Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today to discuss the amendments to Bill C-101. However with regard to Motions Nos. 1 and 4 it is a very sad day because on one hand the government took an initiative to work consultatively with industry and with the labour movement to seek consensus for the Canada Labour Code amendments. Then, once that consensus was arrived at, it included in drafting the bill clauses 2 and 42 without consultation. It blew the good work that had been done by all parties out of the water by creating a bill that could not be supported by the New Democratic Party.
Clauses 2 and 42 of this bill allow for the Minister of Labour to order members of a bargaining unit to vote on an employer's last offer. The problem with this provision was not only that it was not part of a consultative process. In fact it is an unwarranted intrusion into the collective bargaining process. Given the experience of other jurisdictions it is an ineffective means of resolving a potential labour dispute. I say potential because these clauses provide for the intervention of the minister at any time after notice to bargain has been given.
In the normal process of things an orderly process takes place in collective bargaining. Bargaining means sitting down and exchanging ideas, exchanging positions sometimes in a more tense situation than others, and coming to a conclusion both parties can live with.
These clauses create a situation both in the public sector under the Public Service Staff Relations Act, clause 42, and in the private sector under federal jurisdiction, clause 2, which would come under the Canada Labour Code. This creates a situation whereby immediately upon providing notice to bargain at any time
June 1, 1993
following that the minister may intervene at the request of the employer.
Talk about going at something with a hammer. It is like hitting the rat before it gets out of the cage. It creates a climate for collective bargaining or a scenario wherein the bargaining agents go into the bargaining session with this hanging over their heads. It creates an untenable situation for collective bargaining. Under this directed vote provision we could anticipate not only resentment but an interruption to any kind of momentum toward a settlement. We find ourselves in a situation where employers in many cases would not be required to bargain in good faith.
I would like to quote the preamble to part I of the current Canada Labour Code which states in part: "The Parliament of Canada desires to continue and extend its support to labour and management in their co-operative efforts to develop good relations and constructive collective bargaining practices and deems the development of good industrial relations to be in the best interests of Canada in ensuring a just share of the fruits of progress".
That is what we thought was the tenor and the commitment to future collective bargaining of this government and this country. It is still in there, but now we have the intrusion of these clauses both in the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
I want us to consider going to the bargaining table. Most of the jurisdictions under the public sector are huge. For example, Canada Post has a country-wide union and is a country-wide employer. The airlines have bargaining units across the country with a number of jurisdictions in the bargaining units. The Public Service, an enormous group of working people, has several bargaining agents including the Public Service Alliance of Canada and PIPS. I would like us to think about the implications of a directed vote immediately after bargaining commences.
Even if it is not immediately after, when we have large groups of bargaining units like we have under federal jurisdiction coming to the table, we do not have five people on each side of the table. We have a number of tables representing various components. The issues that
are important to a lighthouse keeper on the west coast of Canada are quite different from those that are important to a clerk in Revenue Canada in Ottawa. There are a number of tables where the bargaining takes place. It is the same in Canada Post. We have a number of tables to discuss issues that are common but also issues that are separate based on the region and based on the type of work being done.
Now we have a situation somewhere in the process where the employers, whether it is private sector for Canada Post, or Treasury Board for the Public Service Staff Relations Act, decide they have had enough. They go to the minister and ask for a directed vote.
First the directed vote says that we do not believe the bargaining unit represents its members. If we do not believe the bargaining unit represents its members, I am quite surprised those members are allowing that bargaining unit to be at the table on their behalf because they have voted on what their bargaining proposals are.
We have created this directed vote and what happens? Do we stop bargaining, try to determine what is outstanding on table one, table two, table three, table four, table five or however many tables? Do we take the agreed to things to the vote and outline what is still outstanding? Once we have done that, once we have taken it to a vote, can we imagine what an interruption that has been to the collective bargaining process and what it takes to try to determine who is eligible to vote, where the list is, get it in the mail and get the results back?
Where does the government go, particularly when we are talking about the Public Service Staff Relations Act? If the government's final offer is what is being voted on and the workers say no in a directed vote, where does the government go? It has left itself no room to move, no room to bargain, no room to come to a resolution.
Assuming Public Service workers say no, the government-and in this case the Treasury Board is the bargaining agent-is in a position of deciding how to get the bargaining back on track. I submit this is an intrusion into the collective bargaining process. We were very clear about it in committee.
June 1, 1993
The hon. minister responsible for Canada Post who dreamed up this idea by watching an isolated collective bargaining process in Ontario saw a similar clause but forgot to read all the clauses surrounding it in the BC, Ontario and Saskatchewan labour codes. He decided it was a good idea. The unfortunate part is that the minister has absolutely no collective bargaining experience and has no concept of what these clauses will do to the collective bargaining process under federal jurisdiction.
If these clauses pass into law, they will leave collective bargaining in a hobbled, crippled and deteriorated state. There is enough bad feeling in the federal jurisdiction that it is time for the government to improve industrial relations, not to take it upon itself to create a situation under the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The chairman told us it would cost upward of $3 million to carry out a vote as determined in these clauses.
I would urge the government to reconsider my two motions and to support the amendments.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Gilbert Parent (Welland -St. Catharines-Tho-rold):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to set Bill C-101 in context. It is an act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
On December 9, 1992 my colleague, the Minister of Labour, introduced Bill C-101 that we are debating right now. Most of the proposed amendments relate to part III of the labour code, that is standard hours, wages, vacations and holidays. To a lesser extent they relate to part I on industrial relations and to part II on occupational safety and health. Changes are also proposed to the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The proposed amendments to part II would almost exclusively redress certain discrepancies between the French and the English text to ensure clarity and uniformity.
While part III of the code applies to approximately 700,000 employees in federally regulated enterprises, the PSSRA or the Public Service Staff Relations Act-and I will refer to it in the short form from now on-governs industrial relations for about 200,000 federal Public Service employees.
The federally regulated enterprises to which the code applies include privately and publicly owned industries
engaged in interprovincial or international railroad and pipeline transportation, shipping and related services, air transportation, interprovincial and international communications, broadcasting, banks and various Crown corporations. We can see the bill is far reaching and is going to affect hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens.
My colleague who spoke earlier referred to clause 2. Clause 2 as tabled in the House by the minister seeks to amend part I of the Canada Labour Code by adding a heading and proposed section 108.1 regarding a directed vote on the employer's last offer. Where notice to bargain collectively had been given and the Minister of Labour felt that the public interest would be served by such a vote, the Minister of Labour could order a vote among employees in the affected bargaining unit. Employees could vote to accept or reject the employer's last offer received by their bargaining agent on all matters remaining in the dispute.
Clause 2 meant that the minister could direct that such a vote be held as soon as possible. He could designate the Canada Labour Relations Board, the CLRB, or any other person or body to be in charge of conducting it.
The designated entity would determine any questions related to the vote, including questions related to its conduct or the determination of the result. My colleague who spoke earlier pointed out some of the pitfalls to having this kind of a vote administered.
Certainly the idea that bargaining unit employees may vote on the employer's last offer is not new in Canadian labour relations. Legislation exists in several jurisdictions on this issue.
In Alberta, at any time after bargaining proposals have been exchanged, either party may make one request during each dispute for the Labour Relations Board to conduct a vote on the most recent offer. If most of those voting accept the offer it is binding on the parties and must be included in their collective agreement.
The British Columbia Industrial Relations Act provides that before the commencement of a strike or lock-out, the employer may make one request only for a secret ballot vote on its last offer to be held among
June 1, 1993
bargaining unit employees. The commissioner of the Industrial Relations Council then orders such a vote.
The act further allows that during a strike or lock-out the commissioner may direct a secret ballot vote if he or she considers that it is in the public interest to do so.
Finally, British Columbia's Bill 84 includes a provision that would authorize the minister of labour to direct a vote on the employer's last offer.
I have a little difficulty with the words "in the public interest". When we were in committee we asked the minister if he could define this and the Minister of Labour did not give us a definition which was as all-encompassing as the House leader did. In the House leader's view the public interest would be virtually anything that the minister said was in the public interest, period, game over.
In Ontario after the commencement of a strike the minister of labour may direct a vote among the bargaining unit employees or on the employer's last offer if he or she feels that the vote will again be in the public interest. We need some kind of definition as to what this public interest is going to be. I want to give an example.
In 1991 a legal strike by Toronto Transit Commission employees ended when the Ontario minister of labour directed a vote among the striking employees. A majority of the voting employees agreed to accept the employer's last offer.
Further the Ontario Labour Relations Act allows that before or after the commencement of a strike or lockout the minister, in response to a request from the employer, will order a vote among the bargaining unit employees on the last offer.
It has been suggested that the amendments proposed in Bill C-101 would serve the public interest without providing, in addition to conciliation and other mechanisms available under the legislation, a means that could assist in the settlement of bargaining disputes.
Nevertheless in neither clause is it specified what person or what body other than the Canada Labour Relations Board or the Public Service Staff Relations Board, as the case may be, might be charged with conducting the last offer vote or for what reason or on
what basis, an entity other than the relevant board would be selected.
Clause 42 would similarly amend the PSSRA by adding a heading and a proposed section 90.1. It would provide that before or after the commencement of a legal strike, a minister designated by the Governor in Council other than a member of the Treasury Board if he or she felt that, again those words, the public interest would be thereby served, could order a vote similar to that which the Minister of Labour could order under the proposed section 108.1 of the CLC. The vote would be held forthwith and would be conducted by the Public Service Staff Relations Board or any other designated person or body.
Finally, when the employer's last offer was accepted by a majority of the voting employees, any legal strikes in progress would cease forthwith and unlike the proposal for part I of the code, the employees would be required to return to work as soon thereafter as the employer determined was practical. The parties would be bound by that offer and would include its terms in the collective agreement.
These amendments propose to increase fairness and equity for employees in a number of areas, reduce the employer's administrative burden, duplication and jurisdictional challenges and streamline government operations.
By adding the amendments proposed by members of the opposition parties, Bill C-101 would have a better chance to meet its objectives. The proposals, most of which were developed over a two-year period through consultation between employer and employee representatives, are broadly acceptable to all parties except where organized labour is concerned.
I believe their claims that there ought to have been consultation over the issue of the vote of an employer's last offer must receive our close scrutiny, as feelings of dissatisfaction could lead later on to an undermining of the negotiating process. We would then have every right to wonder if the past consultations with organized labour on the proposed changes are being received with disdain and some would even say with mockery.
June 1, 1993
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Speaker, this morning we will be debating extensively the amendments put forward by my colleague from Ottawa West, the member for Mission-Coquitlam and me.
One of the reasons we are putting these amendments forward is to suggest to the government that we have some concerns with this legislation. It is my hope in making some comments today in the 10 minutes I have that we will be able to convince the government that with the deletion of these particular portions of the bill there has been some fine work done.
I support the amendments to delete clauses 2 and 42 because as I said my colleague from Ottawa West and I submitted identical amendments to those tabled by the member for Mission-Coquitlam. Clause 2 will allow the government to direct a vote of a union membership on a company's last offer at any time after notice to bargain has been given.
Those of us who have some collective bargaining experience know full well that this section of the legislation is completely opposite and in the wrong direction to what we as governments, business and labour would like to see as it relates to co-operation. This clause suggests that unions are not democratic, that unions are not capable of looking after the interests of their own employees, their own members, they are not capable or interested in looking after the best interests of those they serve.
For those people listening to the debate this morning and who may not know much about the collective bargaining process in this country, a union must give notice to the employer that it is ready to proceed to the negotiating table to hammer out a new collective agreement.
The government claims to have been so impressed with the Toronto Transit Commission strike and how Bob Rae's government dealt with it that it chose to introduce a similar measure under the Canada Labour Code.
I say similar because the provisions of clause 2 are not the same as in the Ontario labour legislation. In Ontario the minister of labour can direct a vote on the last offer-and this is the thing to remember-only after strike action has begun and not before. Clause 2 of this bill completely undermines the consultative process
which Labour Canada embarked upon more than two years ago.
Provisions of Bill C-101 dealing with maternity reassignment and leave, parental leave, and work-related illness and injury are all excellent measures which will bring the Canada Labour Code up to modem day realities.
The point of this whole exercise, discussion and debate is that the government continues on the one hand to consult with interest groups that have a stake in a particular piece of legislation. It has put in good sections and improvements in the bill to help everyone involved. On the other hand however, through the back door it has put in a very Draconian piece of legislation because it has included specific clauses in the bill on which there was no consultation. In essence this will undermine all the good work that was done by government, business and labour.
The government continues to miss the boat when it comes to this issue. It cannot pretend to be consulting with Canadians and interest groups and then stick in clauses in its legislation on which there was no input from the players at the table nor from the individuals who are most concerned: those in the work force or in this House looking after their interests.
That is the reason I hope the members and the public who are listening today will understand why this government is so disliked and hated. It is not the first time the government has put legislation in the House with the suggestion that there was massive consultation, which there was in certain sections of it, and then include in the legislation parts on which there was no input from anyone.
All of these provisions except for the ones I mentioned were arrived at after two and a half years of consultation involving Labour Canada, unions and management. They are supported by all parties involved in that process.
When Bill C-101 was tabled imagine the surprise in finding provisions relating to a direct vote on a company's last offer included in the bill. These provisions were not raised during the consultation process. Imagine the surprise of those who spent two and a half years of their valuable time discussing these major changes in finding a section in the legislation they knew nothing about. If clause 2 is not deleted from the bill, and of course clause 42, the government will not have the support of one labour organization. They have all stated categorically
June 1, 1993
that they are opposed to the provision of a directed vote on the last offer.
During the legislative committee hearings we heard from the minister responsible for Canada Post that it was his idea to bring this provision forward. Can you imagine the minister for Canada Post bringing any particular provision into the Canada Labour Code with his limited experience in this field? We heard he consulted with management at Canada Post to seek out its views on the directed vote issue.
Did the minister consult with the unions at Canada Post? On asking the unions, the answer of course is that he did not. Some of my colleagues want to know why the minister responsible for Canada Post did not take the time to consult with the unions. This is something that should be done as a normal course of practice in carrying out his responsibilities as minister responsible for Canada Post.
The minister did not consult with the unions at Canada Post, nor did the Minister of Labour consult with other labour organizations. As I said before, this Tory government does not have any respect whatsoever for organized labour. In the past several years we have seen labour-management relations deteriorate almost to a point beyond repair. The government has had many opportunities to rectify its record in this area.
During the debate on the North American free trade agreement, I submitted an amendment. It would have given government the perfect opportunity to make amends by stating that it respects the rights of workers to organize, to bargain collectively and of course to strike. The government did not accept that amendment and of course it lost a very important opportunity to show workers that it is interested in what goes on with them in this country.
This government's ideology with respect to unions is somewhat behind the times. A group of American economists authored a book entitled Unions and Economic Competitiveness. The authors have found that effective economic restructuring cannot take place without strong unions.
One particular quote from Lawrence Mishel and Paula Voos, the book's editors, is worth citing: "The fundamen-
tal point is that high productivity, worker rights, flexibility, unionization and economic competitiveness are not incompatible. In actuality they may be highly compatible components of a high performance business system".
They go on to say: "We increasingly see evidence that a system based on collective bargaining and a strong independent voice for workers is not only important to our democratic institutions but also may have a positive contribution to our economic future". That in a nutshell says it all.
However the government is choosing to undermine organized labour in an attempt to destroy it. The deletion of clause 2 provides the government with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that it is not mired in the 1960s where labour relations are concerned and ensure that Canada continues to be one of the leading nations in a global economy.
I urge the government to seriously consider withdrawing clause 2 of this bill and of course clause 42 so that all parties can support the other excellent provisions amending the Canada Labour Code.
In the dying days of the government opposite, it would be to its benefit if it cannot see fit based on its ideology to withdraw these clauses, that it does at least something more important to all of us. That is to not ruin the potential of a working relationship with labour, business and government and to just withdraw the bill completely. Leave it for another time, for a government that has a little more understanding of the importance of the relationship of those three pillars in our society. We can then assure them that we will get this country back on track again.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was not in the House when Motion No. 6 came up and therefore it was withdrawn. I am rising simply because I was in committee on a bill that I think is important to all of us to get through the House before it recesses, the amendments to the Shipping Act.
Therefore, I am asking for the unanimous consent of the House to allow Motion No. 6 to be moved.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Brian L. Gardiner (Prince George-Bulkley Valley):
Mr. Speaker, I will be veiy brief speaking on the motion before us.
For the record, I would like to compliment the member of our caucus from Mission-Coquitlam who has done an excellent job as our labour critic. As that definition implies, she has worked closely with all parties in the House, from time to time with the minister, with members of the trade union movement and with the government, particularly during disputes. The hon. member is a credit to this House for the work she has done helping the trade union movement and understanding what the duties and obligations of Parliament are as well. I think that is important to say at the start of my comments on Bill C-101, the act to amend the Canada Labour Code.
We have no dispute with some parts of the bill that the government is amending today. There have been consultations for some time now with the trade union movement and others in the public on changes to this legislation which we can support. However what has become an unfortunate trend with this government and maybe all governments is that often the good will is taken a good distance further than expected.
The particular amendment we have been discussing allows the minister when he or she deems it in the public interest to force a vote at anytime, perhaps during a dispute, on what has often been called the employer's last offer. This is an example of the government, having sought advice and having received some input, proposing some positive changes. Then it takes it a step further to
really lose a lot of the support and good will it might have had in trying to pass this legislation.
My concern focuses on a couple of points in this bill. I agree with one of the previous comments about how the public interest is defined, keeping in mind that often it is a very nebulous thing in the affairs of public life, the government, business and labour. It is often very difficult to pin down.
In this bill the government has virtually left that entirely at the discretion of the minister to determine what that public interest is. We could speculate on what a minister of the day might determine to be in the public interest in terms of imposing such a vote. I think it would be wise for this House to be able to consider a definition of the public interest so that we do have a sense of the framework for when the government might impose such a vote.
I am also thinking on this particular point that timeframes are very important in any management and labour dispute. Timeframes are important because often at the last minute a resolution can be reached and then some time may pass before resolution of a dispute is met.
It is without some indication from the minister and the government in the legislation as to just when a particular motion or effort by the minister can be used to impose a vote that needs to be clarified. It is not in this particular amendment which has been seen to be odious and that is a concern as well.
As a final point I have a concern about these final offers. We all know how many final offers there can be. There can be one in the morning, one in the afternoon and then maybe one late at night. Abetter clarification is needed in terms of what that final offer might be.
Assuming the government will be supporting this legislation and putting it through the House, I do not know necessarily how the government will determine when that final offer is. Must it be registered with the minister to determine officially whether that is the final offer? What about the timeframe I referred to earlier? The timeframe imposing the vote on a final offer may go stale by the time a particular vote is held on a contract proposal.
It is important to seek further clarification from the government. If it chooses not to and proceeds as is, that is unfortunate. As I mentioned earlier this government takes the good will too far and loses the opportunity to
June 1, 1993
gain the support it might have been able to get for this legislation.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the House for the consideration in allowing the motion to be introduced to amend the bill. Quite simply the intention of this motion is to recognize that the government is an employer unlike any other employer. Therefore the legislation cannot apply in the same way to government as employer as it does to the private sector.
Normally I would be arguing the opposite way. Normally I would be arguing that government should be taking unto itself the same responsibilities as it imposes on other employers. In this particular case however government is giving itself a power which other employers do not have.
Let me make it clear that the Liberal Party disagrees with the provision of the forced last offer vote. At least the Canada Labour Code provides for an impartial person, the Minister of Labour, to determine that it is appropriate to have such a vote. Because the government is the employer in the public sector it is entirely inappropriate for a minister of the Crown to have the authority to decide that there should be a last offer vote. It would be equivalent to giving the president of General Motors the power to stand up at the bargaining table, walk away and say: "Whatever the union says on behalf of its members, we are going to put this to a last offer vote".
This legislation allows a minister of the Crown to act exactly as I have just painted the president of General Motors operating and basically unilaterally determining what the process of bargaining is.
In decades of labour relations legislation and the development internationally of labour relations, the fundamental principle that has been recognized is that there have to be fair rules of the game if we want negotiated settlements instead of confrontation. There have to be fair rules of the game that treat these two partners, the employer and the workers, as having equal power. That balance is what creates the ability to negotiate. If one is able to force its will on the other we do not have a negotiated settlement.
There is an option in the public sector. We already have a body called the Public Service Staff Relations
Board. Its function in essence is to serve as mediator between the employer and the employee in a number of situations. It is the one body that stands apart, independent of either the government as employer or the unions as representatives of the employees and is capable of making an impartial decision whether this kind of process would assist in the achievement of a contract.
The motion therefore takes away from the minister the power to say it is in the public interest-remember the minister represents one side in the bargaining process-and instead allows the minister to ask the Public Service Staff Relations Board to make a determination whether a vote on the employer's last offer would assist in the achievement of the contract and would serve the public interest.
As I have said there are several things that are different between the public sector and the private sector, not the least of which is the employer's power in the public sector to determine that employees cannot strike, in other words, to exclude employees from the normal rights they would enjoy as employees represented by a union.
The government already has that power. It can protect the public interest by saying: "This job or group of jobs is so important to the public interest that it is excluded from the right to strike". That is one power it already has. The second power it already has is that at any time it may order its employees back to work. That is a power the president of General Motors does not have. The other side can argue, perhaps with some reason although I do not accept it, that sometimes the government might need to step in and direct that the employees be given an opportunity to vote on the employer's offer.
That need does not and never did exist in the public sector because of the extraordinary power of the government over its employees.
The third factor is that as the largest employer in Canada, the federal government has an extremely diverse work force. This means that when collective bargaining begins it begins with employees who do a whole range of duties from being out on the ocean rescuing ships to sitting in front of a computer all day. There may be, as we were told by the chair of the Public Service Staff Relations Board, 200 items in dispute at any one time. As they sit around the bargaining table there may be specific resolutions on some of those issues or an
employer's offer and the unions counter-offer on others, but very seldom will all of the 100 or 200 items actually be in a last offer.
Mr. Deans, chair of the Public Service Staff Relations Board, said to the legislative committee: "It seems to me to be beyond reason to think that if you had 190 items that had not had any response to them, and a dozen or so, 20 even, for which there had been a response, forming an offer to settle when that was presented to all those employees it would be overwhelmingly apparent to them that most of what they had put on the table had not yet been dealt with".
Mr. Deans also posed another problem: If the employees turn it down, what then? The government has already stood in this House and said: "This is our last offer and we want to put it to a vote of the employees", but the employees turn it down. Does the government then come back and say: "Well, that really was not our last offer; we have another last offer and we will go and have another vote", which could go on for months and months. You have to remember that we have people scattered all over this country working for the Government of Canada.
First, it is really not a desirable proposal. Second, it is not a workable proposal, as the government will soon find out if it ever attempts to use this measure. None the less, on the simple basis of principle, this motion seeks to try and make what we as Liberals consider an unworkable and undesirable situation a little bit better by at least not putting a minister of the Crown in conflict of interest in his role as minister and as the employer at the negotiating table.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to address the amendments to Bill C-101, an Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
Today a number of motions were tabled concerning clauses 2 and 42. When, on May 5,1993, a vote was held in the legislative committee on this particular motion, I abstained. The amendment being proposed today is comparable to section 40 of the Ontario legislation on
labour relations, and British Columbia has a similar provision in its labour relations code, with Bill 84.
My decision to abstain, in the light of the testimony we heard before the legislative committee, was based on the provisions of clauses 2 and 42. According to a number of organizations, unions and individual witnesses, there was not much time to discuss this clause, which came in fairly late. In light of the concerns of the unions, especially when the Minister of Labour appeared before the Committee on March 23, 1993, I would like to quote what the minister said that day at page 1:26: "In some provinces, for the vote to take place, it must come at the request of someone. I could have done it, for instance, at the request of either party or at the request of an employer. We hear sometimes a vote on the employer's last offer at the request of the employer."
If the legislation goes through as is, it is at the discretion of the Minister of Labour, who in his or her mind would come to the conclusion that it is in the public interest to proceed before or after there is a work stoppage.
The Minister of Labour went on to say: "This is not the case. This is an additional tool that I would propose to give, if Parliament agrees, to the future labour minister to use in exceptional circumstances, very, very seldom."
At page 1:27, in answer to a question by the chairman: "The back-to-work legislation, Mr. Chairman, I had to bring to the House in the last two years, albeit reluctantly, was brought in because I felt it was in the public interest to do so. Even though I may not have had strong support from the Liberal Party and the NDP, I certainly believe the three times I brought that in both critics shared with me the same concern for the public interest in those disputes. So I hope in the future it would be the same thing."
We know that after an election there may be a new minister. In any case, the present minister, has done a good job. I abstained on this particular motion in committee because I had not discussed the matter to my satisfaction with the unions and management.
June 1, 1993
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today at report stage of Bill C-101. This bill as has been stated by previous speakers adds many positive aspects to the legislation. One of the more positive aspects is that there was a considerable degree of consultation, I understand about two years, prior to most of these amendments coming forward in the form of Bill C-101.
The provisions dealing with hours of work, substitution of holidays, maternity leave and reassignment can be applauded by most people in the labour movement and most employers in Canada. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with the bunch opposite, it can screw up the Lord's Prayer.
We have just gone through almost two years of consultation. The government has now brought in a bill to correct some flaws in current labour legislation both in the public sector and the private sector and it gets an unusual degree of unanimity about what the bill should be. In keeping with the way the bunch opposite does its work, it just cannot do anything right.
After all the consultations had taken place, after it had invited labour groups and all interested parties in during the consultative period, it threw a couple of new agenda items on the table which absolutely infuriated those people who were asked for input because these were agenda items which were not up when their consultation was sought.
Clearly this is something quite contrary to what most reasonable individuals would call adequate, up front and honest consultation. The Minister of Labour came in and indicated that he wanted to see some other changes. When the bill came forward there were a couple of amendments on which nobody had ever been consulted.
After coming forward and saying: "We know we are a government whose mandate will probably be remembered as one that did not consult enough before legislation came forward, that shotgunned legislation through the Parliament and Senate of Canada, that used closure more times than any other government in the history of the country; that shut down parliamentary committees", unheard of before the Tories got back in on their second mandate. The government used the tyranny of the majority rather than say: "Look, we have finally learned
that consultation and consensus building is the way to make better legislation in this country".
It just could not help itself on this bill. It could not just bring in the bill which we could have passed here quickly in a day and had shorter hearings. It had to come in with a couple of amendments on which nobody had been consulted and tack them on. It does this all the time. The ones I want to talk about are the amendments to clause 2 and clause 42 dealing with directed votes.
Think about it. After going through the consultative period, getting all kinds of input and getting people to once again have faith that the Tories can at least do something right when it comes to legislation, particularly dealing with labour laws and standards n Canada, it snookered everybody by coming in with a bill that has two clauses which quite clearly are offensive to most people. These are not acceptable to anybody who has been in the consultative process or in the opposition, both the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.
What it basically has done is this. In the case of employees in the public sector and some in Crown corporations who come under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code, it has given the Minister of Labour the authority to direct a vote on the last offer by an employee without any consultation with the employee group or the representative group that has gone into collective bargaining.
Just think about it. The government says it believes that the integrity of the collective bargaining process must be maintained. It believes that government has a responsibility through legislation to ensure the give and take of collective bargaining is entrenched in our legislation and that there are certain rules by which the game is played so that we can have a successful conclusion to what otherwise many times are chaotic negotiations.
Sometimes it means that the bargaining unit or team for the group of employees says: "No, the last offer put on the table simply was not good enough". It is part of the process. It is part of the bargaining. It is part of the give and take and it is the right of the agents for the bargaining unit to make that decision.
The government, in clauses 2 and 42, said that it would change the rules of the game. When it deals with the
employees under the Public Service Staff Relations Act it is going to allow any minister of the Crown outside those who sit on Treasury Board to come in and order a directed vote.
In short, in the view of all the labour groups represented and in view of the legislation, it is subverting the collective bargaining process. The Tories came in with all of these good things in this legislation but just could not help themselves. I guess the devil made them do it again. They could not help themselves. They had to throw in a couple of amendments which just reeked of the Tory way of governing. There was no consultation. There was a blunt instrument. It was buried in with a couple of good things and in the name of goodness if we want the good things we have to take the bad things such as the salad and the unpalatable ones as well.
My colleague is telling me that when the Minister of Labour came to the committee and was asked why he came forward at the last moment after the consultations and threw these two clauses in, he scratched his head and said: "The NDP government in Ontario did it so I thought it was a good thing to do".
Can you imagine? This bunch is discredited enough. It is taking direction from the most discredited government in Canada, which is even more discredited than the federal Tory party. Maybe not. Maybe I exaggerate. It may be the second most discredited government in Canada. It is absolute lunacy. The Minister of Labour said: "They did it in Ontario. The Ontario NDP minister of labour did it in the Toronto transit strike, therefore we felt it was a good thing to do".
My goodness, no wonder the country is in trouble if the Ontario NDP government and the federal Tory government are taking tips from each other. It is little wonder that we are almost bankrupt. It is little wonder that both governments are so low in popular support in the institutions they sit in and so highly despised by Canadians. If it was not so offensive to blind people, I would say that it was like the blind leading the blind.
It is unbelievable that the minister did not even realize that in the case of the Toronto transit situation there was already a strike under way. It was not the same.
Look at these two clauses that the government has come in with. It is basically saying: "We have taken a good bill with an unusual degree of consensus and we have changed a lot of things that had to be changed".
When one is swallowing the good stuff there are going to be a couple of barbs in it that are going to stick around the oesophagus. They are going to make one choke a bit because it is going to give the Minister of Labour in the case of employees covered under the Canada Labour Code, or any minister other than a Treasury Board minister, the right to direct a vote without any strike.
It does not mention a strike situation. It talks about going back to work. The minister can say: "Okay, that is it. We want to undermine the activities of the bargaining agents or the people who are bargaining on behalf of a group of employees by directing a vote. At any given time we will just snap to that".
We will find that these two clauses will be some of the most regressive clauses in any labour legislation that we have seen in 20 years, other than the back to work legislation which these guys do all the time. That is what one is going to find out here.
The other thing that is very odd when looking at these cases is that the government was told in committee that this was unacceptable. Labour groups said it was unacceptable. The Public Service Staff Relations Board-the very board that would have to carry out the directed vote when one deals with negotiations for public employees- said that it was completely opposed to these two clauses because it believes that the clauses have subverted the collective bargaining process.
I hope the government will see fit to strip these two amendments out. It does not need them. There is no need to poison good legislation. If it strips them out and agrees to drop them then we will find an unusual degree of consensus on the rest of this bill. We will find for once in the dying days of this Parliament that collectively we can pass better labour legislation in this country.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND