April 22, 1920

UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

I trust that the amending of the Bill in this form will not preclude us from moving any other amendments we desire to present before the Bill is read a third time.

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Subtopic:   BILL TO CONFIRM AGREEMENT WITH THE COMPANY.
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UNION

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Public Works; Minister of Railways and Canals)

Unionist

Mr. J. D. REID:

No.

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Amendment agreed to.


UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

When shall the Bill be read a third time?

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UNION

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Unionist

Mr. DOHERTY:

Now.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING:

Before the Bill is read a third time, I should like to make one more appeal to the Government and to Parliament on behalf of those employees of the Grand Trunk Railway Company who have been deprived of their pensions in consequence of the strike which took place in July, 1910. My reason, Mr. Speaker, for doing this is that I believe a great wrong has been done a large section of the working people of this country and that this is the last opportunity to remove altogether any doubt as to the rights which many of us believe, and Parliament as a whole admits, they are legitimately entitled to. It is not my purpose to go over the ground which has already been covered in committee, but I wish to outline one or two salient facts, and I might mention that when I have concluded my remarks I intend to move an amendment, which I hope the members of the House will support in view of the reasons which may be urged on its behalf.

When the strike of July, 1910, took place, as the House is aware, the Grand Trunk Railway system was tied up from Chicago to Portland. The greater part of this Dominion was very seriously affected. The strike was settled as the result of an agreement entered into between the employees and the company. In connection with the negotiations that had to do with that settlement the late Sir Frederick Borden and myself, at that time ministers of the Crown, were present in Montreal, and heard and witnessed everything that' took place between the parties. When the settlement was finally entered into we undertook as ministers of the Crown that should any dispute arise in the future as to the meaning of certain terms in the agreement we would be prepared to give our word as to the understanding of those terms as agreed upon at the time.

The men were reinstated on the understanding that they were to be put back in their former positions, or, to use the exact terms of the agreement:

The company will put back as soon as possible the men. other than those who may have been or may be found guilty of acts of violence or disorderly conduct, the understanding being that there is to be no coercion or intimidation towards the new men.

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

If my hon. friend will allow me a question at this point it may save some discussion. I was under the impression that although the words "put back as soon as possible'' are in the agreement, there was a private understanding that the expression meant ninety days. If so, I would like to ask another question after the hon. member has answered this.

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I explained

that position fully when we were in committee, but I will explain it again. The company agreed, as stated here, to put the men back as soon as possible. The

men tried to get from the company an understanding of what the words "as soon as possible" meant. We spent nearly two days trying to get the Grand Trunk general manager and president to give a definite meaning to those words, and finally he gave to them the meaning of ninety days. It was understood that as soon as he attached to those words a definite period, if that period were acceptable to the men, the strike would be at an end. Ninety days was acceptable to the men. It was not a private understanding, beyond this-that the terms of the agreement were to go to the public as drawn.

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

That is where I want to ask my next question. Why was not the "ninety days" put in the agreement? You had the power to get those words inserted; why did you not put them in?

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My hon. friend uses the expression: You had the power to get those words inserted, why did you not put them in?

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

Well, you are assuming all the credit for the settlement, and the omission of those words caused all the trouble.

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am not assuming any credit whatever; I am merely endeavouring to state to the House the facts. The parties responsible for the agreement were the company and those who were acting on behalf of the employees. The agreement was entered into between the employees and the company, and the language used in the agreement was come to between them, and was not suggested either by Sir Frederick Borden or by myself. But we were present during the negotiations, and the company insisted on retaining the expression "as soon as possible." The men said, "We have no objection to your using that expression, but we would like to have some definite meaning attached to it. Do you interpret "as soon as possible"to mean one month, two months, three months, or a longer period?" If my hon. friend will take the trouble to peruse tjie somewhat lengthy communication I read to the House a few nights ago he will find the whole course of the negotiations described explicitly and in detail, and he will discover there that after very considerable difficulty Sir Frederick Borden and I succeeded in getting Mr. Hays to agree that "as soon as possible" would mean three months. We had previously ascertained from the men that if Mr. Hays would give that interprets-

tion it would be satisfactory to them, and that it would also be satisfactory to them to accept the agreement as drawn. We had not any say in the wording one way or the other; the agreement was drawn between the parties, and it was perfectly agreeable to both sides that the words "as soon as possible" should remain in the agreement so long as Sir Frederick Borden and myself, as ministers of the Crown, were .prepared publicly to state, should the question ever be raised, that those words meant a period of ninety days. And that is what I am stating now.

As I say, it was with the greatest difficulty that we succeeded in getting the company to declare that definite limitation of time. It was made finally. by the vice-president of the company, Mr. Wainwright, coming to Ottawa and stating that he had the authority of the president .to give the words that definite meaning. As soon as Mr. Wainwright gave other ministers of the Government and myself that assurance, I sent a confirmatory wire to the men, in accordance with an understanding that we had prior to Mr. Wainwright's coming to Ottawa. But befoie I read that telegram, let me explain further to my hon. friend \Mr. Morphy), so that he will not be in any doubt as to what actually transpired. The strike was on, and every hour counted. I had told Mr. Hays before I left Montreal that unless he gave to those words " as soon as possible " a definite meaning, and was prepared to settle the strike on the basis of the agreement, I would return to Ottawa, lay the matter before my colleagues and get their permission to make a public statement to the effect, that the parties had arrived at an agreement, all the terms of which were satisfactory to them, but that the strike was not ended for the sole reason that he was unwilling to give to the phrase "as soon as possible " any definite meaning; and that therefore responsibility for continuance of the strike must rest entirely on him. When the company knew that was the position, that the responsibility for the continuance of the strike was about ip be put on the president and general manager for his arbitrary action, Mr. Hays sent his vice-president, Mr. Wainwright, to Ottawa with authority to give those words the meaning of ninety days. As soon as that was done I sent to the men the following telegram:

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

Before you read the

telegram, will you please let me put an-

other question: Was the authority given

in writing or by word of mouth?

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The authority was given as set forth in the communication which I read to the House, and which is on Hansard.

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

The hon. gentleman

might answer me. I was away when he delivered his speech.

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Wainwright came to a meeting at which Mr. Brodeur, Mr. Pugsley and myself, then ministers of the Crown, were present, and at that meeting he stated that he had the authority of the president of the company to give the words "as soon as possible " the meaning of ninety days; that he had been given that authority before he left Montreal; and that if that interpretation was ever questioned, he would resign his position as vide-president.

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

So it was purely verbal?

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

As far as I

remember at the moment, it was. At any rate, it was whatever is contained in the document. At the time, I wrote out all the details of the strike, believing that possibly something might arise in regard thereto. But the matter is not in any way pertinent to the strike issue as no one has ever raised a question as to whether the understanding was or was not put in writing.

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UNION

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Unionist

Mr. MORPHY:

I beg my hon. friend's

pardon. Considerable dispute arose because the term of ninety days was not inserted in the agreement.

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

At any rate

the telegram I sent to the leaders of the men was as follows:

Mr. Hays has given Sir, Frederick Borden and myself an undertaking that the men will within three months from this date he taken back into the service and within that time be placed in their former positions. We understand by the men all the men referred to in the agreement signed by both parties. In accordance with our understanding I shall expect to hear by wire immediately that the strike has been declared at an end. I will confirm this wire by letter over my own signature.

Tours faithfully,

W. L. Mackenzie King,

Minister of Labour.

As soon as that wire was received by the leaders the strike was declared at an end. Now, the important point in that connection is that the strike was declared at an end in virtue of the circumstance that the president of the company had agreed to reinstate these men within a period of ninety days in the positions which they formerly held, and that ministers of the Crown were prepared to vouch for that being the undertaking. That being the case, the only point that is of importance at the present time is: Were those men put back in the positions which they formerly held, and what was meant by putting them back in their positions? Two difficulties arose. One was whether certain men had been guilty of acts of violence. If they had been guilty of acts of violence they were not entitled to be reinstated, but if they had not beep guilty of acts of violence they were to be put back in their former positions. When a t number of men were not reinstated it was asserted that they were not being put back in their positions because they had been guilty of acts of violence. To settle that question Mr. Justice Barron was appointed to investigate the cases of all the men who were alleged to have been guilty of acts of violence, and the president of the company agreed to reinstate every man whom Mr. Justice Barron said should be reinstated. Mr. Justice Barron's inquiry lasted several months, and I believe that even when it was concluded the president of the company still hesitated to put back some men whom Mr. Justice Barron irecommended should be put back.

However, the question of reinstatement was only a part, as it subsequently turned out, of what affected the real position of the men. Those who were taken back found a little later on to their utter amazement, that the president of the company was taking the position that because the men had been out on strike they should lose all rights to a pension fund to which they were entitled. Now, the point I wish to make clear to members of the House is that in the whole of the negotiations between the parties, the question of pensions was never discussed one iway or the other. The right hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Doherty) mentioned the other evening that I had said that the strike leaders themselves had said that they did not care anything about pensions. I wish to repeat that statement now. The strike leaders did say to me that they cared nothing one way or the other about pensions. But they did not make that statement in connection with the settlement; they were describing to me the position that organized labour generally takes in that regard. If pensions are to be used as a means of shackling freedom; if they are to be used as a means

of keeping men in employment and preventing them from going on strike no matter what conditions may arise, then they do not afford to men the real service they ought to render. It was in that connection that the strike leaders said to me, and stated publicly in the press, as can be found by reference to the papers of that time, that the matter of pensions twas a secondary feaure. But (when it comes to the terms of the agreement,, under which the men were to be put back in their former positions, or to be returned to the service in full standing-if the Grand Trunk Kailway Company intended not to allow the men their pensions, they should have said so. But they did not bring that question forward, nor was it discussed from the beginning to the end of the negotiations. When the settlement was made I was undei the impression-I know the strike leaders were under the impression, and I am positive that all the men on the Grand Trunk Kailway system were under the impression -that when the men were put hack in their positions they would be reinstated in full standing and would be entitled to the pensions which they would ordinarily have received. But the company has never given them the pensions, and what I ask Parliament to do now is to express the view that these pensions should be regarded as owing to the men and that the rights of the men in that respect shall in no way. be affected by the strike.

The reason why I bring this matter up in connection with this Bill is that the primary object of the Bill, as stated by the Minister of Railways (Hon. J. D. Reid) is to correct certain errors and to remove certain doubts. Well, I think there has hen an error in this particular. The Government have bad before them the representations of employees as to this matter of pensions never having been properly settled. The agreement between the Grand Trunk Railway Company and the Government refers to the subject oif pensions. Therefore, there should have been inserted in the agreement something which would remove all possible doubt as to the rights of the employees in the matter of their pensions.

If this Parliament has reason to believe that it was the intention of that settlement that the imen should be entitled to their pensions, they should express themselves accordingly at this time, and see to it that the pensions if possible, are secured.

Some question was raised the other night as to why this matter had not been brought up before. Qne minister asked why, if the [Mr Mackenzie King,]

facts are as I have stated, I did not introduce a measure along this line at the time I was a member of the Government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. As I explained the other evening, the strike took place in July, 1910. It was well on in the spring of 1911 before Mr. Justice Barron r-epailted the results of his investigation into the cases of the men who, it was alleged, had been guilty of acts of violence. As long as Mr. Justice Barron had those cases under review the Government assumed, and Parliament assumed, that it was the intention of the Grand Trunk Railway Company to carry o,ult it word and see that the men were put back in their positions and that they received the pensions to which they were entitled.

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Subtopic:   BILL TO CONFIRM AGREEMENT WITH THE COMPANY.
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April 22, 1920