Tories response to posties augers ill for civil service wage debates

Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty has indicated in no uncertain terms that in the fall he and his department will be rolling out programs designed to cut federal spending, pay down the national deficit and get back to balanced budgets.

We have just seen an inkling of what Minister Flaherty has in mind for the federal public servants of this country with the “back to work” legislation directed at 48,000 locked-out Canada Post workers and passed by the House of Commons on Saturday night, after a vigorous filabuster effort by the NDP official opposition.

What was particularly unusual about the back to work rules the Conservative majority government directed to the workers Canada Post had locked out of their jobs two weeks ago (following difficult contract negotiations and two weeks of rotating strikes) was the fact that the legislation that sends the postal workers back to their jobs also includes a wage settlement option, one that an arbitrator must consider as an alternative to the package offered by Canada Post.

It’s a joltingly unusual move, but one that is clearly designed to send an extremely strong message to the rest of Canada’s public sector workers when their own collective agreements came to the bargaining table.

Mr. Flaherty has promised to cut billions of dollars in government spending.

While Canada Post now has an arm’s length relationship with the House of Commons due to its status as a Crown Corporation and it also has its own revenue stream that doesn’t derive from government, still Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet colleagues didn’t miss the opportunity of wading into this wage dispute, putting their own brand on its outcome in the process.

In fact, that may indeed have been the reason the government acted so quickly on back to work legislation in this case: to flex its muscles and send all public sector workers a strong message of exactly what this government will tolerate.

Which is, clearly, not very much.”