December 2, 1997

REF

Jim Gouk

Reform

Mr. Jim Gouk

Mr. Chairman, I will just add very briefly to that. Contained in this amendment on final offer arbitration is a specific mechanism for the selection of what would be an arbitration panel. We will not go into all the details as it is available here and the vote on it will be deferred until 6.30.

It was mentioned in debate today. It provides a very specific mechanism for the selection of one arbitrator from the union side, one arbitrator from the Canada Post side and one jointly selected to be the third member and chair of the panel. It also provides very specific timelines in order to have the parties make their presentations. It also provides a mechanism for the panel to make a decision.

As I said, if any member wants a detailed reading of it, I would be happy to show them a copy between now and 6.30. It is also on file with the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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The Assistant Deputy Chairman

The amendment is three pages long, quite detailed and is available at the table.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Chairman, we have been hearing a lot about this whole issue of final offer selection in the last couple of weeks. I think virtually everybody who has risen to speak on it first prefaced their remarks by saying there is no substitute for a freely negotiated settlement. I think we are all in agreement on that, even the mover of this amendment.

The whole idea of final offer selection is a choice that some people make in the course of labour management negotiations and it has its place in a very limited application.

As such, even in this round of bargaining, had the two parties agreed that it was a suitable way to resolve the issue they could have opted for it at any time in the process. Both the Canada Labour Code and the collective agreement in effect have provisions that if the two parties agree they may settle their outstanding issues by any type of binding arbitration. Final offer selection is only one of those types of binding arbitration.

I have personally used final offer selection as a union representative in the province of Manitoba. Final offer selection was law in that province for six or seven years. The NDP introduced it. It survived four or five years until the Filmon government was elected and then it was chucked out. As a union representative in the dozens of union negotiations I conducted we may have used it three or four times. In a limited application we see its use.

The whole premise is that when we have narrowed down all the outstanding issues to a couple of simple straightforward issues like money possibly the two parties could see fit to use it. Even in the province of Manitoba it was optional. Either side could make application to the minister to solve its outstanding issues either 60 days prior to a strike or 90 days after a strike. Those were the windows during which we could opt for this FOS.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union used it a lot. CUPE was vehemently opposed to the idea. The steelworkers played with it as did the carpenters union. I might have used it a maximum of five times over the course of seven or eight years.

Final offer selection had its origins in pro baseball and it is still used there. After the union negotiated all the outstanding issues except for money and the two parties still did not have the monetary package resolved, the employees put in their final offer and the employer puts in its last offer. The arbitrator can choose one or the other but not a combination of both. There is no cafeteria style shopping here. It is one or the other.

We should try to transpose that into the type of bargaining we see at Canada Post. Anybody with any sense of or any background in labour relations would see immediately that there would be pandemonium. It simply could not be done in negotiations that involved a complex set of rules of work or issues the current round of bargaining has been bogged down in. There is simply no way in the world that FOS would be useful, which is why the very experienced people at the table have chosen not to exercise their right to settle this round of negotiations with final offer selection.

To follow the recommendation put forward in this amendment and to institutionalize FOS so that all negotiations from hereon forward will be resolved by FOS would be absolutely ludicrous. It indicates to me a lack of knowledge of the subject. It is as if somebody stumbled on a new idea and decided to give it a whirl. There is media attention so the idea is being milked over and over again until most of us on this side of the House are sick of hearing about FOS. If I never hear the word again it will be too soon.

I speak very strongly against any such introduction. The only latitude we would see necessary in the Canada Labour Code would be in the ability of the two parties, should they see fit, to conclude their negotiations through the process of binding arbitration. One of those offers may be final offer selection.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be as brief and as concise as possible.

For those listening, so that they may understand properly, the final offer means that the union and management sides each make an overall proposal, and the arbitrator, or in this case the arbitration board, decides which of the two will be accepted.

For the public sector, this means that things are greatly distorted from the start, because the union members will want to be sure that their final offer as possible is accepted. This exerts terrible pressure and so, finally, the union offer contains virtually nothing, to ensure it will be accepted.

On the management side, in the public sector, there is a lot of time ahead. Nobody is talking about cutting the salary of the chairman of the board at Canada Post if no agreement is reached, nor of its executive director. If such a situation existed in the bargaining process, perhaps agreement would be reached more quickly.

The final offer, particularly in the clause we have before us, is a nebulous and complicated matter, and one which create new labour relations law. I believe that we should make sure that special legislation does not create a precedent which could be applied to other sectors and systematically lead to interpretations which would harm good labour relations.

I am dealing with clause 9, which is a key clause. I hope that the House will come up with an amendment to clause 9 because as it stands now, if we have final offer selection on top of it, it would amount to telling the arbitrator or the arbitration panel “Now you are going to manage this whole thing, and look at it as if it were a private company, a totally private firm, and at the same time you will be looking for the best way to settle the dispute”.

This would mean that to reach a settlement the union would have to accept working conditions similar to those in the private sector. We saw this kind of struggle at UPS in the United States. The union won because it convinced people of the need for regular workers, and permanent jobs. But with final offer selection, the union and workers involved would have been stuck with unacceptable conditions.

To conclude, the Reform Party's proposal may have been made in good faith, but in my view it is unacceptable because it is too vague and it does not provide both sides with a level playing field.

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REF

Jim Gouk

Reform

Mr. Jim Gouk (West Kootenay—Okanagan, Ref.)

Mr. Chairman, I want to reply primarily to the intervener from the NDP who suggested that obviously we do not know anything about how FOS works and that we are out to lunch. I am not sure what little parlances he used.

If anyone does not know what is going on it is him. We announced our proposal in detail. I know he was in the House at the time, but I do not know if he was listening or doing something else. Obviously he does not have a good grasp of what we proposed. We put it out in significant detail.

He suggested that FOS has a place but that we should not use it in this case because the union and the post office had an opportunity to select it and they did not. However he is backing arbitration. They had an opportunity choose it but they did not choose that either. Why is he backing that or, for that matter, anything else?

In this proposal they have an opportunity to bargain collectively and to negotiate. There is conciliation, mediation and any other form of settlement they mutually choose and agree upon, provided it does not end up in a labour disruption.

There has to be some final settlement when they say they cannot reach an agreement, cannot agree on how to settle the issue, cannot agree on an arbitrator, or cannot agree on tossing a coin or cutting the cards. If they cannot agree on anything there has to be some final resolution. That is why we are here tonight.

Whether it is final offer arbitration, straight toss of the coin arbitration or any other method, there has to be something. For the member to suggest that we cannot have final offer arbitration because they had the opportunity to choose that and did not he is saying in other words that we should not be here tonight.

I go back to the original question I asked him today which he did not answer. Why did members of the NDP agree in the first place to pass the motion and to fast track it unanimously? If they are so opposed to everything we are trying to do on behalf of 30 million Canadians, why are they even here?

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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Chairman, maybe I can answer briefly.

The member from the Reform Party indicated that we are for arbitration but we are not for FOS. That is not clear. Nothing we have done should lead him to believe that we are voting in favour of back to work legislation or binding arbitration. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

Yesterday when the government asked for unanimous consent to move speedy passage of the bill and not be faced with obstacles and stumbling blocks it got our unanimous consent.

The member from the Reform Party has no idea how we will vote on the back to work legislation and binding arbitration. I think he could probably guess how we will vote on it. I can guarantee it will not be the same way he is thinking.

In terms of final offer selection we have read the member's outline in detail. Adding more pages to it does not give the idea any more merit. It was a flawed idea to begin with it. It was worth floating as a trial balloon but piling on the pieces of paper and raising it over and over again do not give a bad idea any more merit.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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The Deputy Chairman

Shall the amendment to clause 8 standing in the name of Mr. Gouk carry?

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
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Some hon. members

No.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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The Deputy Chairman

Pursuant to order the vote on the amendment to clause 8 is deferred.

We will now proceed to the two amendments to clause 9 standing in the name of Mr. Gouk and in the name of the member for Winnipeg Centre.

(On clause 9)

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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REF

Jim Gouk

Reform

Mr. Jim Gouk (West Kootenay—Okanagan, Ref.)

moved:

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-24, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing lines 38 to 46 on page 4, and lines 1 to 12, on page 5 with the following:

“9. The arbitration panel shall be guided by:

(a) cost of living index since the last contract settlement

(b) average public sector increase

(c) impact on postal service

(d) financial impact of contract settlement

(e) will settlement cause an increase in postal rates in excess of inflation since last adjustment

(f) any change in job descriptions

(g) public sector comparisons of any of the disputed items.”

Mr. Chairman, my amendment removes one portion of specific guidelines included by the government to give directions to its arbitrator and replaces it with six points which give guidance in terms of the market, in terms of postal service, in terms of the cost of the settlement, average settlements within the public sector and so on to the arbitration panel as proposed by Reform.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. The proposed amendment broadens even more the concept of arbitration panel we discussed earlier.

It is even more vague and I believe this amendment must absolutely be rejected.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

I will speak briefly, Mr. Chairman, to the amendment put forth on clause 9. The arbitration panel, in the minds of the Reform Party, should be dealing with a comprehensive list when it is making its ruling in the settlement of the case.

The list indicates that the arbitrator should be taking into consideration the cost of living index, the impact on the postal service, financial impact of contract settlement, and so on. We should be giving the arbitrator a free hand to make a ruling based on the terms, conditions and guidelines by which arbitrators are always bound and to take into consideration the local factors that would have an influence on that industry.

Outlining them again in any kind of copious detail does not add anything to the argument. Just like a constitutional statement or a statement of any kind, when adopting it like this it should be general in nature so as not to put guidelines on future arbitrators that would make it more difficult for them to bring down a ruling in a multitude of different scenarios.

This would be a very limiting provision to put in place, and we would certainly speak against it.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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The Deputy Chairman

Shall the amendment to clause 9 standing in the name of Mr. Gouk carry?

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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The Acting Chairman

Pursuant to order the vote on the amendment is deferred.

We will now proceed to the amendment as proposed by the member for Winnipeg Centre.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

moved:

That Bill C-24, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing lines 38 to 46 on page 4 and lines 1 to 12 on page 5 with the following:

“9. The mediator-arbitrator shall be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with the Canada Post Corporation Act and the viability and financial stability of Canada Post, taking into account

(a) that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates,

(i) operate efficiently,

(ii) improve productivity, and

(iii) meet acceptable standards of service; and

(b) the importance of good labour-management relations between the Canada Post Corporation and the union.”

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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BQ

Réjean Lefebvre

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Réjean Lefebvre (Champlain, BQ)

Mr. Chairman, the Bloc Quebecois has moved an amendment to this clause that provides that the arbitrator must maintain the parameters for a public service that must finance itself, which are currently set out in the incorporating act of Canada Post. The parameters provided by the minister to the arbitrator in the bill give him no choice.

Canada Post must be managed as a private business with terms and conditions such as the ones imposed on the private sector, while Canada Post is a public service under its own act. This wording shows that the government is asking the arbitrator to pursue the same objectives for negotiations as Canada Post, that is no increase in postal rates while reducing the costs to Canada Post. However, the only area where such reductions are possible is in manpower.

The corporation has been admitting since the beginning of its negotiations that its objective is to recover $200 million on its manpower costs, which means the abolition of 4,000 positions. This indication from the government is not made at random. Indeed, the government expects that Canada Post will provide it with dividends of about $200 million in the next few years.

Thus, when the government has the choice between creating jobs and increasing its capital, it chooses its own financial interests at the expense of workers. We have seen this choice being made in other areas such as unemployment where, at the expense of the unemployed, the government has been raking in money by the billions. We must also remember the famous rail strike.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Chairman, more than any other clause I think in the legislative package that caught everyone's eye and that everyone was immediately drawn to was clause 9. There was very broad agreement among our caucus that this clause had to be amended in order to make the legislation fair, to not tie the hands of the arbitrator and to result in any kind of settlement that might have a lasting resolve to try to put back together the shattered labour relations environment at Canada Post.

We have put forward amendments to the legislation that we believe would still meet the goals of the government when it puts forward this language, but take away some of the language that we felt was overtly partisan or one-sided.

We had strong feelings that the arbitrator, if bound by the original legislation, would have no option really in bringing down their ruling. They would have no opportunity to consider all the normal factors that an arbitrator should be bound by because there would be a preconceived outcome to the arbitrator's role by some of this language.

For instance, some of the language that we particularly objected to was the original language in clause 9(a)(i) where Canada Post would be bound to perform financially in a commercially acceptable range.

At first reading, that seems like a fairly innocuous statement. In actual fact, it would be an enormous policy shift for Canada Post in terms that it would be now bound. First of all, it is too vague because it does not say what sort of comparison, what is commercially viable. Second, it would be bound to a different way of conducting business forever.

Our feeling was that if the government is interested in changing a mandate of Canada Post or changing the Canada Post Corporation Act, it should be done through the front door with amendments moved to the Canada Post Corporation Act and not through the back door with back to work legislation.

This clearly went beyond what was necessary to get the employees back to work or to settle this round of bargaining. In fact, it read like a wish list for Canada Post.

The amendment that we are putting forward would still address all the legitimate concerns of the architects of this original clause but in a far more balanced way.

We would suggest that the real goal here is that the mediator/arbitrator shall be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with the Canada Post Corporation Act and the viability and financial stability of Canada Post, taking into account that Canada Post Corporation must without recourse undo increases in postal costs, operate efficiently, improve their productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.

That really sums up what the goals and objectives should be for a well-run organization bound by the parameters of the existing Canada Post Corporation Act.

We would hope that the other parties see fit to support this as a way to make the whole system more balanced and more fair, and to preclude tying the arbitrator to any preconceived outcome before they even get a chance to deal with the issues.

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Subtopic:   Division No. 48
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December 2, 1997