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Mail delivery to resume Tuesday as legislation ends 3-week labour dispute

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OTTAWA - Canadians can expect to find bills, letters and magazines filling their mailboxes once again.

Canada Post says mail delivery will resume Tuesday, following back-to-work legislation passed by the federal Parliament over the weekend.

However, the Crown Corporation is warning it will take some time yet to return to "normal delivery standards" due to the backlog of unprocessed mail that accumulated during a month-long labour dispute.

"Starting up a national postal system in a country as big and diverse as Canada takes some time," Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said in an interview.

"It is going to take some time overall to stabilize the system, get it back up to full capacity and ensure we can meet our delivery standards."

Hamilton said first priority will go to delivering mail that's been "trapped in the system" since rotating strikes started on June 3.

Canada Post brought mail delivery to a complete halt by locking out employees on June 14. The Harper government served notice immediately that it would legislate an end to the dispute.

Back-to-work legislation was passed by the House of Commons late Saturday after a 58-hour filibuster by the NDP, which maintained the bill trampled the rights of organized labour. The bill was speedily passed by the Senate and received royal assent on Sunday.

Workers at mail sorting plants began returning to work Monday afternoon and mail carriers are to be back on the job Tuesday.

Some workers continued to man picket lines early Monday, right up until the first shift at sorting plants started. But Hamilton said there's no sign that lingering resentment over the manner in which the dispute was ended will further disrupt mail service.

"All reports that I've heard were that people were happy to get back to work, get the mail moving again," he said.

"There was still some picket activity this morning but everyone that was scheduled to come to work this afternoon has been back at work."

By and large, Hamilton said Canada Post has a good relationship with its employees. But he acknowledged relations have been strained as a result of the month-long dispute.

"There's no question we're going to have to, you know, rebuild relationships and figure out a way that we can work together to build a postal system that's going to serve Canadians well into the future."

The legislation forces postal workers to accept wages that are less than Canada Post's last offer. On non-wage issues, it imposes a form of winner-take-all arbitration in which the union and corporation will each make a final offer, one of which will be accepted.

"It's all favoured towards Canada Post management and it's not going to be good for us," predicted George Floresco, third national vice-president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Nevertheless, he said the NDP filibuster shone a spotlight on the issues at stake and the broader concerns about workers' rights.

"We think we accomplished a lot and the NDP have to be given a lot of credit for taking on this fight for workers and talking about their issues. We applaud them," Floresco said.

New Democrats ceased their stalling tactics Saturday after last-ditch talks between the union and Canada Post broke down.

Union president Denis Lemelin urged NDP Leader Jack Layton to allow debate to progress to the stage where amendments to the legislation could be proposed. Although it had professed to be willing to consider changes, the government ultimately agreed to none.

Union officials say it was clear the government was determined to pass the legislation eventually and, with negotiations at an impasse, there was no point in dragging out the filibuster — with postal workers receiving no pay all the while.


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