July 5, 1972

PC

Raymond Rock

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rock:

Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of speaking for very long in this debate-

Topic:   ST. LAWRENCE PORTS OPERATIONS BILL MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR RESUMPTION OF LONGSHORING AND RELATED OPERATIONS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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PC

Raymond Rock

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rock:

-because I want to see these men back to work, as all other members do. I want to see the ports of Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec in full operation as soon as possible. In all grievances and strikes in essential services it seems that those people who are most affected, the public, the people of the area, have no say while every strike which involves essential services does irreparable harm to the economy of this country. I believe it is time

Parliament thought of the public interest. The opinion of the public is that employees engaged in essential services should not have the right to strike. My constituents were asked the following question: Should persons involved in essential services have the right to strike? A negative answer was received from 80 per cent. In fact, 476 answered yes, 2,501 answered no and 170 were undecided.

I believe Parliament should adopt legislation forbidding strikes in essential services, and should provide other binding methods and means of settling these disputes. The crux of the whole problem regarding this strike is that it was and is an illegal strike, and it has continued because the government has shown weakness. It continued also because the Minister of Labour refused to permit the St. Lawrence stevedoring firms to prosecute a union of 3,250 dock workers who were on strike in defiance of court injunctions.

During this illegal strike, court action should have been taken and if court decisions were not obeyed the government should have acted immediately. Instead, the government's laissez-faire attitude prolonged this strike to seven weeks. Since this government allowed this strike to continue for seven weeks, all grain shipments bypassed these three ports. This strike cost shipping agents in Montreal $100,000 a day. The cost to the community in loss of salary and direct income has exceeded $1 million a day. One hundred and thirty two ships have sailed or have been diverted from Montreal with full holds, and hundreds of other ships never showed up. Ten thousand people depend directly on the port for jobs, and many times that number in service industries are affected. The port pumps approximately $250 million a year into the Montreal economy During this strike Montreal has lost $1 million a day. Over the past eight years labour disputes have virtually crippled the port of Montreal and this strike has done so much harm that the port may not return to its former position. This government knew this and yet they allowed this strike to continue, thus jeopardizing the future of the port of Montreal.

My colleague, the hon. member for Sainte-Marie (Mr. Valade) presented a motion, which I seconded, calling on the government to end the dock strike immediately. This was 21 days ago, and only now the government has taken action. It makes no difference to me now whether this bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Labour, Manpower and Immigration or whether it goes directly to the committee of the whole, so long as we give it second and third reading as rapidly as possible in order to get these three ports back in operation.

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SC

André-Gilles Fortin

Social Credit

Mr. Andre Fortin (Lotbiniere):

Mr. Speaker, I shall hold the floor just for a few minutes and only to clarify a few things, following my colleague from Kamouraska (Mr. Dionne).

The Canadian Parliament today faces the unfortunate obligation to intervene in a labour dispute of a magnitude which is difficult to appreciate. The dispute which has now completely crippled the habours of Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec for nearly eight weeks, has not been solved despite negotiation, dialogue and pooling of data.

And what is more serious still is the fact that even arbitration was not deemed a suitable settlement for the dispute by both parties. Today, we have a deadlock: the union involved refuses to abide by the decision of the arbitrator.

For his part, the Minister of Labour (Mr. O'Connell) does not deserve all the blame but he deserves criticism on one point, and this is why I wish to speak.

This afternoon, the minister himself stated that he did not want to intervene directly as long as the opposing parties were not conforming to the labour legislation.

I think that the minister had foreseen that should there be no other possible means, he would introduce special legislation to force resumption of work.

This is why Parliament is today considering Bill C-230.

Mr. Speaker. I often approve the minister, but I do not approve of his position; I do not approve of his choice and his reluctance to intervene at the appropriate time. I also approve neither the disrespectful attitude of employees towards the laws governing this country, nor the employers for their provocative and uncompromising stance in the negotiations.

Union members have not cooperated in good faith in the arbitration process, as was pointed out this afternoon by the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lewis) and this is also serious.

In his decision, the adjudicator has dealt with the question of job security, one of the foremost and basic causes of conflict.

Today, the minister introduces a bill in which subclauses 1 and 2 of clause 7 deal with job security and he submits that this bill, once passed, will force both parties to resort to arbitration in order to determine when the job security plan becomes effective.

Mr. Speaker, I should like to support this assertion. Today Parliament finds itself obliged to bring in a back-to-work legislation. As was mentioned by my colleague from Kamouraska, everything that exists in this country is not the result of strikes, but rather of the work of man. And it is not with work stoppages that we shall settle disputes.

It is unfortunate that our laws be based on a rather negative philosophy as far as work is concerned. Actually, they do not encourage employers or employees to settle a dispute as soon as possible, but rather to resort to a very complex procedure so that a dispute may last up to seven or eight weeks, with very serious social, economic and financial implications for the strikers' families, the financial world, the general public as well as the whole country.

Mr. Speaker-and this is what I wanted to emphasize-it seems to me that it is absolutely essential and fundamental that the minister, tonight, undertake to review labour laws in order to make them more constructive for labour so that solutions be found before conflicts break out; these laws must provide for the occurence of conflicts in order to avoid them.

I remember a few labour disputes where the parties had waited until the agreement had expired to start negotiations. Mere logic would require that negotiations should start within the last six months before the expiration of the agreement, in order to prevent a situation where for

St. Lawrence Ports Operations Bill

four or five months or more, there is no collective agreement or to prevent a dispute from lasting as long as the strike we are trying to settle.

I find it extremely unfortunate that Parliament should be obliged to interfere in a private dispute. I think that the role of Parliament is not to negotiate or to legislate on a specific dispute, but rather to provide society as a whole with the instrument required to prevent such disputes and to ensure the progressive development of our economy.

At all events, this dispute has been going on for too long and those responsible are not all on the same side. I believe that even if the Minister of Labour (Mr. O'Connell) took a long time to intervene, he deserves our support because the national interest is now in jeopardy.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, I will, reluctantly, support this bill.

Topic:   ST. LAWRENCE PORTS OPERATIONS BILL MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR RESUMPTION OF LONGSHORING AND RELATED OPERATIONS
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LIB

Prosper Boulanger (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Boulanger):

May I point out to the House that if the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

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Abram Ernest Epp

Hon. Martin P. O'Connell (Minister of Labour):

Mr. Speaker, I have very few remarks to make at this stage. I want to thank hon. members for their contribution to the debate. I have listened with a great deal of interest and some points of particular interest have been raised. I want to say first, in answer to a question put to me by the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Peters) who inquired whether the question of the withdrawal by the employers' association of various charges that had been laid against the union-

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NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

Contemplated.

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LIB

Martin Patrick O'Connell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. O'Connell:

-or contemplated against the union, had arisen during the mediation sessions over the past four days and had entered into the mediation discussions. The answer I gave then, and it was a correct answer, was that this question had not arisen during the mediation procedures. The answer I gave, therefore, was correct; there was no reference in the mediators' proposals to the possible withdrawal of charges or contemplated charges.

It was correct, also, to say that only after the mediators' proposals had been prepared-it is somewhat unusual for mediators to prepare a set of proposals except in the last instance; they having arrived at that point and having felt there was a reasonable chance of the parties agreeing, then they would make a set of proposals-and presented to both parties that the president of the union, at the point of his departure, raised in a manner which I think might be described as casual the question of the possible withdrawal of those charges. So this question had not entered into the discussions to that point.

I want to reply to a criticism of this by the hon. member for Hamiton West (Mr. Alexander), repeated by the hon. member for Sainte-Marie (Mr. Valade) and perhaps by others, that it does not include the proposals placed before the two parties by the mediators, senior officers of my department, on July 3. I think that is a very silly proposal to come forward with at this time.

July 5, 1972

St. Lawrence Ports Operations Bill

I thought I had fully explained why those kinds of proposals have no place at all in the kind of bill which this Parliament is being asked to pass. The mediators' proposals included a date suggested for the phasing back in of the job security provisions. It is not appropriate-I was glad to find the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lewis) and others supporting me in this position-that we as Members of Parliament enter substantially into the dispute, and we would be doing that if we inserted into the legislation the proposals the mediators set forth as a possible solution, which were not accepted by one of the two parties.

We would not have in our possession the technical facts, the complicated facts as to when the job security plan can be reinstated. That is a matter that will properly come before an arbitrator. This is consistent with the tradition that has been followed in the past. It would be a grave mistake; I would go further than that and say that the hon. gentlemen who propose it must acquit themselves of misunderstanding the whole collective bargaining process, the very charge which they level so lightly on the Minister of Labour. I was somewhat surprised at the naivety that is behind that suggestion.

The hon. member for Kamouraska (Mr. Dionne), who is here at the moment, raised a point which he has raised before and which I think all of us must take seriously, that labour legislation is complicated legislation and it is difficult for persons to understand. But, Mr. Speaker, members of unions do engage collective bargaining agents. They do have the benefit of counsel in these matters. They are at no disadvantage in looking at legislation that Parliament enacts. It may be complicated but the basics are very simply stated. Whereas I sympathize with the point of view put forward by the hon. member for Kamouraska, I do not think we can do anything about it.

The leader of the NDP, the hon. member for York South, raised a very important question to which I would like to address just a few remarks. That question was related to the range in time, the jurisdiction given to the arbitrator over the whole term of the agreement, as the clause now reads, to modify the collective agreement in the restricted area where it applies to the job security provisions. I want to think about this overnight again and consult my senior officers. I do not want to make a commitment that we are prepared to restrict further the restricted range that the arbitrator has in which to make his judgment. First of all, he is restricted in that any modification he may bring in, in an award, is a modification only of the job security part of the collective agreement. That job security plan is suspended by this bill for a period of time to be determined by the arbitrator.

Should he be restricted in time to this shipping season or to the end of this year, and not have the ability at that point in time when he comes to make his decision- remembering that whenever he fixes a date he automatically involves himself in the modification of the job security plan as presently in the collective agreement-or are the uncertainties so great as to the building up of tonnages that he needs the capability of extending his modification in this restricted area down through the full term of the collective agreement?

I shall give that question very serious consideration because it is not our intention to give wide scope to the arbitrator, and I am sure it would never be the intention of Parliament to give wide scope to any arbitrator to modify the terms of a collective agreement. The necessary scope given in this case to modify an agreement is an exception to the general rule. Arbitrators interpret agreements and make awards with respect to violations. It is an unusual circumstance when they are given the power to modify. Yet that is the power that it is necessary to give here. We want to give it in a narrow range to make sure it is confined to the job security provisions, and we will give additional consideration to the time scope.

To assist hon. members in coming to their views perhaps I ought to make clear that the job security fund, as constituted, is not a direct payment from the employers' treasury, as it were; it is not coming from the employers' funds. The job security fund emerges and becomes established through a levy on the tonnage that goes through that port, so much per ton of general cargo and so much in a higher amount for container cargo. So that in this light we are not talking about bargaining over management's costs but we are talking about the capacity of a fund, developed in this manner, actually to sustain the job security provisions of the collective agreement. I want to give this point full consideration, but it may indeed be very difficult at this time, in view of the uncertainties that face the near-term and the longer-term, to restrict the arbitrator to a given period of time when he has all the facts in front of him and when he considers the future with the best judgment that he can exercise. Those are questions at which we will continue to look.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to say I have noted that all parties in this House propose to give their agreement to second reading of this bill. I think that demonstrates our full acceptance of the engagement, of the public interest in this dispute. It shows a realization of the very grave nature of it, not only in the legal sense but in the economic sense and, I would add, the social sense, and an appreciation of the damage it has unnecessarily done already as well as the damage that any prolongation would bring to these three ports, their communities and the country at large.

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LIB

Prosper Boulanger (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Boulanger):

Is the hon. member rising for the purpose of asking a question?

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NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if the minister would mind answering a question?

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LIB

Martin Patrick O'Connell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. O'Connell:

Yes, Mr. Speaker, if you permit.

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NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

I noted the minister emphasized that the power given to the arbitrator under clause 7 of the bill is confined to a narrow area, namely, the area of job security. I should like to ask the minister whether it is not true that even though that is just one area of the collective agreement, it is qualitatively the most important area, the one that caused the greatest problem in negotiations? Is it not also true that the agreement that was arrived at last April contained a very large amendment to the job security plan that the agreement contained before, and that as

July 5, 1972

far as the agreement is concerned it is no longer based on a particular fund? By giving the arbitrator the powers the law now gives him, to interfere with the future of the parties in the last two years of the agreement as well as this year, does the minister not think that is a very dangerous thing to do in principle? It would also seem to be dangerous in terms of getting the agreement of the union and employers concerned to accept the law with some grace.

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LIB

Martin Patrick O'Connell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. O'Connell:

Mr. Speaker, I am going to continue to give a good deal of consideration to this aspect. I should like to go one step further and draw attention to the wording of subparagraph (b) which says, in my view, that the modifications which may in the arbitrator's view be necessary are just those modifications necessary to give effect to the job security provisions and to make them viable provisions, not to modify them over a long period of time for any reason other than to ensure that there will be job security provisions and that the sense of the collective agreement will be brought to bear on that situation.

I do agree that the job security provisions are one of the very major aspects of this agreement. I also agree that we are entering upon a serious step when we give an arbitrator the modification power. But, Mr. Speaker, the parties have brought this situation to the point where the ports are not open, the national interest is engaged, and so we are required to take some drastic measures that may not be palatable. However, they are required in the public interest in order to open those ports again.

It is necessary to clear this question of return to work which has been a stumbling block. We must lodge the

St. Lawrence Ports Operations Bill

power to make those modifications in some place. We are lodging it in the place the parties themselves selected, in the arbitrators in whom they have confidence. Perhaps there is no escape from the dilemma, if you like to call it that, no escape from giving the modification powers. However, it may be that subclause (b) sufficiently confines those powers only to the modifications that would in fact make it a viable job security plan.

As I say, Mr. Speaker, I want to consider this overnight. We will have another opportunity to review it at committee stage.

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LIB

Prosper Boulanger (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Boulanger):

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the said motion?

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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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Motion agreed to, bill read the second time.


LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MacEachen:

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, we are sitting tonight by the general consent of the House. Following consultations, I feel that it would be more in keeping with that general consent if we began the committee of the whole stage at the next sitting tomorrow. 1 would, therefore, like to move the adjournment of the House.

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LIB

Prosper Boulanger (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Boulanger):

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the said motion?

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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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LIB

Prosper Boulanger (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Boulanger):

This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at two o'clock p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 2(1).

On motion of Mr. MacEachen, the House adjourned at 9.50 p.m., pursuant to special order.

Thursday. luly 6, 1972

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July 5, 1972