EDITORIAL – Legislating against inconveniences is no way to bargain

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WHEN IT GETS right down to it, unions have only one big stick to get what they want for their members. The strike isn’t just the ultimate weapon, it’s the only one.

All the tough words at the bargaining table amount to nothing if they don’t have the threat of work stoppages at their fingertips.

The current postal disruptions have become, like so many things, a political matter. It was only a few days ago that Justin Trudeau’s government faced demands from the Opposition Conservatives to do something to put an end to CUPW rotating strikes that have hit so many communities across the country, including Kamloops.

When Trudeau came up with back-to-work legislation, the Conservatives criticized that, too, but not as apoplectically as the NDP.

The rationale for the bill — given royal assent Monday evening after the Senate approved it — is that a full-blown walkout would harm the economy and the public, especially seniors. The argument against it is based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, though it takes an expensive lawyer to explain what that has to do with a postal strike.

Forcing workers back on the job is always regarded as a last resort, but should it be any resort at all? There are certain services that just cannot be allowed to be interrupted. Policing, food inspection, firefighting, hospitals, correctional services, border security — those are all things that are necessary for the safety, security and health of the public.

Anything that interferes with these services is a threat to the collective well-being.

Mail delivery is not. It might be an inconvenience and, especially during the Christmas rush, even a major inconvenience. But it’s still only an inconvenience.

We can get along without the mail for a good long time. Legislating an end to inconveniences isn’t the way to do labour bargaining in Canada.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (8408 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Legislating against inconveniences is no way to bargain

  1. The right to strike is a misleading phrase. No right is absolute, as all are granted or permitted by social license.
    Strikes are permissible when the product or service is optional. Fundamental services and products belong in public services and utilities such as health, police, fire, education, postal services, banking, and transportation. If the product is widgets andthe service is similarly not fundamental to social functioning, then compulsory arbitration is a rational and predictable solution. Canada Post and its unions have for too long relied on the
    Public’s reliance on Christmas deadlines to stamp their feet and ignore their own mandates.

  2. Beverley Thies Campbell // November 27, 2018 at 4:29 PM // Reply

    I fail to see the urgency involved in legislating the Postal Workers back to work, most if not all seniors receive their cheques via banking deposits, it is a requirement of the Government that people have an arrangement whereby their cheques are transmitted electronically. As for Christmas, well dang it all, that isn’t a requirement either, if you don’t get your parcels or can’t send your parcels until later, so be it, it is what it is.

  3. Really time to update your knowledge and awareness of both unions and the Post Office. Your analysis shows antiquated thinking, incomplete understanding, and is just plain wrong.

    First, strikes are not the “only weapon” nor are they the best weapon – they’re actually one of the worst weapons, because it turns public sympathy against the workers and in favour of the management who, knowing this, actually WANT the strike.

    Secondly, if strikes go on long enough, the worker never makes back what they lost in the raise settlement they get – management wins again.

    Third, strikes cause customers to look for an alternative method to accomplish what they need, and some never come back.

    The BEST weapon unions have are various methods of working to rule – which show the employer how much they have taken employees for granted, and which force the costs to the employer to INCREASE as efficiency drops. Soon it becomes obvious to profit-motivated employers that giving the raise is an investment in controlling costs.

    With brick and mortar stores giving way more and more to on-line companies – WHO RELY ON MAIL MORE AND MORE – the Post Office has seen a marked resurgence in their importance to the economy and business employment. The government stopped the strike to avoid a horrendous business season for businesses who need mail service to survive and to keep employment from being affected.

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