Hon. N. A. McLARTY (Minister of Labour):
Mr. Chairman, before I begin my formal statement, a statement which I am afraid the committee will find much too formal, may I extend to my colleague who has just taken his seat (Mr. Ilsley) congratulations upon the magnificent address he has given. Perhaps I am somewhat selfish in offering my congratulations, because his remarks have made my task much easier, and will enable me considerably to shorten my remarks.
He has dealt with the question of the inflationary spiral and the question of managerial and executive salaries. He has dealt with many questions with which I now find it unnecessary to deal.
I should, however, like to make one further preliminary observation. A few minutes before entering the chamber to-night I had an opportunity of listening to a re-broadcast of the address by the President of the United States before the International Labour Organization. During the last week, while it met in New York, I had the privilege of attending the meetings. Incidentally may I state that in my opinion it is a matter of gratification to the committee that we have afforded a haven of refuge for that office, when it decided to move from Geneva.
There were represented at the meeting thirty-three different nations. The remarkable fact was that some of those nations had been overrun ; some of them had felt the force of Hitler's heel. The impression I got, sir, was that labour is doing a great deal to keep the lamp of liberty burning in this world.
Certain questions have been asked and references made respecting individual problems with which, as Minister of Labour, I have had to deal. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) referred to one, the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth) to another, and the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) to another. I thought perhaps in view of the understanding that there will be opportunity to consider individual questions later on, I would reserve my explanations on those points until that time.
With these preliminary remarks I crave the liberty to make copious references-I believe that is the phrase-to my notes. Might I at the outset of my remarks state that I welcome the opportunity of placing before this com-
The War-Labour-Mr. McLarty
mittee a statement of the activities and policies of the Department of Labour. I was invited to do so the day before yesterday by the leader of the opposition, and the remarks of the hon. member for Vancouver East would, of course, make it imperative that I do so.
The difference in the viewpoints of the leader of the opposition and the hon. member for Vancouver East are rather marked. Those differences are shared by many in Canada. For example, if I was correct in my inference from the remarks of the leader of the opposition, as a result of his recent visit to England he suggested that in labour disputes we should adopt a policy of compulsory arbitration. On the other hand, the hon. member for Vancouver East suggested, and suggested vigorously, a policy of compulsory recognition.
Both are agreed on one point, namely, that relations between employers and employees should be regulated in a compulsory manner. While it may be true that compulsion may be the most expeditious method of settling a labour dispute, it is not, I suggest, the true corrective method or the one that in the final analysis will prove effective in producing stability in the relationship between labour and industry.
The hon. member for Vancouver East suggested that labour should be a partner with industry. With that proposition I entirely agree. If fulfilment of that idea of partnership should come-and it will-it would render very much easier the task of any minister of labour.
But a partnership is a matter of mutual agreement. To be successful it must be the result of a desire of both parties each to cooperate with the other. Coercion is not the appropriate method of establishing it.
I mention this because recently I have been criticized for not stopping some strikes in industry by what are termed drastic measures. For example, in the slow-down strike in Cape Breton there were requests made that we "throw in the troops" and that we "intern the men". On the other hand there were demands that we take over the mines. We did neither.
I am convinced to-day that to have taken either course would have been unfortunate. I say that with somewhat more confidence by reason of the fact that the coal mines in Nova Scotia are to-day producing more coal than ever before in the history of that province.
That the policy of this government has been to some extent vindicated is evidenced by the fact that there is not a single strike
in any war industry in Canada to-day. But I should like to give credit where credit is due, and I should like to-day to pay a tribute to those labour leaders in Canada who by their sincere efforts to promote industrial peace at this time have made that result possible.
An impression has been created in the public mind that in this country strikes have been rampant and that labour has not been doing its very utmost to assist in the war. This is possibly due to the fact that when
3,100,000 men and women go to work each day it is not news, but if thirty do not go to work, it is news. A great deal has been said, and properly said, about the loyal devotion to duty of workers in other lands. But what about the workers in Canada? I do not in any way wish to belittle the efforts of the workers in other countries, but in fairness to the workers of Canada I feel it is only just that I present certain figures to this committee which will, I believe, indicate that they have not been weakening or slackening in their work.
For the first six months of the present year the man-days lost due to strikes or lockouts for each 1,000 wage-earners were as follows:
In Gireat Britain 41
In Canada 54
In the United States 381
I have not the figures for Australia for the six months' period, but have for the first three months' period, and in that period their time loss due to strikes or lockouts was ten times greater than in Canada.
Before I proceed to a consideration of the various orders in council pased on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour, may I deal with one other matter. The suggestion was made by- the member for Vancouver East that this government is opposed to the aims and aspirations of organized labour. I cannot state too emphatically that this is not correct. It would be difficult for me to imagine and, what is more important, it would be difficult for organized labour to imagine that any government headed by the present Prime Minister of Canada would desire to subtract from those rights which labour has gained over the last century.
We have asked labour to surrender some of its rights, but the Prime Minister has given an assurance that those rights will, after this war is won, be reestablished and reestablished in a generous manner. If any more effective assurance is required or desired I am prepared to recommend to my colleagues in the government that such further assurance should be given, and I know that favourable action would be taken on that recommendation.
The War-Labour-Mr. McLarty
With this point in view, while it is one thing to declare a policy and another to translate it into action, in June of last year, with the full approval of representative organizations of labour and industry, the government issued an order in council, P.C. 2685, which does express the fundamental principles of our wartime labour policy. It declared that good industrial relations are especially important in war time; that no element in the community can be permitted to benefit from war-time necessities; that the needs of the community at large must be regarded as paramount; and that the aspirations of workers to the right of association and to enter into collective agreements will, under wise direction, make for the removal of prejudice and for fuller cooperation between employers and employed.
The principles set forth in the body of this order in council are, in summary form, as follows:
(1) Every effort should be made to speed production by war industries; (2) Fair and reasonable standards of wages and working conditions should be recognized and any temporary adjustments in remuneration due to rvar conditions might well be in the form of bonus payments; (3) Hours of work should not be unduly extended but rather increased output should be secured by the adoption of additional shifts; (4) The established safeguards for the protection of the health and safety of the workers should not be relaxed; (5) There should be no interruption of work on account of strikes or lockouts. Differences not otherwise disposed of should be settled under the procedure of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act; (6) Employees should be free to organize in trade unions free from any control by employers or their agents. The existing provisions against illegal refusal to employ or to dismiss from employment because of trade union membership and against intimidation to prevent a workman from belonging to a union were reaffirmed; (7) Employees should be free to negotiate with employers through representatives of their own choosing with a view to the conclusion of a collective agreement; (8) Every such agreement should provide machinery for the settlement of disputes and should be scrupulously observed; (9) Workers should neither coerce nor intimidate any person to join their organization; (10) Any necessary suspension of established labour conditions in order to speed up war production should be effected by mutual agreement and should apply onily during the emergency.
I have taken the time to read these because the order is an appeal, not a command, and it is still necessary to publicize these principles and to work for their more general and willing acceptance. Specifically, there are still many employers who are not yet genuinely willing to negotiate and sign collective agreements with trade unions.
Might I suggest that we can defeat totalitarianism at home and abroad only if we really put our trust in the democratic process,
not only in our political life but in our industrial life. I believe that trade unionism is the essence of industrial democracy and that it must be woven ever more firmly into the fabric of industrial relations. On the other hand it is necessary to warn some unions that the fact that the government has declared the principle of freedom to organize does not mean that the government will conduct organizing campaigns for them, or approves any inclination to exploit the necessities of the war situation to high-pressure workers into unions which without such high pressure methods they would not be willing to join.
I have already made it clear that order in council, P.C. 2685, of June 19, 1940, setting out these principles, the general acceptance of whicli by industry and by labour would contribute to the success of the war effort, was not made compulsorily binding on either employers or workers. In some quarters the government has been subjected to criticism that this order was not made compulsory; in other words, the employers are not forced to enter into union agreements. The government, however, has been and still is reluctant, for reasons I have already mentioned, to introduce compulsory features into the field of industrial relations, and I am quite sure that any criticism of governmental policy in this respect is not receiving support from the more thoughtful elements in the labour movement. None of us can see very far ahead these days and it is impossible to determine at this stage what compulsions may yet have to be resorted to, but certainly in respect of industrial relations the public policy set out in P.C. 2685 has been fully justified in the very general avoidance of industrial disputes at the present time.
Another order in council affects more particularly those who, after enlisting, are discharged or demobilized. This order provides that the fullest measure of protection will be given to those who left their employment or service to enlist in the armed forces. It is known as the civil employment reinstatement order.
This order makes it mandatory for any employer, by whom a person accepted for service in his majesty's forces was employed when accepted, to reinstate him in employment at the termination of that service in such occupation or position as the order provides. It is the expressed intention of this order to ensure that this will be done under conditions no less favourable to the enlisted employee than those which would, have been available to him had he not so enlisted. In the last war there were a great number of complaints from men discharged from his majesty's forces serving in Canada or overseas who were refused the
The War-Labour-Mr. McLarty
positions they formerly held. In as far as the government can properly prevent such complaints, they will not ensue either during or following the present war.
The splendid men who enlist in the armed forces will, subject to what I have just said, have no justification for saying that while they were in uniforms or fighting abroad, others who might have been fighting there have taken their positions.
This order is one that will require legislation to make it effective after the war, and it is the intention of the government to introduce as soon as possible in the ensuing session of parliament the necessary legislation for enactment by parliament.
This order and the legislation which will ensue contain a penal clause and make any employer who fails to comply with the provisions of the order or the regulations made thereunder guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to substantial penalties.
May I here state that it has been suggested that the government has passed orders which require penalties from employees but that orders enjoining employers have been exempted from any penalties. I will be glad to give illustrations that will prove the inaccuracy of this suggestion.
The government has also taken steps to assure employees of firms engaged in war work minimum compensation for their labour. As members are aware, the fair wages act was passed in 1935 setting forth what wages should be paid and the hours of labour which should be worked. It was felt that the minimum compensation paid employees in war establishments should be increased and on the 4th of October last a new order was adopted making it part of the law of Canada for a contractor or a sub-contractor to pay male employees not less than thirty-five cents an hour.
. By another order the Minister of Labour is empowered when he finds that a contractor or subcontractor is employing any person at less than the fixed minimum rate prescribed, to withhold payment of any amount due to such contractor. A cheque for the amount of the underpayment must be delivered to the deputy minister of labour to be held as trustee for the settlement of such a claim.
This order further provides that such contractor or subcontractor must likewise keep a true and correct record of the wages paid and the hours worked by each of his employees.
In this order provision has also been made that any contractor or subcontractor who fails to comply with the regulations contained is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction for penalties ranging from $200 to $1,000. It will thus be seen that precautions have been taken to give to workers employed 14873-263 revised
in establishments engaged in war work that protection to which they are entitled.
Another order that has been passed provides for the course to be followed before any strike may be declared legally, following procedure under the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act. Under the provisions of this statute it was required that authority to declare a strike must be obtained before any board could be applied for. When, however, the government set up the inquiry commission, to which I will refer, the requirement as to a strike vote was not insisted upon in all cases in so far as reference was provided to the inquiry commission.
But I believe that no member of this house would suggest that it is not fair and not democratic that before any man goes on strike he has the right of self-determination and the right to say whether such a strike shall take place or not. It is because of that belief that this order in council lias been passed.
It sometimes happens that workers are influenced or stampeded into taking action which on second thought they may regret. It is entirely in conformity with democratic procedure that the wish of the majority should govern. Under the provisions of this order, before any strike may take place following the report of a 'board established under the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, the Minister of Labour must be notified that it is the desire of the workers that such strike take place; and in that event he may order that the vote be taken under the supervision of the officers of the Department of Labour.
All persons affected by the dispute are entitled to vote and the vote must take place without delay-in fact the order specifically provides that it must be taken within five days.
When the order was first passed it was subject to some criticism. It was criticized on the one hand by reason of the fact that it was too inadequate and was ineffective. It was criticized on the other hand because it interfered with the right to strike.
The fact is, however, that neither criticism was justified nor correct. It is a most democratic order and gives to every man and woman the right to say whether he or she wishes to participate in any strike and to forgo his or her wages during the time that any strike might be in progress.
I believe it is fair to state that the Department of Labour has in every way sought: first, to protect every worker by establishing fair wage standards and to prevent industrial strife; second, to protect the lower paid workers against attempts of unscrupulous employers to deny them the minimum compensation to which they are entitled; third,