Edmonton postal workers rally against proposed back-to-work legislation: Other unions join voices to send message to federal government

EDMONTON - Solidarity was the message postal workers and labour unions took to the streets of Edmonton Tuesday after a rally at Canada Post's downtown plant.

"You are not alone. You're among brothers and sisters and we brought them here with us today," Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said to a crowd of approximately 1,200.

The AFL released a statement Tuesday afternoon criticizing the back-to-work legislation proposed by the federal government.

"We are outraged on behalf of all unionized Canadians, who now know that the federal government is willing to use its considerable power not to provide a level playing field for negotiations," the statement read. The statement referred to the proposed legislation as dangerous and unprecedented.

Other unions, such as the United Nurses Association and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, marched and chanted down Jasper Avenue in support of the postal workers.

"It's a turning point for everyone if we allow the federal government this type of power. Let the free collective bargaining run its course," said Guy Smith, president of the AUPE.

Workers say they are upset that they are being stripped of the right to negotiate and criticize the proposed legislation that offers less than Canada Post's last pitch to the union.

In the government's proposal, Canada Post workers will receive less of a wage increase than the increase offered in negotiations by Canada Post and set the length of the collective agreement to four years.

"They locked us out. We were rotating, which kept the mail moving, and we get penalized," said Brian Henderson, a Canada Post employee. "If they think they had an unhappy workforce before, just wait until we go back. We are not going to be a happy crowd."

Bev Ray, Edmonton's Canadian Union of Postal Workers president, said she would not speculate on what will happen if the legislation is passed, but that employees will follow orders from the national union.

"This is legislation that responds solely to the needs of the large corporation," Ray said. "It's some of the most restrictive legislation we've seen."

Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier said she would not comment on the back-to-work legislation, but that the corporation is hoping for a negotiated settlement quickly.

"We have a sense of urgency to find a resolution as soon as possible," she said. "We are trying to find common ground with our union."

Edmonton Journal, Tues Jun 21 2011
Byline: Codi Wilson

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