August 21, 1946

LIB

Loran Ellis Baker

Liberal

Mr. L. E. BAKER (Shelburne-Yarmouth-C'lare):

Mr. Speaker, it was my privilege to be a member of the industrial relations committee, and I cherish that privilege, because I have come out much wiser and greatly benefited as a result of what I learned there. I

did not go there as a labour expert; I regarded myself as one of the representatives of the general public. I may say that it was very encouraging and it increased my faith in human nature when we came to our conclusions and found men of all parties in this house getting together and working out the final basis for our report without any partisan bias whatever. I say that without equivocation.

Various comments have been made on our findings and conclusions; some of them are flattering, some not. As a matter of fact the greatest value, I believe, which came out of this committee was the general publicity which was given throughout the length and breadth of the land to labour-management affairs.

I have no particular brief for either labour or management. I think that there are good union leaders; as a matter of fact, the majority are; but on the other hand, in all fairness- and we must be fair in these matters-we must admit that there are also good employers. Throughout the industrial history of Canada and the United States, employers have done much, in many cases, to help the conditions of the employees. So that we must not put all the blame on one side. In some of the present disputes, I believe, blame is unquestionably to be put on both sides. This was proven by evidence which we heard in the committee.

We are going through what I would call the struggle for Canada's destiny. It started in 1939, and it is not over yet. I divide it into phases. There was the war; there is the transitional period; and there is the time to come. I will liken it to an attack. We have reached our first objective; we have won the war. There is no question that it is harder to win a permanent and lasting peace than it is to win a war. The fact is that such a thing as a permanent and lasting peace has never yet been won. Our second objective is winning the peace, which will mean prosperity, freedom and happiness throughout Canada. At the moment we have reached an intermediate objective, the transitional period through which we are now passing; and in order to win a final peace-I mean an industrial peace as well as a cessation of gunfire- we must be strong to go ahead.

At the present time we are beset with enemies, the enemy of inflation, the enemy of distrust, the enemy of impatience. What have we done? We cannot allow inflation to develop, and so for this intermediate objective we have formed what we call the Gordon line. The Gordon line may bend here and there; a salient may be driven into it here and there, but we cannot allow that Gordon line to break. If we do, the enemy inflation will break through the gap and

Industrial Relations

swallow up the farmer, the fisherman, the pensioner and all people living on small earned incomes. We cannot allow that to happen, and so we in this House of Commons have to be the cohorts of Mr. Gordon to help him hold the line. As I say, the line may have to bend a little here and there. All right; how are we going to advance from there?

In modern warfare you put down a heavy artillery fire preparatory to your ground forces moving ahead to the next objective. What is our plan to be? Press relations, informing the public as to what is going on, are very important. Our artillery in holding the Gordon line consists of the press. The large city newspapers lay down the heavy artillery, and the small town dailies and the country newspapers, weeklies and magazines are the medium and field artillery. What do you do in an attack? You direct all your artillery to the main target area. That is just what we must do. We must direct our artillery fire in a definite direction; the fire must be properly directed and be accurate. Therefore I say to the press: direct your fire properly to the right target and be sure you direct it accurately.

So far as the committee is concerned the press, generally speaking, particularly those members of it who sat in from day to day at our meetings, was accurate and fair, but there have been many editorials that have been unfair and I have seen unfair criticisms. We must remember that the rounds that fall short are the dangerous ones. One or two rounds did fall short and pretty nearly hit the Minister of (Labour (Mr. Mitchell) but did him no harm because he looks hale and hearty still. But it was most unfair of the press to let those rounds fall short, and I hope that they will be more accurate in their fire in future. The Minister of Labour has done and is doing a good job, and we want him to stay on and to receive all the encouragement he can get. I feel reasonably optimistic about the future, because Canada is a great country. Canadians are wonderful people individually, and all we have to do is to learn to be that way collectively. The press, properly directed, can help to bring that about. I have great faith in the future of Canada because of the press, but only by the press directing their fire accurately can we come to a happy understanding and have peace and prosperity throughout the length and breadth of Canada.

I am not going to compliment the members of the committee individually. I think they all worked hard and that they were very sincere in what they did. I could pick out

(Mr. Baker.]

certain stars of the team, but I shall not do that because the sounds they want to hear are not sweet words about themselves but the music of the humming wheels of industry turning again and friendly and civil talk between the leaders in management and labour. I maintain that the press can also help there.

I shall not take up any more time, because a good deal of the ground has already been covered and one or two able speakers are to follow me. But I did want to make that point about the press. The members of the press who were in the committee room with us working long and tedious hours were gallant gunners, and so in conclusion, with respect to labour-management relations and in their relations to the dominion government I would say: Praise the press and pass the information.

Topic:   INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. CLARENCE GILLIS (Cape Breton South):

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to start in by paying any compliments to the chairman or the members of the committee. My impression of the committee was that it did the best it could with the latitude it was allowed and the equipment it had to work with. I am going to try to focus the attention of the house this morning on the fact that all the hard work of that committee means nothing if the present attitude on the part of employers and the controller is to continue.

On July 16 industrial relations in this country had come to such a pass that the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) on the eve of leaving for the peace conference in Paris accepted a suggestion from the opposition that the subject of labour relations and industrial .unrest should be placed in the hands of the industrial relations committee to see if that committee could not arrive at some formula whereby industrial disputes in this country might be resolved. When the Prime Minister accepted that invitation from this side of the house my reaction was that the machinery provided in this country by the Department of Labour was in a bad way and was being superseded because it was inadequate to handle the disputes that existed at that time. In passing that task over to the committee the Prime Minister in my opinion passed it over to all parties in this house to accept the joint responsibility of trying to resolve those difficulties and recommend some measure or formula that might prevent such disputes from taking place in the future. The committee did not do that and my opinion is that its work is not completed. It

Industrial Relations

merely skimmed the surface. It made some recommendations to this house which would be helpful if they are implemented.

It was on July 16 that this task was entrusted to the committee with the sanction of the Prime Minister. One month later, after this committee had taken all the evidence and probed behind the scenes for the reasons for the present industrial disputes, industrial unrest and the strike situation in Canada is worse to-day than it was then. To say that the committee performed any miracles when it did not change the situation in industry is not correct. In addition to the strikes that existed at the time, and they still exist, a new strike threat looms on the horizon, a strike by the packing house workers, who if their difficulties are not resolved by a certain date are going to strike on a national scale. So the committee did not accomplish very much.

I am not going to read the record but the fact is that every strike that existed on July 16 when the committee was set up is still in existence, including the steelworkers' strike.

The first night that the committee met for organization purposes a motion was made that we would set as our first objective the settling of the steel dispute. That objective was not accomplished. The first day on which the committee actually sat in formal session I moved that the controller appointed by the [DOT] government under order in council P.C. 2901 be instructed to exercise his duties under that order in council by beginning negotiations with the union, apart from the employers, and endeavouring to resolve their difficulties here in Ottawa while the committee was taking evidence.

That motion was not accepted, but lay on the table three days, and the committee finally decided that the employers should get together despite the fact that they had no longer any authority in the management of the steel industry, since the government had superseded their executive authority by the appointment of a controller; and1 despite that legal technicality the employers and employees had been together month after month and had not successfully resolved the difficulty. They precipitated the strike, and in my opinion it was bad technique and unsound judgment to expect them, because they were in the atmosphere of Ottawa, to get together and resolve the difficulty. In my opinion valuable time was wasted and the legality or validity of that order in council, or any order in council in the future, can be challenged if the attitude taken by the government with regard to its enforcement in that particular instance was valid.

I say we wasted a lot of time and the committee did not attain the first objective they

set themselves in the settlement of the steel dispute. That is very important, because the steel industry in Canada has now a basic strike on hand. Steel ramifies all through our economy, and if a determined and reasonable attempt had been made to resolve the steel difficulty, in my opinion the formula arrived at there would automatically be applied to the other difficulties that exist in industry, and we would have been straightening out the whole picture at one time. But we are back in the house with no recommendation on the basic issue in dispute.

The steelworkers before the committee made a sound and reasonable case. They showed that they were not adamant in their attitude. They modified their position on two occasions. I felt that when the controller finally came into the picture the committee should have recommended to him the last proposal made by the steelworkers' union to the committee and to the employers and to Mr. Brockington, who was acting then as mediator in the dispute. That should have gone forward to the controller as a reasonable basis for negotiations, but that was not done, so that the controller was in the same position that Mr. Brockington was in. He goes back in there with the ten cent formula over his head and with very little latitude and very little possibility of settling the difficulty unless someone is prepared to do some plain talking on the part of the government.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

He is bound hand and foot.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

The general impression is that the industrial workers are demanding wage increases. That is not the case. The industrial workers to-day, because of the failure to hold the price line, are asking for increases in their basic rates in order that they may maintain the income they had during the war. That is all they are doing. I am going to put the last proposal of the steelworkers' union on the record. It is very simple. The first is the removal of the five-cent Sydney differential. That is a case that has been before the national war labour board and the regional boards for the last three years. It is still before the national board. It was turned down three times. In my opinion it should not be included in this dispute. I suggest that the Minister of Labour, who has some authority over the national war labour board, in order to get that particular problem out of the way, and separated from the basic problem in the Sydney plant, might suggest that they make a decision in that case and remove one of the sore spots as far as the Sydney plant is concerned.

Industrial Relations

The second of their proposals was a general wage increase of ten cents an hour retroactive to April 1, 19415, in the primary steel plants and the fabricating plants of all three operating companies. That is a very reasonable proposal. The national director of the steelworkers' union, in presenting his case to the committee, recognized the fact that while the plants and production are tied up, the danger of inflation is increased fifty per cent. He was not asking for his total demands at that time. He was prepared to take it in stages and to accept and recommend at once the ten cents to his membership, so that the plants might get back into production and lessen the dangers of inflation.

The next proposal with regard to wages was adjustments totalling 5-J cents an hour to compensate for increases in the cost of living from April 1 to July 1, such adjustments to be payable this calendar year. I consider that one of the most important recommendations made by the steelworkers' union. I am of that opinion for this reason, that it is a weapon in the hands of the wartime prices and trade board if they want to maintain prices.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

They do not.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

They do not is right, because when the employers, the manufacturers or those who have something to put on the market for sale begin to put pressure on the wartime prices and trade board for increases in basic commodities the board1 are in a position to say, "Yes, we will give you an increase but you will pay it yourself. You will increase the cost of living and you are going to adjust the wages of your workers in proportion to the increased cost of living." It is the only weapon that has been suggested to date which would assist in maintaining prices in this country, but the committee did not see it that way.

Number four on the agenda was that all the other issues in dispute to be completed by October, 1946, should go to arbitration. The date to which the removal of the Sydney differential should be made retroactive was backed up on, and they proposed that it be put where it was suggested it should be in the first place; and second, the dates upon which the adjustments totalling 5| cents should be made payable were to remain in abeyance and be made the subject of arbitration. With respect to the further increases on the basis of the cost of living, one cent per point, they were also prepared to send that to arbitration. Hours of work, overtime pay for statutory holidays, vacations with pay, a union security formula applicable to all plants-these were all to go to arbitration, and in effect the

immediate proposal made, the one that would start the plants in operation if accepted, was the removal of the Sydney differential, and the general increase of ten cents an hour retroactive to April 1, 1946 in the primary steel plants and the fabricating plants of the three operating companies.

That would settle the steel strike, and the other matters would go to arbitration. I believe Mr. Millard, the national director of the steelworkers' union, was much fairer than many others I know of in a similar position in trying to get that industry into operation. Nevertheless, so far as the committee was concerned I do not think he succeeded. If hon. members will read the evidence presented and the document to which I have referred I do not think that they will say that the case presented by the steelworkers' union with respect to the adjustment of wages is unreasonable. It is not an increase in wages; it is an endeavour to maintain the take-home pay of those in these industries who have lost that percentage of their take-home pay because of the increase in prices.

When I hear hon. members say that the price ceilings must be maintained, I agree. I said that from the start; we have all said it. But the fact of the matter is that they have not been maintained. The Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell) recognizes why the cost of living bonus was established in the first place. It was established to hold the price line; it was one of the most important parts of the whole mechanism. The cost of living bonus was worked into the basic rates. It was taken off, and in my opinion that was the initial mistake. Immediately that took place there was pressure largely from the manufacturers in Canada for increases in the prices of basic commodities, and that started the drive on the price ceiling. The wartime prices and1 trade board, reacting to that pressure, in my opinion, removed the ceilings literally from hundreds of commodities. Before the last election the start was made when the twenty-five per cent luxury tax was taken off vacuum cleaners, washing machines and all of these things which are essentials to the average householder.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

Is the hon. member sure about that twenty-five per cent tax being on household articles?

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

Yes, I am positive.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

I thought it was on jewellery.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

No, it was not; it came off vacuum cleaners, washing machines and anything that was designated as luxury goods.

Industrial Relations

Mr. MITCHELL: I would not call a

vacuum cleaner a luxury.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

It was a twenty-five per cent tax. When the luxury tax was removed, instead of passing it on to the consumer it was made mandatory that the manufacturer retain the price to the consumer. In effect it was a gift- .

Mr. MITCHELL: I can hardly believe

that.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

Check it up and find out, because I did. It w'as a gift to the man-facturers of Canada; it was one of the initial wedges in breaking the ceiling, and it was not passed on to the consumer.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

The luxury tax is still on jewellery.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

Yes.

Mr. MITCHELL: I do not see why it

should not; I see no objection to it.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

A vacuum cleaner is used in every household.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

I would rather see it on jewellery than on food.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

It was removed, but the manufacturers kept the tax.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

My hon. friend is just kidding himself.

Mr. ARCHIBALD: What about the tax

on building materials-

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

You fellows can make your speeches after I am through. The cost of living in the country was added to and fhe trend to inflation speeded up by the removal of the subsidies on the essentials of life. For example, subsidies were taken off such items as fruit, milk, butter, and so forth-all things which take up a large percentage of the average workingman's income. Then came the pay-off when the basic steel operators came to the wartime prices and trade board and asked-for an increase. I said in committee, and I repeat, that the man largely responsible for the present difficulties in steel is the chairman of the wartime prices and trade board. The increase of $5 a ton in basic steel, which meant $9 a ton in fabricated steel, was the increase which upset his ceiling and created difficulties throughout the economic life of the country. Further then that it was borne out by evidence before the committee that according to the balance sheets presented, the So a ton increase was not necessary. According to the total operations every one of the operating companies could have absorbed the wage

increases asked for. Dosco in its over-all picture could have done it; Stelco could have done it, and the same is true of Algoma, without any increase of $5 a ton. Therefore I say the wartime prices and trade board fell down on the job.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

That did not come out in the evidence.

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August 21, 1946