Hon. HUMPHREY MITCHELL (Minister of Labour):
I should like to supplement the statement I made in reply to the question asked yesterday by the leader of the opposition with reference to- a threatened stoppage of work on ships operating on the great lakes, by reading a letter addressed by myself to Mr. Sullivan on April 11. The letter reads as follows:
I have your letter of April 9 and there is a necessity in my opinion to record the facts up to date -as we understand them.
You met with me on March 25 and in addition to your committee, you will recall that Messrs. MacNamara and Maclean were present. The statement of myself and officials is that it was agreed that a telegram would be sent to the parties urging that a meeting take place on April 8 which was the earliest date convenient to you.
It was further stated that the meeting could be held in the Department of Labour office at Toronto if the parties so desired and also that a conciliation officer would be available if the parties asked for him.
In accordance with this understanding telegrams were dispatched to both parties and copies of same are attached.
It does seem to me that there is no room in the wording of the telegrams for any misunderstanding.
I am still of the opinion that it would have been advisable to meet with the operators. However, your committee decided otherwise.
You, of course, will at once agree that I could not, under the circumstances, say to the operators that they had refused to meet you.
It is noted that your executive has decided to take a strike vote beginning April 15 and I suggest to you that inasmuch as the process of collective bargaining between yourselves and the ship operators has not yet been concluded, a strike vote at the moment seems to be unnecessary and cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the wartime labour relations regulations, P.C. 1003, which requires the parties to a dispute to bargain in good faith one with the other.
You may be assured that the department will do its utmost to bring about a mutually satisfactory agreement between the operators and
the employees. However, the department is still convinced that the most satisfactory solution would be one brought about by collective bargaining rather than by the passing of legislation providing for an eight-hour day.
I further wish to inform you that the labour department has requested the Department of Justice to review the relative authority as between the dominion and provincial governments and, in addition, the department has arranged for the submission of an independent legal opinion on this question.
(sgd) Humphrey Mitchell
Subtopic: GREAT LAKES SEAMEN