Just as Peter Kent is the Anti-Environment Minister, Lisa Raitt is the Anti-Labour Minister. Her job has been to legislate Canada Post, Air Canada and Canadian Pacific workers back to their workplaces before a strike got underway. But an indication of just how clumsy the Conservatives are at handling labour relations occurred yesterday when a federal court ordered the government to replace its chosen arbitrator:
In a decision released Wednesday, the court said arbitrator Guy Dufort’s previous work for Canada Post and history as a Conservative candidate in Quebec casts doubt on his impartiality.
“In light of the unique context of labour relations and the special law, the court concludes that a reasonable and sensible person might worry that the arbitrator is biased because of these two reasons,” says a summary of the decision.
Dufour was on a list of possible arbitrators. But CUPW says it was unaware of Dufour's ties to the Conservative Party:
The union says Dufort’s Facebook page contained links to Conservative groups under the “activities and interests” section, and he was “friends” on the social networking site with both Raitt and Tory MP Steven Fletcher, the junior minister responsible for Canada Post. The links have since been removed.
Apparently, such blatant conflict of interest did not strike the Conservatives as a problem. Dufour replaced the original arbitrator, retired judge Coulter Osborne, who quit after it became public knowledge that he was not bilingual.
There are two givens in labour relations in Canada. One is that arbitrators are impartial. The other is that -- at least in the federal workplace -- they should be bilingual. The Harper Conservatives clearly do not intend to abide by what used to be labour relations axioms.
They don't know how to do labour relations -- and they don't intend to do them.