Looking back at the Maclean’s story about the back-to-work legislation Jean Chretien’s Liberals imposed to end the 1997 postal strike, I think we might be able to guess at where Stephen Harper’s Tories got the idea of giving the postal workers less than Canada Post had last offered at the bargaining table:
Union officers were particularly irked by the wage settlement the government chose to impose as part of the back-to-work legislation (it breezed through the House of Commons in a single day last week, endorsed by a final vote of 198 to 56 with only Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party MPs opposed). Under the terms of the package, postal workers, whose base pay is now $17.41 an hour, will receive a 1.5-per-cent salary hike this coming February, another 1.75 per cent the following February and a final 1.9 per cent in February, 2000.
The imposed settlement is not only far distant from the 8.6-per-cent increase over two years CUPW was seeking, but is even marginally less than the offer Canada Post had on the bargaining table when talks finally collapsed. That called for annual increases over the next three years of 1.5, 1.75 and two per cent. What is more, management’s offer would have commenced last August. “It amounts to an average loss per worker of $991 over three years,” complained CUPW director of research Geoff Bickerton. “I can think of only one reason the government acted as it did – pure vindictiveness, payback time for the workers.”
For the record, the government denies the charge. Both Labor Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano, under repeated questioning in the Commons, continually described the settlement as “fair.”