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Question to President of CUPW Mike Palecek: Canada Post Strike and Workers' Rights

Senator Dean: First of all, Mr. Palecek, thank you for being with us this evening. I join Senator Lankin in thanking you for the hard work you do every day on behalf of your members and for your thoughtful comments to us this afternoon.

I have one question. It’s a common one I designed for both you and your employer counterpart, if I can put it that way. We would all like to see a voluntary agreement. I don’t think there is anybody in here who feels comfortable about the requirement for legislation.

But if there is going to be legislation, it would seem to me, anyway — and I think others here — to be important that at least three things are covered off. Senator McPhedran has dealt with one of them, so I won’t repeat it, which is the guiding criteria for arbitration.

The other two, the first one goes to the importance of a process for choosing a mediator or mediator-arbitrator that would be even-handed, that isn’t imposed from without but that gives the parties some agency in determining who a third party would be.

The second remaining one, leaving aside the criteria, is the proposed means of dispute resolution, straight arbitration or a separate mediator-arbitrator or a combined mediator-arbitrator, which is indeed what is proposed, maximizes the opportunity for there still to be a negotiated agreement.

I know you haven’t spent much time with the legislation. Do you have any thoughts for us, while you’re still here, on the proposed approach to selecting a third party and the proposed approach where there would be a mediator who would become, if necessary, an arbitrator later on in that process? Could you help us with those things, please?

Mr. Palecek: If I remember correctly, the legislation states that each party would submit their choices for mediators. If there was a common one, that would be the mediator. If not, it would go to the Minister of Labour to determine. Of course, that’s always a concern when the ultimate authority is arrested in an individual to make a choice. I think we would prefer it if there was more opportunity to find commonality and agreement on a mediator.

Senator Dean: I note in the event there isn’t an agreement between the employer and union, the Chairperson of the Canada Industrial Relations Board would have some say in trying to find — I don’t think it would necessarily go to the minister.

Can I take it from what you have said, you have lived with other models of the appointment of arbitrators and you have lived with other models in which criteria have been present or absent. Is the current scheme proposed something that is more amenable, in your view, to an even-handed process than those you might have seen in the past?

Mr. Palecek: We don’t believe there is any such thing as good back-to-work legislation. We would like the ability to work this out between the parties.

Senator Dean: As would we. Thank you.