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.
Subtopic: Canada Labour Code