Contract negotiations fail. Rotating strikes are unsuccessful. The company claims that it’s losing money, and locks out workers.
With staff represented by 4 different unions across the country, labour relations for the Canada Post Corporation are complex. The government-owned courier has seen dozens of work actions over the past century. Since Canadian law severely restricts the use of strikebreakers (colloquially known as scabs), stoppages can be wide-spread and long-lasting.
After passing two separate pieces of back-to-work legislation in less than two weeks, the Government of Canada has shown that it is not sympathetic towards organized labour. Indeed, Bill C-6 (“An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services”) legislated even lower wages than Canada Post’s management had previously offered.
Mailboxes in Canada were ‘Temporarily Out Of Service’ during a labour dispute that prevented mail sorting and delivery. tyfn/flickr
The atmosphere after a strike/lock-out can be hostile. When government intervention makes work resume before a resolution is reached, the workplace can be downright toxic. Getting things back to a functioning and even friendly state is key to achieving post-strike success.
The issues in any contract negotiation—new hires, training personnel, pensions, benefits, salary and wage structures, sick-day reporting and frequency, and more—are typically on HR’s list of responsibilities. Even though HR probably might not have been involved in the negotiations, HR will be responsible for explaining the changes to employees, and helping them adjust.
When a new contract comes into play, communicating information in an honest but reassuring manner is critical. Be sympathetic. Let people know what benefits they may have lost, but help them find affordable ways to compensate for it. Most importantly, don’t let people blame you for anything they’ve lost. Remind them that human resource officers have to negotiate their pay and benefits too! You’re as much a victim (or victor) as anyone else.
Responding properly after a job action will help restore morale and prevent increases in turnover. Your colleagues will be thankful for your hard work and support.
My sympathies go out to the HR pros at Canada Post, who may end up having to act as peacemakers over the coming weeks and months.
Have you been involved in a strike/lock-out? How much involvement do you think is appropriate for HR?
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