December 14, 1987

PC

Pierre H. Cadieux (Minister of Labour)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Pierre H. Cadieux (Minister of Labour) moved

that Bill C-97, an Act to amend the Labour Code, be read the second time and, by unanimous consent, referred to the Committee of the Whole.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the proposed amendments to Part III of the Canada Labour Code which, as Hon. Members know, regulates conditions of work for several hundred thousand Canadian workers subject to federal labour jurisdiction.

The proposed amendments which were prepared after consultation with concerned employer and labour groups are designed to rectify a problem which has arisen in the every-day application of the Code and which concerns the pension, health and disability benefits of many Canadian workers. I would now like to take this opportunity to outline the nature of the legislative changes and the problems they address in the hope that Hon. Members on both sides of the House will see their way clear to pass these important and useful amendments as expeditiously as possible.

We are proposing to repeal subsections 59.52(2) and (3) as well as subsections 61.4(2.2) and (3) of Part III of the Code in order to replace them with a more comprehensive text concerning the accumulation of pension, health, and disability benefits by employees who are on child care or sick leave under the Code.

Mr. Speaker, for a better understanding of the problem the proposed amendments are intended to rectify, we should go back to June 1984. At the time, Mr. Speaker, this House adopted a series of amendments to all parts of the Canada Labour Code, including Part III.

The amendments were concerned with child care and provided that parents subject to federal labour jurisdiction could take twenty-four weeks unpaid leave in addition to the

December 14, 1987

Canada Labour Code

seventeen weeks of maternity leave provided under the Canada Labour Code at the time.

The legislative changes passed in 1984, with the support of all Parties, were both progressive and forward-looking in keeping with the Code's reputation as a trend setter in the field of labour legislation. For instance, the amended Code permits both natural and adoptive parents to benefit from the 24 weeks of child care leave, and it is possible for a female employee to combine both child care leave and maternity leave for a total of 41 weeks of unpaid leave.

Employees who take advantage of these child care and sick leave provisions are entitled to return to their original position.

The amendments of 1984 also provide that the pension, health, and disability benefits of employees absent from work under the Code's child care or sick leave provisions continue to accumulate during their absence. The Code stipulates that in order to benefit from this provision employees must continue making any monetary provision normally required of them.

As I mentioned, these progressive amendments were approved on both sides of the House and came into force on March 1, 1985. Since that time, however, it has become obvious that an amendment is necessary in order to correct the following problem concerning the accumulation of pension, health, and disability benefits by employees during child care and sick leave.

The problem is that while the law requires employees to make their normal contributions in order to continue accumulating these benefits, it does not specifically require employers to continue their contributions. In the absence of such a legislated obligation some employers are requiring employees to assume more of the costs of benefits during leave than when the employees are at work.

Mr. Speaker, this practice is contrary to the publicly stated intent of the law and contrary to departmental policy. Although legally, it does not constitute an offence, this practice has led to many individual complaints and to pressure by unions to have the law amended.

In considering the problems that this situation can create for employees we must remember that the Code provides for unpaid child care or sick leave. Although collective agreements may provide some form of pay during this leave, and although women on maternity leave can collect unemployment insurance up to a certain number of weeks, it is obvious that most employees who avail themselves of the Code's provisions on child care and sick leave must cope with a period of more restricted income. It may also be a period of increased expense because of the birth of a child or because of medical expenses.

Yet, as the law now stands, it is precisely during such a period of budgetary restriction that an employee can be told by an employer that if he or she wishes to accumulate benefits under the company pension plan, for example, they must pay both the employee's and the employer' share to the pension fund.

The amendments of 1984 were never intended to allow such a situation which, as I said earlier, is contrary to the publicly stated intent of the law and contrary to departmental policy.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this Bill is to remedy the problem and put an end to this unfair practice. We intend to amend the Canada Labour Code so that it clearly requires an employer to continue payment of contributions to pension, health and disability plans for employees who are on child care or sick leave, such contributions being at least equal to those paid when the employees are at work. Should employees not contribute to the plans while on leave, the employer's obligation would cease.

As I mentioned earlier, this clarification of the employer's responsibility in this area can be accomplished by replacing a few subsections of the present Code with the text contained in the Bill before us. Hon. Members will note that the proposed amendment to subsections 59.52(2) and (3) would clearly require an employer to continue the payment of contributions while an employee was on leave of absence for maternity or child care purposes. On the other hand, since employees have the option not to avail themselves of the Code's provision and not to make contributions during their absence the Bill provides that in such a case the employer's obligation to contribute would cease.

The Bill also proposes to amend Subsections 61.4 (2.2) and (3). This amendment would have the same effect as in the case of Subsections 59.52(2) and (3), but would apply more specifically to sick leave.

As I said before, Mr. Speaker, we are justly proud of the Canada Labour Code and the progressive provisions it contains with respect to sick leave and child care leave. However, there is a flaw which the proposed amendment is intended to rectify.

Therefore, considering the importance of these amendments to so many working men and women in Canada, and considering that Hon. Members on both sides of this House share an interest in establishing and maintaining equitable labour relations, I ask for the support and co-operation of all my hon. colleagues in ensuring quick passage of this Bill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Jacques Guilbault (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition; Liberal Party Deputy House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saint-Jacques):

Mr. Speaker, the support and co-operation for which the Minister of Labour (Mr. Cadieux) is asking will be forthcoming. In my opinion, Bill C-97 is a worthy piece of legislation. We believe that the

December 14, 1987

right of an employee to contribute to a pension, health, or disability pension fund is a sacred entitlement. The Labour Code sees it that way but, unfortunately, because of a loophole in the Code, certain employers have been able to circumvent the law and escape their responsibility to contribute the employer's share to a pension fund when, for example, an employee is rightfully on sick leave or maternity leave. Bill C-97 will close this loophole, which we believe is the right thing to do.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Cadieux) had already told me about his intention to introduce Bill C-97 to fill some of the gaps in the existing Labour Code. All employees contributing to a pension fund, a fund which protects them in case of illness or disability, expect to be able to continue their contributions and especially see that the employer as well makes his contributions to these funds when the employee is off because of illness or on leave to look after children, the most frequent occurrence being what is commonly called maternity leave. Unfortunately, clear though the intention of the Labour Code may be, it did have a loophole which made it possible for certain employers to evade their responsibilities. The measure under consideration is clearly intended to ensure that the employer will continue to pay his share of the contributions to these plans which protect the employees, provided of course the employee himself pays his contribution. Therefore we believe this measure will clarify certain sections of the Labour Code, and with that we agree.

This Bill reaffirms the spirit of the Labour Code and adds something that was missing in certain sections. This is why I do not intend to keep the floor much longer. I think the Bill is short but well drafted, a measure we were waiting for and which will certainly be welcomed by all working men and women throughout the country who contribute to various plans so as to be covered after retirement or in case of illness. To that extent we support this Bill, Mr. Speaker, and we hope it will go through all stages in the House of Commons as soon as possible.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
NDP

Rodney Edward Murphy (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rod Murphy (Churchill):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to give our support for this legislation. On a number of occasions in the House I asked the Minister to bring this legislation forward. On those occasions, as well as in private conversations, the Minister indicated that he would move with speed. I want to congratulate him for that.

This is one time when we knew that the law contained an unintentional flaw when it was passed in 1984. It became apparent that some employers would use that loophole in order to deny benefits to people who are on maternity leave, child care leave or sick leave.

We welcome this legislation. Again, I congratulate the Minister for moving quickly in this matter.

Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co., Limited

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some Hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

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

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink

Motion agreed to, Bill read the second time, and, by unanimous consent, the House went into committee thereon, Mr. Paproski in the chair.


PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Deputy Chairman:

Order. House in Committee of the Whole on Bill C-97, an Act to amend the Canada Labour Code. Shall Clause 1 carry?

On Clause 1:

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
NDP

Rodney Edward Murphy (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Murphy:

Mr. Chairman, I have one question. When does the Minister intend to have this Bill proclaimed?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
PC

Pierre H. Cadieux (Minister of Labour)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cadieux:

Mr. Chairman, hopefully as quickly as the Senate is prepared to look at the legislation. We should proceed as quickly as possible.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Deputy Chairman:

Shall Clause 1 carry?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA LABOUR CODE
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink

Title agreed to. Bill reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed.


ACT RESPECTING THE HUDSON BAY MINING AND SMELTING CO., LIMITED MEASURE TO AMEND

PC

Pierre H. Cadieux (Minister of Labour)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Pierre H. Cadieux (Minister of Labour) moved

that Bill C-98, an Act to amend an Act respecting the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co., Limited, be read the second time and, by unanimous consent, referred to Committee of the Whole.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House concerning the proposed amendments to the Act respecting the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co., Limited.

These amendments concern a subject which, I am sure, is of great concern to all Hon. Members, namely, the health and safety of Canadian workers.

Mr. Speaker, the importance of safety and health in the workplace cannot be stressed often enough. The statistics are

December 14, 1987

Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co., Limited

eloquent. In 1985, the last year for which figures are available, 768 Canadians lost their lives on the job and 16.2 million working days were lost as result of accidents. The cost, both direct and indirect, works out to about $14 billion, a very high price to pay for this country, both in human and financial terms.

This tragic and intolerable situation demands that we make every effort to ensure efficient, modern and effective regulation of safety and health in the workplace.

The amendments which I have proposed will make an important contribution to protecting the lives and well-being of employees of the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company in the Flin Flon mineral area of northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

I want to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to explain the reasons for these amendments and give a short history of the problem we are anxious to solve.

As you may know, the Flin Flon mineral area is a large, vaguely defined region situated mainly in Manitoba but extending into Saskatchewan, with the majority of employees and mining operations located in Manitoba. Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting mines and plants straddle the border between the two provinces.

Because of the interprovincial nature of the enterprise, mining operations in the area were brought under federal labour jurisdiction by the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Act of 1947.

However, as we all know, mining is an occupation with many specific hazards not found in other types of work. As a result, specific regulations are required to deal with all the special occupational safety and health problems in this industry.

Therefore, the problem in the Flin Flon mineral area is that Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting operations are under federal jurisdiction, and federal occupational safety and health legislation has applied. However, for many years each of the provinces has tried to apply its own mining occupational safety and health legislation.

The result has been a degree of overlap and even a certain amount of confusion, so. that protection of the occupational safety and health of company employees was not as effective as it should have been.

Provincial Governments, industry and unions have stated concern regarding this situation and their strong preference for any arrangement that would permit one uniform set of provincial occupational safety and health legislation to apply.

In order to eliminate all possible confusion, and to give Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting workers the benefit of a single uniform set of rules in this all-important area of occupational safety and health, I propose the following measures, which have been developed after extensive consultation with the provinces, the company and the unions; first, amendment of the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Act to provide that Manitoba occupational safety and health statutes and regulations will apply to all Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting operations in the Flin Flon mineral area on both sides of the boundary between Manitoba and Saskatchewan; second, the Flin Flon mineral area will be defined in a Memorandum Of Understanding between the parties involved; third, inspection in occupational safety and health services will be provided by the Manitoba inspectorate.

A letter of agreement will cover this issue. The details relating to this element are now being discussed with the Province of Manitoba.

Since a very small proportion of the company's operations and jobs is located in Saskatchewan, that province is willing to let Manitoba statutes apply on its territory. Current mining operations in Saskatchewan will be terminated in a few years.

Finally, I should add that Manitoba recently passed a new series of updated mining regulations. These regulations are the result of a tripartite consultation process and provide good protection in terms of occupational health and safety in contemporary mining operations.

This Bill, which has the support of the Provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the company and the unions, provides an effective resolution of this long-standing problem, ensuring a high standard of occupational safety and health protection for Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting employees. The proposed Act will come into force on a date to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. This will be the earliest date that will provide for, first, the finalization of the letter of agreement with the Province of Manitoba and, second, a clear transition to the administration by the province.

This Bill will help achieve better protection for the wellbeing and, indeed, the very lives of Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting employees in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. These workers daily face occupational hazards in order to earn their living and contribute to the economic well-being of our nation. They have a right to be protected by efficient, modern occupational safety and health regulations designed for their industry and their needs. I urge Hon. Members on both sides of this House to co-operate in passing these amendments as quickly as possible.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ACT RESPECTING THE HUDSON BAY MINING AND SMELTING CO., LIMITED MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Jacques Guilbault (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition; Liberal Party Deputy House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saint-Jacques):

Mr. Speaker, in saying a few words on Bill C-98, I will say it is a lucky day for the Minister of Labour (Mr. Cadieux). He is going to get two

December 14, 1987

pieces of legislation passed quickly, which goes to prove that sensible legislation can pass rather swiftly in this House.

The Minister is right again that the situation that prevailed in the Flin Flon mineral area had to be settled. It was difficult for the people to understand who had jurisdiction, and which statute would apply with respect to occupational health and safety, the Saskatchewan statutes or the Manitoba statutes. A solution had to be found.

I think the solution the Minister has been able to negotiate with the parties involved, including the two provincial Governments, is the right one. I am going to try to stay away from what the Minister said because he has described the situation very faithfully.

The schedule lists a number of legislations and regulations that will become standard for the area after the Bill is passed. Could we, for example, accept what has until now been the practice that the Elevator Act of either one province or the other would apply? Surely not. In this case, the Acts to which I will refer are Manitoba Acts. For example, with respect to the Fires Prevention Act, if a fire starts in an operation, they will want to know which fire marshal has jurisdiction over the area. This was not clear until now. From now on the Fires Prevention Act, a statute of Manitoba, will apply. The same thing with the Gas and Oil Burner Act, the Manitoba Hydro Act, the Steam and Pressure Plants Act, and the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The regulations which derive from these pieces of legislation are also listed. Surely one expects that when situations that are likely to be covered by these Acts arise, one knows exactly what statute applies. This is what this Bill will do. It will clarify the whole situation. I think it is a fine piece of legislation that deserves quick passage.

I will conclude by saying that I believe the Minister has depicted the situation in sufficient terms. I also want to give the floor to my colleague, the Hon. Member for Churchill (Mr. Murphy), in whose riding the operations are located. I am sure he will be able to add to what I have been able to say so far. I am rather certain that he will also give his approval to this piece of legislation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ACT RESPECTING THE HUDSON BAY MINING AND SMELTING CO., LIMITED MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
NDP

Rodney Edward Murphy (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rod Murphy (Churchill):

Mr. Speaker, I think this is the second time I have been introduced by my Liberal colleague before I rose to speak. It is true that the legislation does affect my own riding. I must say I am very happy to see this piece of legislation come forward. It has been something I have had the opportunity of working on ever since I became a Member of Parliament in 1979. I do congratulate the Government for doing this.

It has taken a lot of work by the unions and company involved, by the two provinces, the federal Government and the officials of the Department of Labour to have this legislation come before us. I would like to congratulate all the people involved.

Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting

The mining communities which are affected by this legislation are in northern Manitoba, as one would expect. They are far from the services the federal Government is able to offer in the area of occupational health and safety. Nearby communities with mines come under provincial legislation and those services are readily available. That has been the genesis, the reason for this legislation.

I do have one concern with the legislation and that is something I will deal with when we go into clause by clause study in a few moments. I must say it does make sense to assign this responsibility to the Province of Manitoba. Most of the current mining is being done on the Manitoba side, and on the Saskatchewan side it has actually been a reducing operation with the passage of years. We also have in the Flin Flon mining area more mines being discovered over the years and it is actually an expanding area. Therefore, more and more of the employment is being done on the Manitoba side.

As the Minister did, I would also like to point out that Manitoba legislation is very progressive when it comes to occupational health and safety. That has been the result of tripartite work by employers, employees, and the Government over the years. This legislation does meet the needs of people and it is good legislation for the miners in northern Manitoba. Again, I would like to thank the Minister for moving forward with this very necessary and very progressive legislation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ACT RESPECTING THE HUDSON BAY MINING AND SMELTING CO., LIMITED MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

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

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ACT RESPECTING THE HUDSON BAY MINING AND SMELTING CO., LIMITED MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ACT RESPECTING THE HUDSON BAY MINING AND SMELTING CO., LIMITED MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink

December 14, 1987