CBC is reporting that the federal court has ordered a second arbitrator in the Canada Post dispute to step down. The arbitrator was appointed to the federal government as part of back-to-work legislation enacted last year.
The first arbitrator was tossed after it turned out he wasn’t bilingual and had little labour relations expertise. The second arbitrator was tossed because he acted as a prosecutor for the employer during a pay equity dispute (1998-2003) and had long-standing ties to the Conservative Party, including being president of the Quebec wing and running as a candidate. This creates the appearance (if not the fact) of bias, thereby undermining the notion of neutral, third-party arbitration.
Appointing arbitrators who are unqualified and/or create the appearance of bias brings further disrepute upon the federal government’s aggressively anti-union approach to labour relations. While I’m no great fan of the court system when it comes to protecting the rights of workers, I am interested to see what the long-term effect of such pro-employer government policy has on the jurisprudence.
Specifically, I wonder whether pro-employer policies will make the court system (and particularly the Supreme Court) more sympathetic to the arguments of labour and, perhaps, result in a further expansion of the freedom of association duties of the state under the Charter?
-- Bob Barnetson