Personal Data

New Democratic Party
Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
Birth Date
December 13, 1955
carpenter, unionist

Parliamentary Career

June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
May 2, 2011 - August 2, 2015
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)
May 2, 2011 -
  Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 514 of 518)

December 2, 1997

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Chairman, more than any other clause I think in the legislative package that caught everyone's eye and that everyone was immediately drawn to was clause 9. There was very broad agreement among our caucus that this clause had to be amended in order to make the legislation fair, to not tie the hands of the arbitrator and to result in any kind of settlement that might have a lasting resolve to try to put back together the shattered labour relations environment at Canada Post.

We have put forward amendments to the legislation that we believe would still meet the goals of the government when it puts forward this language, but take away some of the language that we felt was overtly partisan or one-sided.

We had strong feelings that the arbitrator, if bound by the original legislation, would have no option really in bringing down their ruling. They would have no opportunity to consider all the normal factors that an arbitrator should be bound by because there would be a preconceived outcome to the arbitrator's role by some of this language.

For instance, some of the language that we particularly objected to was the original language in clause 9(a)(i) where Canada Post would be bound to perform financially in a commercially acceptable range.

At first reading, that seems like a fairly innocuous statement. In actual fact, it would be an enormous policy shift for Canada Post in terms that it would be now bound. First of all, it is too vague because it does not say what sort of comparison, what is commercially viable. Second, it would be bound to a different way of conducting business forever.

Our feeling was that if the government is interested in changing a mandate of Canada Post or changing the Canada Post Corporation Act, it should be done through the front door with amendments moved to the Canada Post Corporation Act and not through the back door with back to work legislation.

This clearly went beyond what was necessary to get the employees back to work or to settle this round of bargaining. In fact, it read like a wish list for Canada Post.

The amendment that we are putting forward would still address all the legitimate concerns of the architects of this original clause but in a far more balanced way.

We would suggest that the real goal here is that the mediator/arbitrator shall be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with the Canada Post Corporation Act and the viability and financial stability of Canada Post, taking into account that Canada Post Corporation must without recourse undo increases in postal costs, operate efficiently, improve their productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.

That really sums up what the goals and objectives should be for a well-run organization bound by the parameters of the existing Canada Post Corporation Act.

We would hope that the other parties see fit to support this as a way to make the whole system more balanced and more fair, and to preclude tying the arbitrator to any preconceived outcome before they even get a chance to deal with the issues.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
Full View Permalink

December 2, 1997

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is customary to say that you are happy to rise to speak on a certain subject or a certain bill. I cannot say that today. I am not happy to be here speaking on this particular piece of legislation.

It is not one of the things that I came to Ottawa to do, to vote in favour of working against workers rights. We certainly have no intention of doing so.

I want to open by saying how critical the NDP is of this back to work legislation. We believe it is heavy handed. It is unnecessary. It is an unfortunate intervention into the free bargaining process. Ultimately it will only serve to draw out the hostile labour-management relations that exist at Canada Post and to condemn the Canadian public to this kind of problem over and over again because in actual fact none of the root causes of the hostility will be dealt with through the most civilized way of dealing with them which is free collective bargaining.

That avenue of recourse has been taken away by this legislation that we are dealing with today. Even if service is resumed, even if the postal workers go back to work and deliver mail, nothing really is going to be resolved and again we may be back here in three or four years having the same kind of debate and the same kind of argument.

What we should be looking for is a lasting resolution. The only hope for that kind of lasting resolution is by the parties sitting down in good faith and being allowed to bargain without interference. That is the key. All along in this round of bargaining we have been seeing one type of interference or another. From day one we can trace this history right back to when notice to commence bargaining was first served. The interference at that point was failing to come to the bargaining table in a reasonable amount of time.

There is no reason to be bargaining six months after the expiration of the collective agreement. That kind of bargaining should be done early in the year so that they can conclude a new collective agreement before the expiration of the old one. Work goes ahead, there is no work stoppage, the public is happy and workers are happy. That should be the goal and the objective. That did not happen.

Early in the negotiations, and we have heard other speakers make mention of this, we had the type of interference that is even more devastating which is that the spectre of back to work legislation was raised as early as, I believe, August 8. We heard the story from the hon. member, the House leader for the Bloc Quebecois, about the Canadian Direct Marketing Association informing its membership of a conversation it had with the minister responsible who guaranteed at that time don't worry about the delivery of your mail. Even if the negotiations grind down a bit, we'll have them legislated back to work in no time. It will be a very short interruption and within seven or eight days service will be resumed. I believe that is what he said.

How can we expect the two parties to sit at the bargaining table and be able to negotiate in any meaningful way when one party knows full well it has this heavy handed, unfair competitive advantage that it can pull out of its briefcase at any time, slap on the table and get virtually everything it wants? It is not a recipe for any kind of lasting solution. The kind of hostility that already existed before bargaining started was only compounded and escalated and resulted in the ultimate problem which is a work stoppage.

Again I say that we are critical of the legislation and I am in fact saddened to be standing here having this argument. We should be very cautious as the House of Commons and as legislators to never enter into any kind of legislation lightly which will limit or forfeit individual rights. That is the beginning. It is the thin edge of the wedge. It is the beginning of a slippery slope and it gets to be too easy and too comfortable to use that kind of a cop-out to solve complicated social problems.

Mussolini made the trains run on time. That is all very well and good, but is that the kind of direction we want to go in as a country? I would argue it is not.

We should never enter into lightly anything that would limit workers' rights to use the only weapon they really have in a meaningful way—perhaps weapon is the wrong word—the only tool they have to use, which is to withhold their services.

We might think that a strike is a violent thing or a disruptive thing. That is not necessarily so.

The very action of withholding one's services is a very peaceful and passive thing to do in an effort to settle an impasse of any type, just as negotiation is the most civilized way to try to resolve any impasse. When those negotiations break down, the next civilized thing to do in a situation like that is withhold one's services. It is a right that workers have been given under international conventions with the United Nations and the ILO because the world recognizes that this is one thing we have to have in order to remedy the historic imbalance that exists between employers and employees. There is an imbalance of power there that is clearly recognized and in order to level that playing field, workers need to be given that right.

Therefore as the House of Commons and as colleagues and legislators in this House, I really need to caution us to please keep in mind that we cannot let this kind of thing be a quick fix habit any time there is a dispute in the public sector or within the parameters of our influence, that we reach out for this heavy handed type of legislation that is a step backward for workers rights, human rights and individual rights. It puts us on that slippery slope to where we are not putting rights as our paramount and primary priority.

To understand some of the problems that we are going through today and to understand why we are here, we should have some background into the bargaining that led us into this mess. The outstanding issues are simple and both are mentioned in the legislation that has been tabled by the government.

The real issues of substance here are a shift in policy on the part of the corporation and the government to where excess revenues generated by Canada Post could be used for other purposes such as in general revenues, to pay down the deficit, et cetera. This has added a complication to the already complex bargaining relationship that has caused the problem we are having today and has resulted in this work stoppage.

The government has put undue pressure on Canada Post to yield these revenues and generate these excess revenues when in actual fact the mandate of Canada Post is to provide good quality service and to produce revenues to the degree that it can pay for its operating costs, capital investments and updating its physical plant. However, it was certainly never contemplated to be a cash cow milked by the federal government.

Canada Post Corporation is faced with this obligation to produce fixed amounts of revenue per year. It has already done all it could to increase productivity in the last seven or eight years. Even the former minister responsible for the post office, David Dingwall, commented that it had improved productivity by 63% in the years between 1982 and 1994. So it has done all it could in that respect. There has been an enormous increase in productivity.

At the same time, it had reduced its staff by 25%. I do not know how much more lean and mean, from a corporate point of view, one can get other than boosting one's productivity by 60% and reducing staff by 25%.

Now, even after all those gains, increasing and tightening of the belt or whatever the corporate terminology is, right sizing, there is this added pressure to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars more, not to add to the service provided by Canada Post but to add to the coffers of the Government of Canada. That is the pressure that Canada Post found itself under when it went to the bargaining table. The only way it could realize that kind of additional revenue was to dramatically change the rules of work and alter the workforce. It would have to harvest that revenue out of the existing workforce because it is not going to be able to do it out of increased marketing.

Naturally the union is then faced with the prospect, a looming spectre, of 4,000 job losses. It would be irresponsible on its part not to react in a vigorous way to oppose that kind of a job loss on behalf of the people it represents. Therein lies the impasse. It is really quite simple and easy to trace back. It would have been easy to fix at any time in the last six months of bargaining or at any time during the confines of this particular strike.

It would have been quite simple for the Government of Canada to tell Canada Post we are going to lighten up on this revenue thing. We want you to generate revenues sufficient to pay for operating costs and we are not too concerned about paying down the deficit using the revenues from Canada Post because it goes against the original mandate of Canada Post, against the Canada Post Corporations Act and against the mandate review that took place a recently as last year.

I would like to point out a quote from that mandate review. In the report from the Canada Post mandate review, George Radwanski recommended that Canada post be mandated to operate on a break even basis. He even said that it made no sense for Canada post to pay dividends to the federal government. He quite specifically referred to this a year ago. He said that such a requirement to pay dividends would result in postal rates that are higher than necessary, or it would result in fewer resources available to allocate for the necessary expansion of service considering that only 82% of Canadian households get direct mail delivery. There is a need for expansion of services.

The last thing I will read from the report is the actual recommendation. This is a quote from the report, recommendation No. 16: “That Canada Post Corporation be mandated to operate on a break even basis rather than pursue a commercial rate of return on equity, and that this break even basis be defined as generating sufficient revenue to cover operating costs to appropriate capital investments, expansions and improvements of core postal services, and the setting aside of such financial reserves to protect against revenue shortfalls and difficult years”.

That makes quite clear the intent and recommendation of this group of experts that reviewed the mandate of Canada Post. It clearly contemplated where excess revenues or where any revenues generated by Canada Post should be put.

What I am getting at is that we have a manufactured crisis here that was a tempest in a teapot, brought to a head by pressure brought by the federal government on Canada Post, which translated at the bargaining table into a demand essentially to change the work rules that would result in the loss of 4,000 jobs. No trade unionist worth their salt would have sat there and accepted that kind of an argument because it was so easy to trace back through recent history the mandate review, the Canada Post Corporations Act and anything else.

By way of background that is a bit of the history that got us to this terrible impasse; first the labour relations climate that has been hostile for a number of years, then the increased demand for revenue translating into problems at the bargaining table.

A solution to put the Canada postal service back to work and to provide service to Canadians and the small business people et cetera who are anxiously awaiting some kind of leadership from this House of Commons is the piece of legislation tabled yesterday. In retrospect, having had the luxury of time to review this and having come from a labour relations background where I have seen similar back to work documents, two clauses and two articles in the legislation leap out at me.

Previous speakers have correctly identified the key problem areas and we too will be presenting amendments to this legislation with the optimism that other members in the House will see the benefit in our arguments and put in place back to work legislation that is at least in keeping with the national standards of other back to work legislation and which does not go beyond the normal goals and objectives to get workers back into their jobs. That takes a bit of explanation.

I would like to start with article 9 of the proposed legislation, the terms of reference and the guiding principles that are set down for the mediator-arbitrator, really the things the arbitrator must take into consideration when making his or her rulings.

The way this clause is worded reads like a Christmas wish list for Canada Post. Within the parameters of this particular article lie virtually every hot and contentious proposition throughout the round of bargaining rolled up into one package and thrown into an article and snuck in the back door through the back to work legislation.

Normally back to work legislation, as I say, deals with getting workers back to work. It does not deal with making substantial changes to the way Canada Post conducts its business from now on and forever after.

That is what this clause would give licence to do. That is why it is offensive to us. We feel it is absolutely necessary that this clause be changed to put some element of fairness back into the whole round of bargaining and to the possible conclusion of the work stoppage.

I would like to read part of this clause that most offends members of our caucus. It says:

The mediator-arbitrator shall be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable industries in the private and public sectors and that will provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure the short and long term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation, taking into account

(a) that Canada Post Corporation must—perform financially in a commercially acceptable range,

None of this is from the Canada Post Corporation Act. None of this can be found in the mandate review. None of this has been agreed to. Our argument is that if the Liberal government plans to make these substantial changes to the way Canada Post conducts itself, it should do it through the front door with amendments to the Canada Post Corporation Act and not try to slide it in under the table with a piece of legislation that is supposed to restore postal service to Canadians.

We will certainly have an amendment to present under that article to change it to restore some semblance of fairness to the whole issue.

Another clause that obviously leaps out is that this piece of legislation dictates the wage increase the workers going back to work will receive. This goes well beyond what we would like to see in any kind of back to work legislation in that it takes the monetary package out of the hands of the arbitrator.

The arbitrator will no longer be able to consider what is fair or what is not fair. The arbitrator will not be able to look at the arguments that were made during the negotiations or take into consideration the employer's ability to pay or the market share or prevailing cost of living increases.

None of these issues will be there on the table for the arbitrator to look at because the increases will be predetermined within the legislation.

We are critical of the whole concept of having wages set by legislation because frankly MPs in the House are not qualified to vote on this issue. We were not privy to the debate. We do not have access to the books. We do not know the bargaining history. Why should we be voting on something as specific as a 1.9% increase in the year 2000?

It is not suitable to be dealt with in the House because with all due respect nobody here has that kind of background. The people at the bargaining table do and the arbitrator will. It should be up to the arbitrator to make that ruling.

Secondary to our criticisms of article 12, above and beyond the whole premise that it should not be there, is the fact that the wage offer made is actually lower than the last offer on the table from Canada Post Corporation to the union.

We do not know, as the House leader of the Bloc Quebecois indicated, whether that is out of malice, whether they are trying to rub somebody's nose into it, whether it is just an oversight, or whether it is strictly financially driven. It is such an insignificant amount that it leads me to believe that there is more here than just financial purposes.

Let me say what the difference is. The last offer made by Canada Post Corporation was 1.5% in year one, 1.75% in year two and 2% in year three. The mandated settlement here is identical except that in year three it is 1.9% instead of 2%. We are talking one-tenth of one per cent just as a significant sort of gesture. We are going to kick them while they are down. We are sending them back to work. We are taking away their right to strike. We are taking away any opportunity for them to have any input into what their wage settlement will be. By the way, we will take a little away from them too.

There is another more costly significant change in here. They are delaying the imposition of the increases by six months.

Whereas Canada Post offered to pay the wage increases retroactive to the date of the expiry of the collective agreement, this current legislated package states that the agreement will start on February 1, 1998, a difference we have calculated to be a saving of $35 million out of workers' pockets over the course of the three year life of the agreement.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Postal Services Continuation Act, 1997
Full View Permalink

December 2, 1997

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Chairman, I will speak very briefly on this because the amendment that we are going to speak to next that was put forward by the NDP is very similar.

We find it very easy to agree in principle with the hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois who put forward the last amendment. We too believe that the least the workers should be offered in this legislative settlement should be the offer which was last made by Canada Post and was left on the bargaining table when the bargaining collapsed.

To add to that, and you will see when we speak to the next amendment, our feeling is that while we believe the Bloc Quebecois is correct in its analysis, it should be the floor but it should not necessarily be the ceiling. It is almost merging these two resolutions. We should be merging the idea put forward by the Reform Party with the idea put forward by the Bloc.

The arbitrator will be free to choose a wage somewhere between the last offer from Canada Post and the last position of the union. It would give them a range to choose from. It would give them a scope the arbitrator could draw from. We believe that would be the best resolve to the whole matter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
Full View Permalink

December 2, 1997

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)


That Bill C-24, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing lines 33 to 39 on page 5 with the following:

“12. The collective agreement shall also be deemed to be amended by increasing the rates of pay by amounts to be determined by the mediator-arbitrator, provided that the increases be not less than the most recent offer of the Canada Post Corporation and not more than the last proposal put forward by the union.”

Mr. Chairman, this amendment is so close in substance to the amendment moved by the Bloc Quebecois that it really does not warrant entering into a major debate. The only qualifying statement that differentiates this from the Bloc's original amendment is that we are suggesting that the arbitrator's legislated settlement be no less than the last offer from Canada Post and no more than the last demand from the union.

It would give the arbitrator a range within which to choose. We believe that is in keeping with the role of an arbitrator, who should have a free hand, who should be able to look at the market conditions and the profitability of the corporation to find a compromise position between the company's last offer and the employee's last demand for a wage increase.

We would hope that the Bloc Quebecois members would be able to see fit to support our amendment. By the same token, other members should be able to see the basic issue of fairness here.

The previous speaker, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, raised the issue that it really makes us wonder, when this offer is such a small amount lower than the last offer left on the table, if it is not sheer malice or if it is not mockery or trying to rub the employees' noses further into the ground. Kick them while they are down. That is the only reason we can think of for an offer which is one-tenth of one per cent in the third year lower than the last offer from Canada Post. That much we would think would be corrected automatically just out of good faith. It amounts to pennies.

The issue of substance here is that the starting date for the proposed wage increase has been moved ahead by six months. That amounts to a lot of money. By the calculations of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers it amounts to $8 million per year. Compounded over three years, I believe the figure is in the neighbourhood of $25 million to $27 million. Less wages will go into the pockets of the employees during the lifetime of the collective agreement.

It is massive. It is simply taking advantage of a bad situation. If the employer was prepared to put that money into wages when bargaining fell apart, surely that money had already been allocated for that purpose and is readily available. They are harvesting that money out of this unfortunate situation, taking advantage of a bad situation.

We would appeal to the other parties to support this amendment. We believe it will answer the concerns of all parties on our side. It answers the Bloc's original concern that it should be not less than the last offer. It answers the Reform Party's idea that the arbitrator should have a free hand in ruling what the wage increase should be. We have pulled those two ideas together into one composite amendment which we are suggesting is the fairest position.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
Full View Permalink

December 2, 1997

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Chairman, maybe I can answer briefly.

The member from the Reform Party indicated that we are for arbitration but we are not for FOS. That is not clear. Nothing we have done should lead him to believe that we are voting in favour of back to work legislation or binding arbitration. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

Yesterday when the government asked for unanimous consent to move speedy passage of the bill and not be faced with obstacles and stumbling blocks it got our unanimous consent.

The member from the Reform Party has no idea how we will vote on the back to work legislation and binding arbitration. I think he could probably guess how we will vote on it. I can guarantee it will not be the same way he is thinking.

In terms of final offer selection we have read the member's outline in detail. Adding more pages to it does not give the idea any more merit. It was a flawed idea to begin with it. It was worth floating as a trial balloon but piling on the pieces of paper and raising it over and over again do not give a bad idea any more merit.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 48
Full View Permalink