Canada's Original Think Tank

Committee of the Whole on Bill C-89, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services

Committee of the Whole on Bill C-89, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services

Committee of the Whole on Bill C-89, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services

Senator Joyal: 

Welcome, Ms. McDonald. When did you contact the responsible minister to request special legislation or back-to-work legislation?

Jessica McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors and Interim President and CEO, Canada Post: Thank you for the question. I have never requested back-to-work legislation.

Senator Joyal: When did you first speak with the minister about the legislation?

Ms. McDonald: The suggestion that back-to-work legislation could be an inevitability has arisen over a period of time. I’m unable to think of when the first suggestion might ever have been raised.

As another honourable senator mentioned, back-to-work legislation has been introduced in the past and has been on the minds of many as we continue to not be able to find a negotiated settlement. However, I cannot pinpoint a date when I understood clearly that would be a decision by the Government of Canada until the date it arrived as a notice on the Order Paper.

Senator Joyal: Let’s be clear, Ms. McDonald, and not circle around. Let me go back to your statement.

I find it hard to believe you cannot put a date on such an important issue as that. You know it would have an impact on the relationship with the union. I’m not satisfied with your answer that you can’t recollect such an important element into the administration of Canada Post. Could you be more precise, please?

Ms. McDonald: Honourable senator, I apologize. I was having technical difficulties on my end. I didn’t hear your full question. I understand you’re under a time constraint, but would you mind repeating the first part of your question?

Senator Joyal: Yes. When were you in contact with the government representative or the minister’s office or anyone on the government side that you were considering the impossibility of arriving at an agreement with the union and that special legislation would be the only way out?

Ms. McDonald: Thank you. It has never been my decision that back-to-work legislation needed to be the way out, as you put it. As recently as this past Monday, I have been trying other approaches myself to try to find a way through this, where we could continue bargaining but alleviate the impacts on the system during this holiday period.

If you’re asking me on what date I asked for a back-to-work legislation, the answer is that has never occurred. This is not my request.

Senator Joyal: You never informed the government on the progress of the negotiation and you arrived at a point where there was no movement between the two parties?

Ms. McDonald: That I have a different answer for, for sure. I have updated the government on a regular basis on the efforts in bargaining. I have also been responding on a regular basis to both ministers, both my own minister and the Minister of Labour, as they have called and pressed on the issues and the status of bargaining. I have regularly both responded and given updates. It has been a very challenging period of bargaining.

As you well know, it’s been almost a year of bargaining. Through that we’ve been through a mediator, a conciliator and a special mediator several times. All of that has moved from milestone to milestone under very difficult circumstances where very little, to be frank, progress has been made at the negotiating table.

Having said that, I have not given up. There will be new collective agreements. I would like to reach those through bargaining. It’s becoming ever clearer it needs to be assisted bargaining in order to get there. I hope we can get to agreements prior to the binding arbitration outlined in this legislation as the last effort.

I fully agree with many statements that had been made, that the relationship, to have its best shot at moving out of this bargaining period and into a different future, would have its best potential if we can finally reach agreement at the bargaining table. I will not stop trying to do that, even if legislation is introduced and we’re operating under mediation set out in the legislation.

Senator Joyal: Were you consulted by any of the government representatives on the substance of the legislation?

Ms. McDonald: No.

Senator Joyal: Never?

Ms. McDonald: No, I have not been consulted on the substance of the legislation. I read it for the first time when it became available on the website. I read it on the website.

Senator Joyal: What do you think will be the impact of the legislation in your capacity to establish a sound relationship with the union in relation to Canada Post?

Ms. McDonald: Honourable senator, I am going to continue trying, with everything I’ve got and everything that Canada Post has, to get to a negotiated settlement. The legislation, if it’s introduced, will set out more defined processes that we’re working through. It will not change in any way the level of effort and creativity we will continue to bring to the issues that are at an impasse at the bargaining table.

Senator Joyal: When you informed the government of the progress of the negotiations or the stalling of the negotiations, at which point were you of the conclusion there was not enough movement to maintain the possibility of an agreement?

Ms. McDonald: Honourable senator, I have not reached the conclusion we cannot get an agreement. It has been difficult, for sure, throughout the course of bargaining. There is a very big gap between us and the union on a number of issues. I agree with many of their issues. I have been unable to agree to their particular solution on a number of issues.

I am not in any way giving up on finding a solution that can represent common ground on the outstanding issues. I have not and have never reached the conclusion it is not possible to reach an agreement.

Senator Joyal: During the period through which there was mediation at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 and then arbitration and then mediation again, the general comments made by the union representative were, in fact, Canada Post was not making any real effort to reach an agreement, that in fact, Canada Post was rather slow, not really responsive to meetings and didn’t come to meetings with any significant proposal to ensure there would finally be common ground. How do you react to those comments?

Ms. McDonald: I respect that is the perception and opinion of the union. As I have said before, the process of reaching resolution on issues has been very slow. There is a very large gap between the parties on the issues.

I believe there are very different opinions as to what particular solution represents a place for agreement on the issues. While Canada Post has offered different ideas, different solutions to try to get at the core concern at the bargaining table, it hasn’t been possible to deliver the particular solution the union has asked for.

I can appreciate that is frustrating for the union. I would not agree that Canada Post has not put all of its effort into trying to find solutions that could represent common ground.

Senator Joyal: How many meetings took place during the mediation period of the first part of 2018, before it came to an end at the end of June? How many meetings took place between Canada Post and the union during that first mediation period?

Ms. McDonald: Honourable senator, I don’t know the number of meetings. I didn’t bring that with me.

Senator Joyal: For the subsequent period of conciliation, do you know the number of meetings and the kind of progress that was made in those meetings? No progress at all was registered during that period of time?

Ms. McDonald: I didn’t ask for a tally of meeting numbers per month. I’m going to be unable to answer those questions. To get at the core of the second part of your question, there has been progress on a number of issues. There is a broad list —

The Chair: I’m sorry, Ms. McDonald, the time is up.