October 21, 2003

NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Madam Speaker, on behalf of working people everywhere I wish to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to the member for Laurentides for the work that she has done in bringing this issue to the floor of the House of Commons today. Let me also recognize the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for his very sensitive remarks and for his keen understanding of this complex issue.

It may come as no surprise that I, as a member of the NDP caucus, fully support anti-scab legislation and fully support the work that the member for Laurentides has done over the years to bring this issue forward. In my own personal background, I too worked in the asbestos mines as a young man and went on to become the leader of the carpenters union for the Province of Manitoba. I have negotiated dozens of collective agreements over the years and I know something about the issues of collective bargaining, work stoppages and the right to strike.

My colleague with me today, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, is a former business manager for the United Steelworkers of America, representing the largest mine in his region of New Brunswick. The two of us understand this issue thoroughly, passionately, and we understand the need for this legislation because we have witnessed the result of not having anti-scab legislation.

There are some fundamental issues regarding working people that we can all hopefully agree on. Workers have the right to organize into unions. I do not think there is any disagreement there.

Workers have the right to free collective bargaining as the only way to elevate their working and living conditions. Workers have the right to withhold their services when that collective bargaining process reaches an impasse. It is the most civilized, non-violent way to exert some economic pressure on the employer in order to benefit the employees.

I would like to add a fourth issue, which is that workers have the right to withhold their services and not have to worry about some other scabs eating their lunch while they are exercising their right to withhold their services. That is the fundamental issue that the member from the Bloc is bringing to our attention today.

There are good and compelling reasons why there should be anti-scab legislation. First, empirical evidence shows that there are fewer days lost to strikes and lockouts when there is ant-scab legislation because employees can apply economic pressure on the employer. Strikes go on and on when scabs do the work and keep the plant running, even running at half speed.

Second, there is less and almost no likelihood of violence breaking out in the case of a work stoppage. Violence occurs in a strike or lockout when people cross the picket line to take the lunch away from the workers who have undertaken a work stoppage, to take their jobs away, and to take food off their families' tables. That is when tempers burst out.

As my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst and I have both witnessed and been in the middle of, that is when fists start flying and violence breaks out. That does not happen with anti-scab legislation. It turns a picket line into an information picket line because there is no risk of scabs or non-union workers taking the jobs of employees during the middle of a work stoppage.

There are good moral and ethical reasons why we should pass laws to prohibit strikebreakers, non-union workers and scabs from taking the jobs of workers when they are out on strike.

There are also good economic reasons. It reduces the number of days lost to work stoppages and reduces the incidents of violence during those work stoppages. Those are two good compelling reasons.

The only argument I heard from the Liberal side is that we do not want to reopen the Canada Labour Code again because we just went through that exercise with Bill C-19 in 1999. I agree, but we did not finish the job during that process.

All the players involved in amending the Canada Labour Code in 1999 are fully aware that we left the anti-scab provisions only partially finished. Yes, we introduced the concept of anti-scab legislation into the Canada Labour Code in 1999, but it is painfully weak. It puts the onus on the employees to prove that the company is using scabs to undermine their union and their bargaining rights. The onus, the burden of proof, is on the employees. That is 180 degrees wrong. This bill seeks to remedy that.

I do not accept those fears as an argument. The arguments from the Canadian Alliance are entirely specious and indicate that its members simply do not understand modern industrial labour relations.

We have had a grain farmer lecture us on industrial labour relations in regard to final offer selection. I have lived in a jurisdiction where final offer selection was the law. As a union leader, I have used final offer selection a number of times.

FOS exists as an option. It is a form of third party binding arbitration that the two parties can enter into at any time they want. They do not need legislative changes to do that. But it is riddled with flaws. It is fundamentally useless when it comes to dealing with work rules and non-monetary issues. How would we ever get a day care centre in a workplace as a negotiated benefit using FOS? It is not a practical solution to the complex work rules that exist in most workplaces today and it tells me that somebody on that side has never really seen a collective bargaining process in action.

Madam Speaker, I know I only have a few minutes. Let me just close by saying I fully appreciate the sincere work that the member from the Bloc, the member for Laurentides, has done. She has done hard work for many years. It is to our benefit to have her fighting on behalf of working people in this country.

What works in Quebec will work in the rest of Canada. There is no good reason why the people in the federal jurisdiction of Quebec should not have the same benefits as people working in the federal jurisdiction elsewhere. We should share those same standards of fairness and we should all have modern anti-scab legislation.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this bill. It a subject that is very dear to my heart, both as a member of Parliament as an activist in an area where major strikes have disrupted the social and economic life of an entire region.

In a technologically and socially advanced society like ours, an anti-scab law is a necessity. It is not a luxury. The bill before us concerning labour relations in conflict situations is of the utmost importance not only to many workers in my riding, of course, but also to all workers in Quebec and in Canada.

Work is the foundation of society. Thus, workers deserve our full respect. In the minds of everyone, the right to strike is very important. It is their last resort in order to achieve better working conditions, job security and improved living conditions. When workers have got to the point where they go on strike and voluntarily deprive themselves of income, there is a serious problem in labour relations. Because it has been admitted that employers are often the cause of these problems, the right to strike has been recognized and the rights involved must protect the employee, not just the employer.

Having been a union president for close to ten years—of the labour council—I have seen all manner of labour disputes. Ordinary hard-working citizens fought a tough battle for the right to strike, but common sense finally prevailed and that right is now one of the advantages of the democracy we have heard so much about in recent months.

The labour code recognizes that right, as does the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Who then has the right to do away with it? Do we parliamentarians have the right to do away with something so precious, the only weapon workers have to ensure they can work in dignity? Yet this is something that happens frequently, because there is a legal void in the law. Provisions are needed to prevent employers from making use of replacement workers, who are essentially outlaws as far as I am concerned. The only way to remedy this shortcoming, in my opinion, is to have anti-scab legislation.

It is not a matter of holding a gun to employers' heads, far from it. It is a tool to ensure compliance with the law. Nor is it a luxury in a society such as ours. Once again, it is a necessity. Labour cannot be held up as valuable with the one hand, and then hampered in its progress by the other. History has proven this, in a number of Canadian provinces as well as in Quebec. Shocking things have happened because of this void. My colleagues have made reference to such events throughout this debate. Many examples have been given, including the recent situation with Vidéotron. How many such problems could have been avoided with anti-scab legislation? How much worry, suffering, and financial loss could have been avoided?

When I think of my own region, I think of something my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay has already mentioned: the pointless strike at Cargill which lasted 36 months. Imagine. Replacement workers are not a solution, they are a calamity. It is unrealistic to see them as any protection for employers.

A strike that is gotten around by the use of replacement workers is a strike that drags on for a very long time. It is a situation that takes a heavy toll on both parties, when they ought to be concentrating on making peace, not war.

I believe that it causes a lot of trouble. In my region, I have seen brothers who stopped talking to each other. I have seen families on the verge of collapsing and I have been a society go from harmony to chaos because of this legal vacuum that should have been filled a long time ago.

In my riding, I have the case of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador, QNS & L railway, and the Iron Ore company. Iron Ore employees are protected by the Quebec code; I believe they are very well protected. Workers of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador are protected by the Canada Labour Code. Thus, there is a huge legal vacuum.

I will try to conclude quickly in the three minutes I have left.

I will thus recommend the Quebec legislation, which has a good track record; there is also the Ontario or the British Columbia legislation. I think that my colleagues mentioned them. The legislation in effect in these three provinces has proven, beyond any doubt, that the tendency to incorporate the principle of banning the use of replacement workers to do the job of people on strike is gaining ground, both at the management and the union level. Where this principle is in effect, it is well accepted and well integrated.

I must insist and draw the attention of the House to the fact that, tomorrow, we will be called to vote, and show dignity and respect for and recognition of the workers.

Will the members of this House be able to leave with their heads held high, if they violate this right of workers. Tomorrow will be a historic day, not only for Quebec, but for all workers in this country. It is a very important day for society, and I thank my colleague, the hon. member for Laurentides, for having done such a great job.

I want to ask all the members to vote in favour of this bill tomorrow, because not doing so would be a slap in the face of the workers and an indication that they come second.

I trust that tomorrow the members will vote in favour of this anti-scab legislation.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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BQ

Monique Guay

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I will take the five minutes available to me because I still have a lot of things to say about this bill.

First, I must thank all those who will be supporting this bill and have said so in the House today. I want to thank them and tell them how happy I am that they have understood the need and usefulness of anti-scab legislation.

I heard comments tonight that made my ears turn red, as we would say in Quebec. I heard people say that it is an emotional debate. Of course it is an emotional debate, but there is more to it than that. When people lose their jobs for ten months and are without income, it certainly becomes an emotional debate. But it is also a debate about fairness and logic.

What my bill is trying to achieve is to give employees an opportunity to negotiate fairly with their employers. There must be a balance between the two sides, one that currently does not exist. Everyone knows that there are no real anti-scab provisions in the Canada Labour Code.

It is not strictly an emotional debate, therefore, but a debate on fairness and economics. Imagine being one of 1,000 employees at a major company to lose your job. Most companies under federal jurisdiction are large companies. These people do not help the economy, because they are unable to spend. They end up in poverty and, at the end of the day, the government has to support them when they are penniless. They go on welfare, end up in poverty and their health declines. These are immeasurable social costs and that is important. There are economic problems and problems of fairness.

I would like to point out that I have been the labour critic for my party since 1999. This is the third time I have opened this debate. This time, we will vote on the bill and we will do so tomorrow. Tomorrow we will see who has compassion and respect for workers. Tomorrow we will see which members have the courage to vote in favour of anti-scab legislation.

We are not talking about the economic costs. I know the labour minister has written to all Liberal members asking them not to support this anti-scab bill. She said that part I of the Canada Labour Code has already been reviewed in 1999 and that the unions were pleased with the outcome.

The President of the FTQ wrote personally to the minister to ask her to withdraw her remarks and apologize. It is not true that we do not want an anti-scab legislation, on the contrary.

It is not because part I of the Canada Labour Code was reviewed in 1999 that we should say the matter is closed, and we should not talk about it any more. Come on. We are here to change things. Our role as parliamentarians is to improve legislation, improve the Canada Labour Code, improve the lot of Canadians, Quebeckers, and workers. They are the ones who support the government, and they should benefit from their government. I feel the current situation is unfair.

Earlier, my Liberal colleague said something that upset me again. He said this is not that important, because not too many people are under the Canada Labour Code. He should be ashamed to say such a thing.

The issue is much bigger than this. It is a matter of respect, and the time has come for that. In Quebec, the issue was settled 25 years ago. We respect our workers. What I am striving to do, as a Quebecker, is to allow people in Quebec and the rest of Canada who work for businesses under federal jurisdiction to get this respect and to negotiate fairly with their employers. It is that simple. The government will not have to spend a single penny. All that is needed from it is a strong political desire to do this.

I hope that when we vote tomorrow, we will find out that the hon. members do have the political desire to do so and support this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 7:17 p.m., the time reserved for this debate has expired. Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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Some hon. members

Question.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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Some hon. members

No.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

All those in favour of the motion. will please say yea.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Wednesday, October 22, 2003, at the end of government orders.

It being 7:17 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:17 p.m.)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
Permalink

October 21, 2003