the back-to-work legislation. The changes would have taken final offer selection off the table and provided for eight weeks mediation overseen by an arbitrator.

Emails predicted success. “Looks like this will work out,” read one email written by one person close to the talks and obtained by the Star.

But just over an hour later, the Conservatives had put the final offer back on the table and the message from Raitt’s office was “there is no deal.”
By Friday evening, both Canada Post and the union had a tentative settlement that outlined agreement on some key issues such as wage rate, according to a source. Other outstanding issues would be sent to arbitration.

But after midnight came word that Raitt’s office had apparently turned down the deal, a source said.
It's not clear whether the motive was aimed more at ensuring that the NDP couldn't claim a win, or at taking the hardest possible line with CUPW instead as a signal to other unions. But either way, there seems to be little room for dispute that the Cons were far more aggressive and unreasonable than any of the parties actually directly involved in the Canada Post bargaining process - going so far as to choose to reject an agreement which would have been possible absent their interference. And that message should serve as a red flag for workers across Canada that their federal government will be working to damage their interests at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, for those asking questions about the NDP's strategy in filibustering on motions at second reading rather than challenging the Cons more in committee, the news of the Cons' interference looks to provide a compelling explanation. It looks to have been true that Canada Post and CUPW only needed some additional time to come to a compromise - but that ceased to matter when the Cons made it clear that any resolution acceptable every other party involved would be considered unacceptable to them.

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