Mr. Gary Lunn (Saanich—Gulf Islands, Ref.)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this private members' bill put forward by the NDP. In a nutshell, this bill would remove provision 13(5) from the Canada Post Corporation Act which excludes rural route mail couriers from section 3(1) of the Canada Labour Code. I am opposed to this bill and I believe that most of my colleagues are as well.
I want to state from the outset some of the problems. First, I would acknowledge that there are severe problems concerning how rural route mail couriers are treated in Canada. I want to acknowledge the member of the NDP for recognizing this, although I do not agree with his solution.
It is important to identify what is happening with the rural route mail couriers. As independent contractors, rural route mail couriers must submit tenders for their jobs and then negotiate a contract with Canada Post after the fact. That is what is happening right now. That is why they are so frustrated. Of course, we do not see that in the private sector. It would be ludicrous to bid on a job and then enter into negotiations for compensation after the fact.
Canada Post does not have any guidelines for the tendering process or contracting process that would ensure fairness. The mail couriers believe that they are being asked to do jobs under extremely poor conditions, at very minimum wages, and they are being force by Canada Post officials to lower their bids to maintain their contracts. There is a very serious problem with the rural route mail couriers and something needs to be done about it. In speaking with some of these couriers in British Columbia, it is absolutely clear that they are not being treated fairly. It is absolutely ludicrous to bid on a contract and then have to negotiate after the fact.
It is the government's responsibility to correct this situation and I would call upon the government to put it on its agenda. Something needs to be done.
At the current time an exemption under the Canada Labour Code prevents rural route couriers from being deemed employees. The NDP member has proposed that they be deemed employees, and therefore CUPE and a number of other unions would be in a struggle to unionize them for collective bargaining purposes. Clearly, I do not believe that is what they want.
There is no question that there are differing opinions, but I believe what they really want is the ability to negotiate and have a very open and fair tendering process with sealed bids. That is what we should be focusing on. Clearly, this bill does not do that.
Another problem is that there are a number of other organizations within our mail delivery system which also bid. I would submit that they are not being treated fairly either. Some of them are urban expedite contractors, suburban contractors, highway regional service contractors and marine contractors.
There are a number of organizations which are also facing similar conditions and are not being treated fairly by Canada Post, yet this private member's bill, an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act, only deals with one small aspect, the rural route mail couriers.
Although it has been recognized that there is a problem, I do not see this as a solution. In fact it would probably make it much worse. We would see a number of unions trying to decide who would control these employees, and I am not so sure that is what the employees want.
What the employees really want at the end of the day is an open, transparent tendering process with sealed bids so they can bid openly and fairly and receive fair compensation for the contracts they are awarded.
Subtopic: Canada Post Corporation Act