Senator Day: Thank you, Mr. Palecek. Way down at this far end here. Thank you very much for taking the time to be here. I know you could probably be doing something other than being here to help us. It’s quite important we hear from you.
The first question I have relates to clarification in my mind, if not clarifying the record, in relation to pay equity. We have talked about the rural area being more women, by 70 per cent, versus 30 per cent. Is the pay equity issue an urban-rural or a gender issue?
Mike Palecek, President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers: We’re talking about the rural and suburban bargaining unit. These areas are set by geography, which was set up a long time ago. Of course as the cities are expanding, you’re increasingly seeing what we would describe as urban areas in the suburban unit. The discrepancy is between the two. They do identical work, but get paid different amounts for that work.
Senator Day: Yes, I understand that, and it just turns out there is a gender issue that is involved in here as well.
Mr. Palecek: Well, I don’t think that it just turns out that way. It was designed that way. If you go back far enough, these routes were often filled up with rural housewives who would do this for spare money. It was said they did it for pin money.
Senator Day: Thank you for that. I’ll go on to my next point, if I may. Are negotiations ongoing right now over the weekend? Is that happening right now?
Mr. Palecek: Yes, we’re continuing to negotiate with the assistance of the mediator. We’re really hoping for a negotiated agreement. We know that’s the only way we’ll get an agreement both sides can live with.
Senator Day: I can tell you those of us who are sitting here feel the same way. We’re hopeful that will happen. You’re hopeful. Is there a possibility of a cooling-off period that allows — even though this legislation might get passed, it doesn’t come into effect until there is Royal Assent and that can be held off. Is there a possibility of negotiations continuing after this weekend?
Mr. Palecek: Absolutely, there is a possibility. We have fought very hard for our right to negotiate. That is exactly what we intend to do.
Senator Day: Thank you. I hope you’ll continue that.
My final question: I know you don’t want this legislation to be passed, but I want you to bear with me. If it does get passed, is there anything you would like to see before it’s passed added into this legislation? Is there anything we can do as the Senate to improve this undesirable legislation from your point of view?
Mr. Palecek: We’re still reviewing the legislation with our legal counsel. I couldn’t give you a definitive answer. I understand that time is a lot shorter than I think it needs to be. I would say there is something we have thought unusual. The legislation leaves it up to the Minister of Labour to determine the outstanding issues to be forwarded on to arbitration. That’s something that would normally be left to the parties to decide what the outstanding issues are. We were rather concerned about that.
Senator Day: Okay, thank you very much.