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Second arbitrator in Canada Post labour settlement rejected by federal court

Labour Minister asked to appoint unbiased mediator, not friends.

Lemelin: This decision shows that we have been right to oppose this flawed process.OTTAWA, ON, August 9, 2012: The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that Guy Dufort, the second arbitrator appointed by the Harper government to resolve the dispute between Canada Post and its unionized workers — to oversee the imposition of back-to-work legislation and a final offer selection — must step aside and federal Labour Minister, Lisa Raitt, appoint a replacement.

Following his appointment by Minister Raitt on March 15th, Dufort sent his resumé to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), which included details of his involvement as a high-ranking official with both the Conservative Party of Canada and as an advocate for Canada Post Corporation in its pay equity case.

In March 2012, on learning of these details, the union asked Dufort to step down, as had his predecessor, Judge Coulter Osborne. But in April, Dufort refused to recuse himself, issuing a 34-page decision that excluded the fact that he had served as Canada Post's lawyer and the fact that he ran for Parliament three times as a Conservative candidate. He claimed that he had ceased all partisan activity in 2010 and that therefore the union's apprehension of bias was not reasonable.

  "Forced settlements do not work. We want to be proactive and obtain a fair deal."

The union then produced links to Conservative Party groups as "activities and interests" on Dufort's Facebook page and the fact that Dufort listed both Lisa Raitt and Steven Fletcher, the Minister of Transport responsible for Canada Post as "friends". In May, Dufort removed these links from his Facebook page.

Federal Court Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer agreed with the union and granted the review. Her decision says, "a reasonable and sensible person might worry that the arbitrator is biased because of these two reasons."

"This decision shows that we have been right to oppose this flawed process," said Denis Lemelin, CUPW National President. "The government is not getting it right."

This is the second arbitrator rejected by the Federal Court since Bill C-6, back-to-work legislation, was passed by Parliament in June 2011. About 48,000 workers were locked out after 12 days of rotating strikes. The bill imposed a four-year contract on the workers, specified pay increases and ordered outstanding issues to be settled by arbitration.

The first arbitrator was declared unqualified for the task because he was not bilingual and didn't have enough experience in labour relations.

The union has written to Lisa Raitt, asking that a mediator be appointed to facilitate the collective bargaining process instead of appointing another "friend" to force a winner-takes-all final offer selection on the parties as mandated by the back-to-work legislation.

"Forced settlements do not work," said Lemelin. "We want to be proactive and obtain a fair deal for our members."

Links and sources
  Arbitrator bias upheld by court: Union calls for mediation and negotiation, not imposed settlement.
  Court orders second Canada Post arbitrator to recuse himself: Government-appointed arbitrator was management lawyer for Canada Post and a three time candidate for the Conservatives.

Posted: August 16, 2012

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