June 1, 1925

LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

No. There are already what I think are generally regarded as satisfactory and equitable arrangements in effect for dealing with disputes on the Welland ship canal. Rightly or wrongly, there is a policy which has been in effect for more than twenty years by which disputes in respect to wages and hours on the Welland ship canal and other government undertakings are dealt with.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB
LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I think I can very safely say that it is generally satisfactory, and the records of the department would so indicate. I know, of course, that certain associations from time to time express disagreement with the application of that fair wage policy, but we find just as pointed disagreement on the part of the contractors, and if my hon. friend cared to review the records of the department in respect to the Welland ship canal he would find, I think, just as marked objection at times on the one side as on the other. The department tries to follow the fair, even, middle course and to recognize the current wage in the district or a fair and reasonable wage, and the department would be in a position to show by comparative figures in regard to each individual wage classification that this course had been followed.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The minister has hardly answered my question, whether if this dissatisfaction grows, it would be possible to apply for a board under this act?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

No, not as the law reads now, nor as it has ever read.

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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

I would vote much more heartily for this item if under the law application could be made for a board in case of a dispute on government works. I have here a very strong protest from' the Labour Council of Toronto against what is said to be a cut in wages on the Welland canal. I will just read it to the minister and ask him if there is not ground for a dispute arising here:

The federal government came in for scathing denunciation at the District Labor Council last night for having sanctioned the reduction in the wage scale of ah classes of workers employed on the Welland canal. Premier King was held to be equally guilty with Hon. James Murdock Minister of Labor. A resolution was passed by unanimous vote protesting against the lower wage scale and the increase in the hours of labor. Copies of the resolution were ordered to be sent to Premier King and his colleagues; also, to the Labor members in the House of Commons. The matter was introduced by John Flett, Canadian organizer of the A. F. of L., who pointed out wages had been reduced all along the dine, varying from 10 to 20 cents per hour, according to the trade. Carpenters and plumbers alone were allowed the eight-hour day. All others had to work from 9 to 11 hours a day. In the case of laborers and unskilled workers, the rate of pay had been cut to 35 cents per hour for an 11-hour day, and no overtime was allowed or paid for.

I have here also a letter dealing with the same matter from Mr. James Watt, secretary, Labour Temple, Toronto, in which he says that he sent a copy of this letter to the Prime Minister and also to the Minister of Labour. He states:

Copies of the schedule of wages to be paid employees on the Welland canal construction work were submitted to the District Labor Council of Toronto at our last meeting held on the 16th, inst.

Delegates from organizations more or less affected freely criticized the action of the Department of Labor in authorizing the schedule and a resolution was adopted protesting against such action in references to both wages and hours.

The council are of the opinion that the cost of living at the present time warrants a much higher rate of wages, and that it is hardly creditable to the government of this country, in view of the conferences and agreements with representatives of other nations, that the eight hour day movement should be almost completely ignored in the awarding of contracts of this nature.

We are further of the opinion that the schedule as it stands, means an increase in the hours of labor per day and a lowering of wages in the district.

In protesting against the action of the Labor department we sincerely hope that a re-adjustment of the schedule may take place at an early date.

I am not in a position to vouch for the accuracy of these charges, but I presume the Minister of Labour might at least throw some light on the subject. However, I do say this: It is an unfortunate circumstance that a wage dispute, such as I have just indicated can develop on a government work and perhaps a very serious situation arise therefrom, and yet the men may have no recourse under the act in connection with which we are voting this money.

Supply-Labour

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Very many references

contained in the first article that my hon. friend read are totally inaccurate; in fact they are entirely untrue. For example, it is stated' that the wages were reduced from ten to twenty cents an hour. That is not so; a number of the wage rates were not reduced at all. The labourers' rate was reduced by five cents an hour. We have figures with respect to the several classes of labour employed by different concerns through the Niagara peninsula, so that we will be able to show my hon. friend, if he cares to inspect the records, just what the various classes of labour are getting. I noticed the article in uestion when it came out, and observed the source whence it came. It is entirely misleading and generally speaking inaccurate, the carpenters' wages, for example, were not touched. The carpenters' hours were shortened from nine hours a day to eight hours a day. Why? Because in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, and at one or two other points, by agreement between the carpenters' organization and the builders, an eight-hour day was in effect. Therefore the carpenters, a very important class of labour on the Welland ship canal, had t'heir condition improved, from a nine-hour day to an eight-hour day. May I add that the department has a very lengthy request from I think about 47 carpenters and 17 carpenter's helpers on the Welland ship canal making application to the minister to be permitted to work 10 hours a day and today there came to my office a report from the Department's Fair Wage Officer in respect to this matter. I have yet to render a decision on that application; but I am quite sure that neither my hon. friend from East Calgary (Mr. Irvine) nor my hon. friend from Centre Winnipeg (Mr. Woodsworth) will recite to this House, either now or later claims 'by trades and labour councils to the same effect. There are so many angles connected with this question that it is not desirable at times to have in your hands the authority to determine what is the current wage, or what is a fair and reasonable wage, in any paritcular part of this country. For example, we have the same thing to do in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and at other places where government contracts are under way.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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CON

Arthur Edward Ross

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROSS (Kingston):

Before the minister passes from that point has he information showing how many carpenters there are working on the Welland ship canal?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I could not give my hon. friend the exact information but I could make a guess. I would say that on the various

[Mr. Murdock.}

contracts there would be probably from 150 to 300. Those that I referred to a few minutes ago are engaged by one particular contracting firm, but the number of carpenters would vary according to the condition of the work. There are by the way, when construction is under way and progressing satisfactorily, some two or three thousand men employed in various occupations on the Welland ship canal.

In regard to the clipping from the Mail and Empire, and the statement from the Labour Council at Toronto which my hon. friend read, we have had all these protests before us and have taken them under consideration. If a fair wage policy is right in principle-there may be some argument in my hon. friend's mind about that-and if a department when giving a contract insists upon the payment, in a given district, of wages as fair and reasonable as those that are being paid by other employers of labour, I believe my hon. friend will admit that we have been fair and reasonable and have recognized the current wage and the current hours and conditions of. employment on the Welland ship canal even in the last revision of wages that was made there. My hon. friend may not know that the application that came to me on January 17 last, suggesting in regard to the various contracts what the wages should be, quoted a twenty-five cent rate for labourers-I am speaking from memory now-a sixty-five cent rate for carpenters, and varying wages for all the other classes proportionately as low. After a careful and complete canvass of the entire territory the carpenter's eighty cent an hour rate was left there and his hours were reduced from nine to eight because that was the current condition in the Niagara peninsula. There is nobody in the form of an organization to speak for the labourer, but his wages were not fixed at twenty-five cents an hour because the current wage in the district was thirty-five cents an hour. There were many labourers being paid1 twenty-five cents; there were many being paid thirty cents. Our fair wages policy however, does not contemplate paying the minimum rate; it contemplates paying the current rate, and so we tried to make a decision based on the average of the various rates. Consequently a thirty-five cent rate was fixed which lowered the labourer's wage by five cents an hour.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

I think I can see the difficulty that the Minister of Labour has to contend with in regard to this matter. Still I am loth to believe that the Trades and Labour Council of Toronto and the officials

Supply-Labour

of the A.F. of L. would make such statements as I have quoted if there were not some basis in fact for them. Does the minister know any real basis in fact for them at all or are they all fictitious?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

If my good friend had been connected with a labour organization as long as I have been in the years gone by he would realize that you can get almost anything in the way of criticism of a public man through a labour body, and it does not particularly matter whether that public man is a Grit or a Tory. Criticism if it is proposed tvill be generally carried, and it does not matter whether it is justified or not. It sounds good, because it is criticizing someone in public life, whether rightly or wrongly.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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CON
LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

The minister's answer is not very illuminating and not very creditable to labour, but apart from that, I would like to press the question, is there any basis in fact for the changes in the correspondence I read.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Yes there is. I do not want my hon. friend to misunderstand me. The great body of labour is generally true and sound, but one misfortune is that it will sometimes endorse criticism as I pointed out a moment ago. There is in the minds of some labouring men possibly a criticism at any time when a wage rate is reduced. If my hon. friend has ever seen a condition of that kind that was not open to the criticism of organized labour, I never have, and therefore there is that justification on the part of the Trades and Labour Council of Toronto. Do not forget, they are many miles removed from the actual scene of operations on the *Welland ship canal, but there is that justification for criticism in some cases when wage rates are reduced. We have common labour at 35 cents an hour. Certain linemen were reduced 20 cents an hour. Why? Because we found the current wages for linemen had changed from 75 cents an hour to 55 cents an hour. That was a large change, but the facts indicated that , there was a substantial number of men in that calling who were working at regular employment at 55 cents an hour, or 20 cents an hour less than the rate paid theretofore. I can assure my hon. friend! that I still believe if he would go over all the voluminous documents and information which we secured in connection with the recent wage revision on the Welland ship canal, he would agree that we had stood up pretty straight in determining what was the current wage in the

district, and what was a fair and reasonable rate.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I should like to ask the minister if he imagines that the amendment to the Industrial Disputes Act, which passed this House and the Senate, when put into force, will enable him to settle the dispute that we have had in Cape Breton?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I do not think that the particular dispute that has been in evidence for the past several months unfortunately can be accepted at the present time as a national emergency, and I do not think it would be consistent for the government to now go into the business of trying to conciliate.

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LAB
LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

My hon. friend will

kindly not overlook these facts. The Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, rightly or wrongly, since 1907 has contemplated conciliating before a strike took place, and by conciliation and investigation preventing a strike taking place. It has not generally been the practice under the act to utilize its provisions where a strike was really in effect, where someone had violated the intent of the law in the public interest, either employer or employee, and had really entered into a strike or cessation of work, either by lockout or otherwise; therefore my hon. friend I am sure will agree that the underlying principle of the act is, by conciliation and investigation, to prevent a strike, and the act never contemplated and never intended to give authority to go in when there was an actual strike in effect, and to say, " This must be done ", or " The other thing must be done Therefore I would say that, generally speaking, not necessarily always, but generally speaking, it would be inadvisable to apply the terms and provisions of the act where there had been an actual suspension of work before the provisions of the act would in the ordinary course and according to the intent of the law be applied. Therefore, just briefly answering my hon. friend's question, I say, no, I do not think it would be consistent to make a pretence-because it could only be a pretence-of applying the provisions of this act to the dispute in question.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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Mr. W OODSTV DRTH@

If I remember

aright, the minister said several months ago. when the dispute first arose, that he did not very much blame the men in Nova Scotia for not appointing representatives on the board. Of what use is the act in such a case?

Loan Companies Act

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Information of that kind can best be given to my hon. friend by looking at the results accomplished. Since 1907, 630 applications for boards have been received, and in only thirty-seven cases have strikes resulted. Therefore it looks as if something reasonably worth while had1 been accomplished. Last year there were nineteen applications for boards received and only nine boards formed. In ten cases, as a result of the applications, and the result of the efforts of the department, an agreed settlement was reached without even the necessity of forming a board, and in no one of those nineteen cases did a strike result. Now my hon. friend can consider the success of the act from the results which I have cited.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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June 1, 1925