March 27, 1923

LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I have not that information, and it would be to a very large extent guess work, as I think my hon. friend will appreciate. The alleged damage to property, if any, and the loss of wages and all of these things would be mere matters of conjecture. However, I have here a memorandum that indicates the time lost and the number of men who were out of work during the year on two big coal mining strikes in Nova Scotia. In the strike from August 14 to September 5th, eighteen days, 14,353 men were out and the time lost represented 258,354 days. In district No. 18 from April 1st to August 28th, 124 days, 7,538 men were out and the time lost represented 931,960 days. The total time lost therefore was considerably over a million days.

. Mr. GUTHRIE: That is the loss in wages?

Mr. MUitDOCK: No, that is the loss of days^ and I presume that if you averaged that at $5 a day you could find the approximate total amount of money involved.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

So that if I understand the matter, these strikes of which the minister has now given the particulars have cost in wages alone something between $5,000,000 and $6,000,000. If the discussion of these strikes comes properly under this item, I would ask that the item be allowed to stand until some future time, as I am aware that some hon. members desire to discuss it. Of course, if the strikes are not pertinent I have no objection to the item carrying. But when one considers the tremendous importance of these strikes to this country in view of the loss in wages to the men, the loss to the owners and operators of the mines, and the' loss to the transportation companies, one is appalled by the figures; and if the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act fails in cases of this kind, could not the minister offer some suggestion for the improvement of the act? Is there no means which this parliament could adopt which in the future would have a better effect as between the employer and the employee in the way of avoiding or settling these strikes? They run into

untold millions, and I should think that the minister has probably given a very great deal of attention to this question. The committee would no doubt be very much pleased to know, therefore, if he can offer any practical suggestion for the improvement of the act which in future will, if possible, obviate these strikes, or some of the larger ones at all events.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

The hon. member will no doubt have noted that in the proposed Bill No. 84 now before the House some suggestions are contained looking to the improvement of the act, and which it is hoped may assist in maintaining a better condition of industrial harmony. As to the question of securing a measure of any kind that will at all times, under all circumstances, guard against the possibility of a strike, or the conditions that are usually incident to a disagreement between employer and employee on vital wage questions, I regret to say that I do not believe we have come to the point where we can secure anything of that kind at present. But if my hon. friend will analyze the results that have accrued to Canada in connection with the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act he will agree that we have been remarkably fortunate, and that there has been very little loss sustained in Canada in comparison with various other countries that we might mention. I have not the slightest objection, if my hon. friend insists, to allowing this item to stand for discussion later. But I think he will concede that this particular strike in which he is interested that occurred in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in August last, was the culmination of a dispute long standing. One of the very first acts I was called upon, as Minister of Labour, to perform, was to appoint a chairman for a board that had been authorized by my predecessor in the previous government. The board was all ready to function and was just awaiting the final word to proceed. That board, as my hon. friend will recall, undertook to deal with this particular situation, with some unfortunate results for some reason or other. My hon. friend will remember also the discussion which later developed and the proposals that were made down in Sydney, with the final result that we again appointed another board in the month of April or May. That board filed its award, and that award was equally thrown to one side by {he workmen as insufficient to satisfy their demands, with the result that all at once, with very little or no notice, and in repudiation of the suggestions made in the board's award, the employees went on strike. The results therefrom are, I think, familiar to my hon. friend.

Supply-Labour

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Was the final settlement after the strike made in terms of the award originally submitted by the Board of Conciliation ?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I think not. I do not think it had any regard for the terms of the award.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Then the final settlement came about through the efforts of the men and their employers directly, without the influence of the board at all. Is that correct?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

The final settlement was made as between the workmen and those representing the company. They, of course, had the advantage of the two inquiries that had been conducted during six or seven months. They had the advantage of all that information brought out in those two inquiries; but the settlement was made, as all settlements should be made, between those directly concerned.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

That is just the point

that w-as brought to my knowledge during the present session in the corridors of the House. The statement was made that the men and the employers would have come to a settlement if there had been no board at all in this matter, that the appointment of the board had the effect of irritating either one side or the other and of increasing rather than diminishing the difficulty. Does the minister think that in a case such as the Nova Scota coal strike a settlement would have been reached more expeditiously had no board of investigation been appointed? I know of course that when the parties concerned demand boards, under our present law it is the duty of the minister to appoint them. But if in that respect the act is wrong, we can easily change it. It has been drawn to my attention that the Nova Scotia coal strike went from bad to worse, by reason of the appointment of a board, one party or the other resenting the appointment, and the difficulty of the situation increasing from week to week; v'hereas it is said, that if no board at all had been appointed the difficulty would have been settled without any very serious trouble. In the end it was settled, as the minister says, by the operators and the men, absolutely without regard to the funding of the board. I know that in very mam-instances the act has proved very beneficial in operation and that small strikes and difficulties have been avoided. But when the difficulty becomes serious does the minister think that the appointment of a board merely adds fuel to the fire, or has it the effect of bringing about a speedier settlement?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

My hon. friend might

possibly like to have the results speak for themselves. From 1907 to 1921, 558 applications were made under the act for a board. The number of boards granted was 401. The number of disputes where a strike was not averted or ended was 34 only out of that total. So I think this shows a very satisfactory average of settlements. Then my hon. friend will recall that last summer when our neighbours to the south were in the midst of the most disastrous railroad strikes that possibly they had ever experienced, Canada was free from such troubles, and I think it is not improper to take some credit for this satisfactory condition to the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act. I think the result secured through the negotiations entered into between employee and employers under the provisions of the act maintained a harmony that was evidenced in our railroad situation throughout the past year. As my hon. friend knows, the mining situation in this country has been somewhat in a class by itself so far as the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act is concerned. In other words, our miners unfortunately have not taken kindly to the provisions of the act and have not always co-operated to the extent we might hope in carrying out its provisions.

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CON

William Alves Boys (Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYS:

I quite agree that the results given are most satisfactory. Will the minister state how many boards were constituted last year and in rthat cases they were successful?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Thirty-two boards were established and strikes resulted in two mining cases, one east and the other west. My hon. friend may recall that in the West the strike began on April 1, 1922, with the general coal miners' strike all over the United States almost before we were able to get a board formed and functioning. The strike in District 18 lasted for several months' concurrently with the strike in the United States coal industry.

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LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

Does the minister suggest that the strike to which he has just referred, which involved something over 7,000 men, was settled only by reason of the settlement reached in the United States? Is it not a fact that that strike was settled independently of the difficulty in the United States, and that the work of the, Labour Department in so far as the application of this particular act is concerned was ineffective?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I would not say that the work of the department was altogether ineffective, nor would I agree that the settlement reached at Calgary was independent of

Supply-Labour

the settlement reached in the United States, as documentary evidence on file will indicate. A tentative arrangement, as my hon. friend will recall, was entered into by the operators and the representatives of the United Mine Workers on the 18th of August to recommence operations under certain conditions dependent upon the scale of wages finally adopted in the central competitive field of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and a portion of Illinois. Within a few days after entering into that agreement they appointed the Minister of Labour as arbitrator to determine when that time arrived, and within a very few days it was necessary for us to wire to both the operators and the miners in the western territory that the rates which had been in effect during the preceding year must continue in force in accordance with what had been settled in the central competitive field. But so far as the actual board is concerned, I could not indicate that it did any particular good during the time that it was investigating the trouble. It was handicapped at the start from the fact that the men in District 18 intended to be governed by what was done in the central competitive field, as the final basis of settlement indicates.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Would the minister let this item stand? I know there are some hon. members absent to-night who want to discuss it.

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CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SUTHERLAND:

l5oes the number of days stated by the minister include strikes in Nova Scotia only?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

The figure includes

strikes in both Nova Scotia and Alberta. The days lost in Nova Scotia were 258,354; in Alberta, 931,960.

Item stands.

Administration, Employment Offices Co-ordination Act, $30,000.

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CON
LAB
LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

The amount asked is $30,000, a reduction of $15,000 from the appropriation for 1922-23. The appropriation is intended to cover expenses incurred in the administration of the Employment Offices Coordination Act. Briefly, the statute empowers the minister to aid and encourage the organization and co-ordination of employment offices, to promote uniformity of methods among them, and to establish clearing houses for the interchange of information between employfMr. Murdock.]

ment offices concerning the transfer of labour and other matters. For the purposes of such organization and co-ordination, provision is made for the distribution among the various provinces annually'' of $150,000. The present vote, however, relates only to expenses incurred in administration and represents disbursements on account of printing, stationery and other supplies, travelling and temporary help There were in January of this year 70 provincial offices and clearing houses, all of which are outfitted from the department with respect to stationery and supplies. It is the intention of the department to close the clearing house at Halifax at the end of the present fiscal year, and that partly accounts for the reduction of $15,000. The duties of the Halifax office are being transferred to Ottawa.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

Will the minister be good enough to indicate his attitude with respect to private employment bureaus? I understand there is only one government employment office in New Brunswick, that which is in charge of Mr. Cochrane at Moncton. Some three or four years ago an employment bureau was established at Fredericton, the provincial government paying half the cost of equipment and a portion of the upkeep, the municipality of Fredericton providing offices and so on. The provincial government refused to continue this arrangement, with the result that there was no employment office in the city\ Last autumn a returned soldier who had been in the employ' of the office while it was functioning opened a private employment bureau in Fredericton, thus filling a long felt want. I understand that he was waited upon by an officer- of the Department of Labour and told that it would be illegal for him to continue that office. He consulted me in the matter, and I have been unable to find any statute that would prevent him from maintaining that office, and I so advised him. However, an effort has been made by some officials of this department to have him close up, but th6 effort has been unsuccessful, and there has been no prosecution, so I assume the advice I gave him was correct. Will the minister tell us what his attitude is with regard to private individuals opening employment offices in localities where no such offices are maintained with the co-operation of his department?

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March 27, 1923