Oshawa and Postal Workers: Big and Small Lies We Accept

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1715 ... December 5, 2018

Oshawa and Postal Workers: Big and Small Lies We Accept

Harry Glasbeek

In 1979, Canada’s postal union (CUPW) bargained and bargained with the employer. Eventually, having exhausted all possibilities, it made the decision, supported by a huge majority of its voting members, that its members would no longer provide their services on the basis of the existing terms and conditions of the now expired collective agreement. Workers had determined, democratically, not to sell their labour power on those terms. In a liberal democracy, they had every right to take such a decision. Only a slave society would deny them this right.

The government of Canada decided otherwise. Unlike the union it did not consult its constituency. It enacted legislation to order the postal union... and its workers to call off the strike, to sort and deliver the mail. They would be paid the amounts they were entitled to under the old agreement until an arbitrator would impose some other ones on them. The leadership of the union was legislatively instructed to tell its members that the strike was no longer legal, no longer legitimate. They were told what to say; they were told to say that they had not led their members properly and that their democratic practices were not worth a tinker’s cuss.

Jean-Claude Parrot, a union leader with principles, said he could not do that. He was prosecuted for this act of defiance, for this insistence on his right of belief, of his right to think and speak as he chose. The prosecution opened its case as follows: "The sole question for this court is: Who runs this country -- the government or the unions?" Parrot was convicted and spent three months in jail. The workers were forced to go back to work on properly rejected terms and conditions. While the jailing of a trade union leader is rare today, forcing workers to work on terms and conditions they do not want to accept is a norm in this freedom-loving country.

The justification for such oppression is based on a big lie. This lie is that Canada is a liberal democracy.

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