May 8, 1931

CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

Is that the

schedule which was attached to the contract and made part of it, or is it some other schedule?

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

Of course it is the

schedule attached to the contract.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

I do not know

what was attached to the contract.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

William Duff

Liberal

Mr. DUFF:

Read it.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

This document is

headed Labour Conditions, and is as follows:

(1) No workmen employed upon the said work shall at any time be paid less than the minimum rates of wages, nor shall work more than the number of hours set forth in the following schedule:-

Schedule of Wages and Working Day Hours

Rates of wages

Trade or Class of Labour not less than

Operating engineers 85 per hourCarpenters 70 per hourStone masons

1.25 per hourDivers

1.00 per hourFiremen 55 per hourBlacksmiths 65 per hourBlacksmiths' helpers 50 per hourCement finishers 60 per hourCement workers 50 per hourCement mixers 50 per hourCement floaters 50 per hourCement mixer operator.. . .60 per hourDrill runners 55 per hourPowdermen 50 per hourLabourers 45 per hourDriver with horse and cart 5.00 per day

Driver with team and wagon 6.50per day

Truck driver 50 per hourBoatmen 50 per hourMachinists (repair men).. .65 per hour

The minister will notice that labourers were rated at 45 cents per hour under the contract.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Is that signed?

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

This particular doeu-

' ment is not signed, but I am positive that it is an exact copy.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

As I have said already to my hon. friend, I will take the matter up with the Labour department and see if the contractors have fulfilled their contract and paid the stipulated rate of wages.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

I thank the minister

and I hope he will take the matter into consideration, because there is a letter from his department stating that this case was discussed with the Department of Labour and that that department had made an arrangement regarding it. We claim that the later arrangement is not quite fair, because they have cancelled the first schedule of 45 cents and are allowing the men only 40 cents. The contractors first asked the labourers to accept 35 cents and on the Labour department insisting that the rate be 40 cents, the contractors required the men to sign a duplicate receipt for the extra 5

Supply-Public Works-Bridges

cents in full discharge of all claims, so that later they would not be able to claim the original rate.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Peter John Veniot

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

Is it not a fact that when

a proposed work is to be undertaken the chief engineer of the Department of Public Works invites the resident district or provincial engineer, as the case may be, to state the local scale of wages? Then if the scale is higher than that on which the cost is estimated, the estimates are revised before tenders are called for, so that anybody wishing to tender can ascertain from the district engineer what the wages will be and tender accordingly. If in this case they tendered on a wage scale of 45 cents, and are now allowed by the Department of Labour to pay 40 cents, they are making that much more profit out of the labouring men than they intended to do. I hold in my hand a specimen of the form sent out to the district engineer, and it contains this paragraph:

With reference to proposed wharf at so-and-so, please note the following scale of wages as set forth by the Department of Labour:

Then the scale is set forth for carpenters, blacksmiths, driver with horse and cart, driver with team and wagon, and so on, and there is a request to be advised if these rates will affect the estimates cost. So the man who tenders has every opportunity of finding out from the district engineer what wages he will have to pay under his contract. ,

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

If the minister is satisfied bo let the item stand so that he may investigate the matter, I will not deal with other objections for the moment.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

I cannot do

more than again assure my hon. friend that that matter will be taken up by the Labour department in the light of the terms of the contract, and justice will be done these men. My hon. friend suggests that we may be taking the part of the contractors. I assure him that nothing of that kind is being done; we feel that our first duty is to protect labour.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Carried.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

The more my hon.

friends opposite say "carried" probably the further I will go. I think I have been fair to the minister. I have not given a single name, I have not tried to put anybody in the hole. All I have asked is that these labourers at Hawkesbury be treated fairly. If hon. gentlemen opposite are not satisfied with this method, I can do it otherwise.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Go to it.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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CON

Armand Renaud La Vergne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

The CHAIRMAN:

Order.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

The minister says he is going to take the matter up with the Department of Labour. My reason for asking that this item stand for the moment in order that further information may be supplied the committee is based on this letter:

Mr. Romeo Bazinet, Secretary,

"The Bridge Workers,"

P.O. Box 73,

Hawkesbury, Ont.

Dear Sir,

I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of February 23, as regards the scale of wages in connection with the contract for the Hawkes-bury-Grenville bridge, I noted carefully the various points to which my attention was drawn. In answer, I wish to inform you that the stand taken by this department in the matter is clearly set out in my letter of February 13, and, in my opinion, the rate mentioned in that letter should be acceptable to the workers concerned.

This letter is written in French and signed by Mr. Ward, Deputy Minister of Labour. He states very plainly that a decision was given, that he reconsidered it again, and refers to a previous letter of February 13th.

Mr. D'UFF: Read the letter.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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LIB

Elie-Oscar Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND:

It is as follows:

Ottawa, February 13, 1931

Mr. Romeo Bazinet,

"The Bridge Workers,"

P.O. Box 73,

Hawkesbury, Ont.

Dear Sir,-

I am directed by the Minister of Labour to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated on the 9th instant, enclosing copy of the proceedings of the meeting held by workers employed oh the construction of the Hawkesbury-Gren-ville bridge, as well as a list of the employees present at that meeting, and recommending to the department the wage rates which have been referred to.

It w'ould perhaps be of interest to you and the workers whom you represent, to know that not one single claim was received from the workers employed on the contract of the Hawlcesbury-Grenville bridge, while the work was being carried out, and that, in fact, no complaint reached us before many weeks had passed after the work had been discontinued, for the season at least. Long before claims were received the department on its own initiative ....

I wish to draw your attention to this passage for although it was stated that there had been no complaints, there had really been complaints made, as this part of the letter will show:

Long before claims were received, the department on its own initiative carried out inquiries, among others, one in connection with the contract aforesaid, following which it prepared a statement including the name of each worker employed, the total working hours, the rate per hour and total payments received.

Business oj the House

The lower rates mentioned paid, as it appears from the information gathered by us, refer evidently to unskilled labour.

In this connection, I should mention that as a whole the remuneration of unskilled labour in the province of Quebec is inferior to that paid Ontario. In the present case the contract refers to the construction of the substructure of the bridge linking the two provinces, the labour engaged in this work having been distributed as evenly as possible between the two provinces.

Moreover, we believe that there existed no drawn line as to work to be done by each of these two groups of workmen, and the work was equally interchangeable.

Under these circumstances and others, it is believed that 40 cents per hour is considered a fair and reasonable rate for unskilled labour and is higher, we think, than that paid at present either at Hawkesbury or across the river. We shall therefore see that each worker receives, in due time, a cheque covering the increase of the additional amount of 5 cents per hour for the period of work done by each one, that is the difference between the old rate of 35 cents and the fixed rate of 40 cents per hour.

With reference to information required as to the responsibilities of sub-contractors and rates for overtime, when the regular day's work is over, I must inform you that the rates fixed by contract apply exclusively to the work on the substructure.

A clause in the contract with reference to work fixes a maximum of 8 hours per day, however, no penalties are provided as to overtime work. May I, in this connection, point out that never during the execution of the work was the department apprised that the 8 hour day was not observed, otherwise we would have immediately taken steps to have the provisions of the contract, as regards working hours, strictly carried out.

Yours truly,

H. H. Ward,

Deputy Minister of Labour.

The deputy minister in this letter has fixed the wages, at 40 cents an hour whereas previously it was 45 cents; so that there is a difference of five cents. But as the hon. member for Gloucester stated a few minutes ago, when these tenders were put in the price was fixed in accordance with the wages which they were supposed to pay to the labourers. This schedule was attached to their contract. In the county of Prescott the contractors paid only 35 cents an hour, and of course the men complained. Now we find that the Department of Labour on February 13 fixed their wages at 40 cents. The reason the people are so greatly dissatisfied is that the contractors are able to make a profit of 5 cents an hour on all the hours of labour put in by the men. That 5 cents the labourers lose, and besides they are asked to sign receipts to say that they have no further claim.

These labourers have not been treated fairly and they are complaining. I tell the minister quite frankly that they are very uneasy about

it. They claim that the government is helping the big interests as against the interest of the labourers. I did not, wish to mention this, and if the minister had allowed the item to stand, on the understanding that further information would be provided, I would not have done so. I have not a copy of the receipt which they were asked to sign, but the receipts were made out in duplicate and were returned to the contractors at the time the cheques were issued. Some hon. member has asked whether I have a copy of the receipt which the men had to sign. I have not, but in the letter from the contractors to the labourers this statement appears:

Enclosed you will find duplicate receipt forms which we would ask you to sign and return to this office immediately.

Once again I urge upon the minister the importance of looking into this matter with a view to finding, if possible, some means of doing justice to the men employed on the construction of that bridge. I am speaking for the men from the province of Ontario; I am not speaking for the Quebec side. It is now practically eleven o'clock and I should be glad if the minister would undertake to furnish the information I have asked for.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

I assure my hon. friend, as I have assured every hon. member, that I am prepared to give all the information available, and I cannot understand the suggestion that I am seeking to withhold anything. This is the first I have heard of this complaint and I have promised the hon. gentleman to take the matter up with the Department of Labour and try to get the facts and give them to him. I have no objection to the item standing, and have never endeavoured to press it through. I move that the committee rise and report progress.

Progress reported.

Topic:   REPRESENTATION ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   MTISED EDITION
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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned without question put, pursuant to standing order. Monday, May 11, 1931


May 8, 1931