June 4, 1921

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Is my right

hon. friend prepared to give us an absolute assurance that in most of the contracts-I will say ninety per cent of the contracts- that have been awarded during this last year, the Department of Labour, or its officers, have been called upon to prepare fair-wage schedules? Take, for example, the building of the Canadian Government Merchant Marine. Some $70,000,000 has been spent in that connection, and I think the Department of Labour has not been called upon in a single instance to prepare a fair-wage schedule for insertion in the contracts in connection with the expenditure of that vast sum of money. Then, I would like to ask my right hon. friend whether the practice in question is adopted in regard to contracts awarded by the Department of Railways and Canals, or by the Railway Board that has to do with the administration of the National railways-

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

There is no ground for the hon. gentleman's attitude as to the relationship which exists between the Department of Public Works and the Department of Labour. I give him the assurance that this question of wages- has been uniformly referred to the Department of

Labour. There is a clear existing understanding that that will always be done, and no difficulty has been experienced in that regard at all. The ships to which my hon. friend refers were built by the Department of Marine and not by the Department of Labour. In one particular instance there was certain friction in that regard, but it was adjusted quite satisfactorily. Those ships were built in a manner rather different from that of public works construction, and the question arose over the difference in the contractual methods of construction; but there will be no difficulty there in the future either-the Department of Labour will function fully, as it should.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Of course my right hon. friend recollects that the fair-wages branch of the Government service was formed in pursuance of a resolution adopted by this House, which provided that all Government contracts should contain this provision, a provision designed to protect labour against injustice in the matter of either wages or hours. I would like to ask my right hon. friend whether the present board, which administers the National Railways' system, calls upon the Department of Labour to prepare any schedules at all for insertion in contracts entered into for railway construction work?

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

In that respect it is just in the same position as the Canadian Pacific and other railways.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I would like to point out what seems to be a very great injustice occasioned throughout the Dominion in consequence of the Government having taken over the administration of the national railways Before this departure of creating what I might call a phantom board was resorted to, and which relieves the Government of all responsibility for the administration of the railways the Department of Railways was obliged to call upon the Department of Labour-just as the Department of Public Works was obliged to do when any construction work was to be undertaken-to insert in the contracts for construction work, schedules providing for the rate of wages to be paid to the men thus engaged. Now the work of railway construction involves, perhaps, the greatest expenditure of any department in the whole Government service, and this change of policy in railway administration has left labour wholly without protection in connection with this large, outlay of public money. The same thing is true, I think, in regard to all expenditures

incurred by the board that has been created in connection with the Government Merchant Marine. Therefore I want to protest very strongly, on behalf of labour in this country, against Canadian labour being left without any protection whatever, in the matter of its wages and working conditions, in the contracts involving such' large expenditures, entered into by these two boards.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I have given an assurance which meets the case fully as to all the other departments of the Government. As to the railways I do not think it should be urged, or that it could be exacted by this House-not even by the other side- that we should impose upon the management of the Canadian Government Railways, the Canadian Northern, and all the rest, obligations that would permit a Government department to dictate to them what they should pay their men and how many hours those men should work. Such a suggestion might have some value for oratorical purposes, but, really, I could conceive of nothing which would be so wholly inconsistent with real business management as putting the Canadian Government Railways in a position which would prevent them from competing on fair terms with the other great systems, or indeed anything which would be more subversive of efficiency generally.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I would like to point out to my right hon. friend that during the regime of Sir Wilfrid Laurier it was always the custom in connection with the Intercolonial Railway-for example, when a station was to be constructed or a road to be built, or when any railroad was being built under government subsidy; because the resolution of this House relates to subsidies given for railway construction as well as to work being carried on directly under the Government-it was always the custom for the Department of Labour to be called upon to frame a schedule of the current rate of wages to be inserted in the contracts for the construction of these works; and labour on railways, where the work was being carried on under public expenditure, was precisely in the same position as labour always has been in the case of public works. Now the action of the Government is a complete departure from that policy -a policy which was laid down by unanimous resolution of this House for the protection of labour.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I should say that as

regards the railways there is in existence

a Railway Adjustment Board, upon which also labour is represented. This is a sort of appeal hoard where all labour difficulties are threshed out and decided, and as far as I know-I think I am safe in saying-decided satisfactorily to all workmen or labour affected. I think that system has worked very satisfactorily indeed, and I do not think it would be desirable, even in the interest of labour itself, that we should interfere with that most satisfactory arrangement.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I would point out to my right hon. friend that the Railway Board does not intervene until after some dispute has arisen. The object of the Laurier administration in providing for this fair-wages regulation was to ensure that the man seeking a Government contract should pay the proper rate of wages and that the prices fixed in his tender should not be fixed at the expense of any persons he might have in his employ. I do not think this Railway Board to which my right hon. friend has referred meets in any way whait is essential in regard to the protection of labour on these contracts.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. gentleman

should recollect that what he refers to as having been subject to the fair-wage clause was merely construction work on the Intercolonial and no change has been made from past practice; the fair-wage policy applies to all railways in the matter of construction work. I had reference to the wage relationship which exists between the men and their employer. The present arrangement takes care of everything-of all labour matters, right down the line; in so far, that is, as concerns the leading Brotherhoods. Surely that is much more comprehensive and much more useful in a practical way. It has proven so, and I can conceive of no better arrangement which could be made.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

I would like to ask the

Prime Minister what attitude the Government is taking with regard to its obligations in labour matters as expressed in the Covenant of the League of Nations. I think there were, certain principles laid down in that covenant in the matter of labour obligations, and in the advocacy of those principles the former Prime Minister was very active.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

A complete and comprehensive statement was laid on the Table a few days ago in answer to the questions of the hon. member.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

I am not quite sure that it was a complete answer because I was going to ask another question. Following the meeting of the League of Nations, certain industrial international conferences were held. I think one was- held at Washington in 1919, and certain recommendations were made there, some of which are held, I think, by the Minister of Justice, to come under provincial jurisdiction, but others to come under control of the Dominion. One of these, the question of unemployment insurance, was referred to in the speech from the Throne, but nothing whatever has been done in regard to that. There is one further principle which, I think, has been enunciated at Washington, as well as by the League of Nations, and has reference to overtime work on the part of women. I think that in the declaration in question it is pretty definitely laid down that women should not be called upon to work at all hours of the night. But this Parliament has violated that principle consistently this session. We have violated that principle repeatedly ourselves, by keeping members of the staff, including the women members of that staff, working practically all night, and especially of late. Now, it seems to me that if Canada was sincere in what it advocated at the League of Nations, as well as by her course in taking part in the various subsequent conferences, we ought to make some definite effort to live up to our professions.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The first answer I gave the hon. member was correct, even having regard to his second question. On November 6, 1920, a report to council dealing with these matters was approved by His Excellency the Governor General. The approval of this report, as well as much other material covering the entire question, is the carrying out by this country of the obligations imposed by the Covenant of the League in relation to labour.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

What about the women who are working so late?

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It is all right to say that, but it is unfair to suggest we could have a law in this country as to hours that would be universally applicable to women workers, and that we should adjourn Parliament at such an hour of the night as or even of the day would meet the provisions of that law. We must have some regard for circumstances in this world. I presume we could meet the case by employing only men. I know of no other way as regards this House.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

In other words, the law is only to be considered as a theoretical measure.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

As regards long hours in factories that is a very different thing. Long hours for men and women workers in factories are one thing, but the objections here relate to quite another matter. It is not good for women to be out too late at night-whether correcting the speeches of hon. members or dancing in a ballroom. At the same time neither of these is in the same category with the case which requires the intervention of the State with respect to too long and laborious hours for women, or for young girls and young boys, in workshops.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

There is a material

distinction between the two cases. The hours of labour in factories is probably a matter within provincial jurisdiction and we cannot deal with it. Here the matter is within our own jurisdiction and we refuse to deal with it.

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I ask my right hon. friend why the Department of Labour issued a pamphlet on Bolshevism? Is Canada in danger from that particular philosophy?

Topic:   SUPPLY-DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
Permalink

June 4, 1921