Bryce Stuart Mackasey
Hon. Bryce Mackasey (Lincoln):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say at the outset that I listened with great attention to the contributions made by the Hon. Member for Fraser Valley West (Mr. Wenman) on third reading of this legislation. I was very impressed by his remarks, as I was by his performance in committee, which as he stated was of a marathon proportion. He worked together with his colleague, the Hon. Member for Calgary West (Mr. Hawkes), who has a particular interest in human relations. I think the Conservative Party has been more than co-operative in the passage of this Bill. I do believe that the contribution made by the Hon. Member for Churchill (Mr. Murphy) meant that the committee consisted of Members from all Parties and had common objectives.
The first objective was to pass the Bill on time because of its admitted advantages. Some of the changes were obvious and were required for the benefit of workers. Second, I think we felt an obligation to produce what has been described as the balanced Bill. Unless labour Bills are balanced to the optimum, they can hardly be effective.
I would like to speak very briefly about a number of matters on which the Hon. Member for Fraser Valley West spoke- technological change, safety and women in the workforce. I do so, if not with expertise, at least with concern for these particular issues.
I arrived here in 1962. It might have been before the Hon. Member was born, although I am not sure. My maiden speech in the House of Commons was about industrial relations, although I was an employer of labour at the time. Later on, I had the privilege of being the Minister of Labour who brought in the first modernized Labour Code. In order to signify the progress which has been made in the last 15 or so years, that Labour Code reflected the findings of what I had recommended to students in the industrial relations field. The Woods task force was established. It was a multimillion dollar study performed by academics and experts over the better part of two years. That study reflected the terrible labour unrest of the sixties, when technology was brought very much to the fore and the Labour Code of the day made it virtually impossible
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for workers to have any input into the impact, whether negative or positive, of technology.
Indeed, I remember in the early 1960s when the railway workers of western Canada lay down on the railway tracks in Wainwright and Nakina in order to make their point. Because collective agreements were of fixed durations-and under no circumstances could they be re-opened for negotiation-management would astutely introduce amendments which dealt with technology or technological change in the middle of a contract. The most flagrant example of that was the introduction of diesels which replaced steam engines. That made it possible for the railways to by-pass the beautiful little communities of the west which were entirely dependent on the trains stopping for coal. Virtually, those communities were wiped out by the new technology. The railway officials had a very good case. They said that they could not reject technology any more than a cotton gin, the Industrial Revolution or the wheel. We were determined to bring in a labour code which made it imperative for management to consult and then negotiate with the workers, not whether technology should be introduced, but that the impact be minimized if it was negative and that the rewards be shared if the impact was positive.
I must congratulate the present Minister of Labour (Mr. Ouellet). He has brought in a Bill which, as his critics have already stated, is not perfect and is not the ultimate, but it is a dramatic step forward from the Bill which I presented and passed through the House of Commons in the late sixties. There are some things about this legislation, as the Minister knows, which concern me. One of the things which concerns me is the blurring of lines between the rules which cover collective bargaining. Yet, necessary standards are needed for more than two-thirds of the workers of this country who have no protection because they are not unionized. Sometimes the lines get blurred and abused. I would have liked to have seen a clause which permitted organized labour and their employers to opt out of the impact of the Labour Code. That may happen the next time this legislation comes before the House, but this is probably my last speech and I will probably not be here. There is no substitute for a negotiated settlement and no substitute for collective agreements.
One of the most significant things which we were able to do in the House of Commons-because we allowed labour to open collective agreements if technology was introduced without sufficient notice-was to force labour and management to include in collective agreements the ways and means to deal with technology. It was brought out in committee that there have not been more than a dozen cases sent to the Canada Labour Relations Board, at the request of unions, which were based on complaints that there was no opportunity to negotiate. Therefore, management has become enlightened. They have become enlightened just in time, because if this country is to continue to produce and generate the capital which is needed for social policy, pensions, maternity leave and so on, we must be a more productive country. We must have a more productive workforce in order to generate the additional capital. We are not only behind Japan, which we hear about all the
Canada Labour Code
time, we are falling very far behind the other countries in the OECD. In Europe, unions have been a way of life, particularly since the second World War. Management in Europe has tended to recognize the social contract. Some of the things which we have attempted to include in this Bill recognize the unique problems of women in the workforce, including sexual harassment. I believe we have at the present moment a very unique worker coming on stream. Unlike 15 years or 30 years ago, the worker today tends to be a knowledgeable worker rather than simply a skilled worker. He or she has had a college or university education. These new workers are mobile. They are intelligent. They face the new world with great confidence and they are not afraid of technology or computerization. They only ask to be informed and consulted and to be listened to. Employers who refuse to recognize that fact do so at their own risk as does the country which does not put through the type of enlightened legislation with the thrust which this Bill has. It is not Utopia but it is a considerable improvement over the basic Labour Code.
What concerns me is that the Department of Labour, the Canada Labour Relations Board and others do not always understand the spirit behind the proposed legislation. What was the intent? Why is the clause written in that way? What did the legislature mean when this clause or that clause was discussed? I would like to give an example which is very close to my heart. In 1966, the most difficult labour situation in Canada was at the waterfront, the longshoring industry. It involved not only Montreal and Vancouver but all of the waterfronts of Canada. Men were treated little better than animals. They had to go every morning to a hiring hall to be selected for employment with no guarantee when they arrived there on a cold day that they would be hired. It was the law of the jungle with strong-arm tactics. There was corruption. It was a very bad situation. Ports like Montreal were strikebound for weeks and weeks. The Smith inquiry was set up to improve the situation. I rejected its report because in my opinion it was based on the premise that the trouble in the ports was essentially caused by employees. I recognized that those employees were stripped of their dignity, and we set out to do something about it. We also recognized, Mr. Speaker, the need for increased productivity. Today the number of employees in the Montreal waterfront is approximately half of what it was in 1968. The productivity is hundreds of per cent greater. Why? Because the worker now goes to work in dignity, in an automobile, with a guaranteed 40 weeks wages out of 52 weeks whether or not there is work. The hiring halls have been eliminated, pension plans have been introduced. Technology is not rejected. It is encouraged because so many cents per tonne coming in through technology, through containerization, find their way into the union for its particular projects, sickness benefits, pensions, or whatever.
This was not accomplished, Mr. Speaker, by myself or the Department. It was accomplished by intelligent use of new legislation. It was accomplished by making it mandatory for all employers to bargain as one and for all unions to bargain as
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Canada Labour Code
one, thus eliminating the old game of playing one off against the other. If you look at the old Code, I believe Section 132, you will find that we set it up in such a way that these associations would have total jurisdiction over what was called "geographical delineation". I believe that is the way we put it. It simply meant that when negotiating time arrived, management would speak as one voice and so would the union.
In recent years, Mr. Speaker, in the 1980s, the Canada Labour Relations Board seems to me, as an observer, to have lost the sense of what was the intent. So we have a situation now where across the river some intelligent employer is setting up shop with union or non-union people who are prepared to work for less, not bothering to bargain but simply taking advantage of collective agreements which are eventually struck across the river, thereby reintroducing, if you like, the seeds of discontent, the destruction of something which has proven to be successful.
There has not been a major strike in the waterfronts of Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Quebec or Three Rivers in ten years. The workers average between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. They earn it and are entitled to it. Yet the Canada Labour Relations Board, through decisions made in good faith, threatens that situation because it does not understand the spirit behind Section 132. It does not understand the importance of keeping the unions and management together. I mention this as an area which I do hope will be looked at every thoroughly by committee or by the House the next time the Code comes forward for debate. Perhaps Section 132 could be amended to make a little clearer to the members of the Canada Labour Relations Board what was the original intent of that particular section.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I share the views of the officials critic for labour of the Conservative Party. I share his concern for the argument advanced so eloquently by the Adventist Church. However, I must remind him as well that the Rand formula is not exactly breaking new ground. It is something which has been around for decades. It was introduced in the automobile industry. It was meant to provide a solution to people who did not want to belong to a union but who recognized that unions work on their behalf whether or not they are members. I have no opposition to the amendments which provide something whereby people of conscience could remain in the workforce and contribute indirectly to the work of the union.
I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that this is probably the most important piece of legislation which has gone through the House for some time. It is important because it is, perhaps, a belated recognition by the House and by the Government that unless the climate of co-operation between management and labour is such that the adversarial characteristics will be minimized, and unless the climate in this country is such that management, labour and government can work in unison in co-operation and dignity, we are not going to be able to maintain the flow of private capital to production, because we are still a decade behind the kind of industrial relationships which prevail in many other countries.
Subtopic: CANADA LABOUR CODE