With Labour Minister Lisa Raitt serving notice that Ottawa is prepared to legislate postal workers back to their jobs in as little as 48 hours, it has to leave postal workers forced off their jobs wondering what's going to happen to everything they have fought hard to acquire over the last four decades or more.
After nearly two weeks of rotating strikes at various locations across the country, the postal union's membership was forced off the job on Wednesday when Canada Post said it could no longer absorb the losses that resulted from the ongoing labour dispute and decided to suspend operations.
Before the advent of email and the Internet, any suspension of mail service would have led to a national panic and without question would have forced the federal government to act. While the existing lockout is an inconvenience it's not a national emergency and there will no doubt be more than a few wondering whether legislation to end the lockout is really required since the two sides are so far apart.
Instead, the minister should be encouraging Canada Post and its unionized employees to go back to the table and provide the incentive to both sides to bring about a negotiated settlement as opposed to leaving it up to someone outside the industry to mandate a settlement that very well may make a loser out of one side or the other.
For the union, this battle is about job security and protecting those rights they have negotiated over a series of contracts while for Canada Post it's about maintaining competitiveness and continuing to modernize a postal system that's among the most efficient in the world.
Unfortunately, too many people are equating this labour dispute as a question of dollars and cents. While wages are part of the dispute, it's just as much about a differing vision of what Canada Post could look like in five, 10 or 20 years.
What should be of concern to Canadians is not how long it takes for their regular mail to start moving again, it's going to be what sort of lasting scars will be remain if one side or the other finds itself as the loser in a settlement that's shoved down their throats.