The War-Labour-Mr. McLarty
to adjust any labour disputes as rapidly as possible; and fourth, to give workers in war plants throughout the country an opportunity to register their views, for or against a strike, after the findings of a conciliation board have been submitted.
I should like to draw to the attention of the committee the creation of an entirely new body in Canada which has materially aided in the prompt investigation and adjustment of disputes which might have otherwise resulted in stoppages of work involving many thousands of men. Because of the application of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act to all war industries, the number of applications for conciliation boards necessarily greatly increased. Each application had to be examined before a decision on its appointment was reached and the board itself was established.
But even after a board was applied for, the conciliation services of the Department of Labour were continued. Both dealing with the application, and the work of the conciliation board, took time. The result was that complaints were made by labour organizations of delay between the time of the application for the board and its establishment. This caused some measure of discontent on the part of workers and the feeling that the delay in setting up such boards was unnecessary.
It was felt that some action should be taken more promptly and effectively to deal with disputes in order that decisions might be more quickly obtained to determine whether the circumstances recited in the application warranted, by the nature of the dispute, the setting up of a board. The government in consequence created the industrial disputes inquiry commission.
The personnel of this commission is, I believe, one that will commend itself to this house. Mr. Humphrey Mitchell, a former member of the house, a gentleman who has been associated with the Department of Labour for several years and who has an intimate knowledge of labour problems, was appointed chairman. Associated with him are Mr. Gilbert Jackson and Mr. George Hodge. The former is an economist of international repute, and the latter has been in charge of industrial relation matters for the Canadian Pacific Railway company for many years.
This commission immediately assumed its duties, and its efforts in the prevention of disputes and in the adjustment of difficulties has more than met the expectations of the government.
Fifty-two disputes in all have been referred to the industrial disputes inquiry commission for attention since the appointment of this body in the beginning of July. In twenty-two
cases settlements were arranged' by the commission, resulting in a withdrawal of the applications which had previously been made for the establishment of boards of conciliation and investigation. In eight other cases inquiries made by the commission resulted in the establishment of boards of conciliation and investigation. In thirteen instances the inquiry commission found that the circumstances did not warrant the appointment of boards.
There were, in addition, two special references by the minister to the commission, three instances in which the references are still outstanding, and other cases in which the facts were brought to the attention of the Minister of Labour.
The creation of this commission has meant a tremendous saving in what would otherwise have meant lost man-hours, ill-will and discontent. This, it is fully realized, is inevitable where disputes either in being or threatening are not quickly adjusted.
Might I point out that the Department of Labour is doing everything possible to provide facilities whereby training opportunities are provided for those who wish to obtain a knowledge of the trades and crafts that will permit the production of a still greater quantity of the munitions of war.
This committee has heard something of the war emergency training programme in which the Department of Labour is engaged. We are now moving ahead of any programme and, for example, in our vocational classes are training more than 50,000 men a year.
But we are moving much further than that. The war-time bureau of technical personnel was set up under the capable chairmanship of Mr. E. M. Little. He is entitled to appreciation for what he has already accomplished. The aid which this bureau has given and will give will be substantial.
As an example, might I state that in the case of the newsprint industry, the utilities industry, the mines and in the field of chemical engineering a great many are now being trained for the express purpose of taking their place in war industry or enabling those who are already trained in those particular industries to take their place in industries engaged in war work.
This committee will, I know, not forget that Canada was forced on very short notice to embark upon a huge programme of construction and production of war equipment and supplies. This required the setting up of additional machinery and meeting not only pressing present exigencies but emergencies. These have been met as effectively and promptly, I believe, as circumstances permitted.
The War-Labour-Mr. McLarty
I believe it is a matter of congratulation that notwithstanding a situation without parallel in our history, with the good-will of labour and industry, we have been able to adapt ourselves to the new situation.
The policy of the government and of the Department of Labour in all that relates to production will continue to be that of doing everything possible to maintain harmonious relations between employees and employers.
Recently the government passed an order stabilizing wages. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that in the references I make I shall not be guilty of too much repetition of what has been more ably said than I can say it, by the Minister of Finance. I do, however, have to deal with that phase of the general policy which he has explained, dealing with the matter of wages. As I have said, recently the government passed an order stabilizing wages. That order is part of a wider programme decided upon by the government in an attempt to prevent a vicious inflationary spiral recurring in Canada.
Taxation on profits and on dividends had already been provided. The control of prices is now provided for. This stabilization of wages is not entirely new. For on December 16, 1940, the government passed an order in council which has been widely applied in war industries.
The choice faced by the government at the time it was passed was to let wage rates take their unplanned upward course stimulating that spiral of inflation, or to introduce a measure of equitable control. The government selected the second alternative of trying to minimize changes in wage rates and, to some extent therefore, of prices and the cost of living. It ordered that in the essential war industries there should be no increase in basic wage rates except, where wages were found to be too low. The expression "freezing" has been used. This order is not a freezing order; it is a stabilizing order; because, if wages are too low, the board will have power to increase them.