Canada Post says 10,000 have received pay equity...
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Jan 13, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Canada Post says 10,000 have received pay equity cheques

The post office is set to place ads to find others who could be eligible for compensation in case that has spanned more than 30 years

OurWindsor.Ca

Even though 10,000 individuals have received compensation from Canada Post in the country’s longest-running pay equity dispute, thousands more could still be eligible.

“To date, we have paid out to about 10,000 individuals,” said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton, though he declined to say how much that represents. “We have paid out to anyone for whom we have contact information.”

Canada Post says it is now working with the Canada Revenue Agency, asking the tax office to reach out to other individuals on the post office’s behalf, asking if they want to be contacted.

As well, Canada Post plans to take out a series of newspaper ads across the country in the next month or so to alert potential recipients.

Hamilton said these people could be former employees or executors of estate for those who may be eligible.

A long road

It has been hard to find those owed money, in part, because the case has dragged on for more than three decades.

The complaint was first filed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada in 1983 on behalf of 2,300 clerical workers, arguing that the mostly female workers were doing comparable work to the mostly male letter-sorters and carriers, but earned substantially less.

The battle raged for years as lawyers made their arguments and appeals before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal.

Between 1993 and 2003, 415 days of hearings were held, with a 279-page tribunal decision in 2005 siding with the union and ordering at least $150 million in payouts.

The crown corporation appealed the decision, and won at two levels, before the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the union’s favour in 2011, a mere 20 minutes after hearing oral arguments.

But payments were delayed again as the two sides battled over how much interest would be paid. In a 2013 agreement, Canada Post agreed to pay interest on 90 per cent of the settlement.

The ad campaign to look for potential recipients is part of the settlement deal. At that time, the union estimated as many as 30,000 people could be eligible for compensation, though half are believed to be individuals who worked short-term contracts, in some instances only a few weeks.

The final cost?

The postal workers’ union estimated the total compensation could reach $250 million when interest is added.

“From the day we won our case at the Supreme Court, the PSAC recognized that the payment process was going to be extremely complex and time-consuming. We were very disappointed that Canada Post did not immediately recognize this,” said PSAC national president Robyn Benson in an emailed statement.

She acknowledged that her members were frustrated by the “very slow start,” but added the resources and processes seem to be in place now.

“We hope that eligible members and former members will receive their pay equity payments soon,” Benson said.

Canada Post won’t say how much has been paid out to date or how many people are owed money. It recorded an undisclosed charge in its 2011 financial statements for the pay equity payout.

“The people we are looking at now are those who worked a smaller amount of hours. These would not be people who worked for us full time for an extended period of time,” Hamilton said, noting some individuals may represent five files, having worked temporary stints on separate occasions.

“We are committed to doing this right,” he said, conceding the process has taken some time.

Secret legal fees

Because this case dragged out over such long period of time, the Toronto Star has sought information on how much Canada Post paid in legal fees in opposing pay equity.

The Star filed a request under the Access to Information Act, asking for the total amount paid in legal expenses and disbursements in this case.

Canada Post has refused to disclose the amount, releasing only redacted information and invoices naming lawyers and prominent law firms like Blake Cassels & Graydon and Heenan Blaikie as well as others.

For just the period covering 1989 to 1999, the stack of redacted bills, printed on both sides, measures almost 7 centimetres and weighs 2.85 kilograms.

Canada Post cited three sections of the Access to Information Act, including solicitor-client privilege, financial or trade secret information and personal information.

“We maintain that the information you have requested is confidential,” Hamilton said.

The Star appealed the decision in 2013 to Information and Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and is still awaiting a ruling.

Toronto Star

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