Court orders second Canada Post arbitrator to recuse himself | National Union of Public and General Employees

Court orders second Canada Post arbitrator to recuse himself

Federal government appointed arbitrator was management lawyer for Canada Post and a three time candidate for the Conservatives – "a reasonable and sensible person might worry that the arbitrator is biased because of these two reasons." 

Ottawa (9 Aug. 2012) – The Federal Court of Canada ruled yesterday that Guy Dufort, the second arbitrator appointed by the Harper government to resolve the dispute between Canada Post and its unionized wokers, must step aside and federal Labour Minister, Lisa Raitt, appoint a replacement.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had applied to the court for a judicial review of Dufort's appointment, arguing there were reasonable grounds of bias.

Dufort, appointed by federal Labour Minister, Lisa Raitt, in March, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Progressive Conservative candidate in 2000 and for Harper's Conservative Party in both a by-election and the general election in 2008.

As a management-side labour lawyer, Dufort also represented Canada Post in matters of pay equity from 1998 to 2003 as well as before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2005 on a pay equity case. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the Canada Post workers and made a pay equity award estimated at $250 million. The Tribunal's decision was appealed by Canada Post all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld the decision in November 2011.

Federal Court Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer agreed with the union and granted the review. Her decision issued yesterday says "a reasonable and sensible person might worry that the arbitrator is biased because of these two reasons."

In March 2012, CUPW made an application to Dufort to recuse himself as arbitrator to the dispute. He denied CUPW's application and issued a 34-page decision that excluded the fact that he had served as Canada Post's lawyer and the fact that he ran for Parliament three times as a Conservative candidate.

This is the second arbitrator rejected by the Federal Court since Bill C-6, back-to-work legislation, was passed by Parliament in June 2011. About 48,000 workers were locked out after 12 days of rotating strikes. The bill imposed a four-year contract on the workers, specified pay increases, and ordered outstanding issues to be settled by arbitration.

The first arbitrator was declared unqualified for the task because he was not bilingual and didn't have enough experience in labour relations.

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