Osvaldo NUNEZ

NUNEZ, Osvaldo

Personal Data

Bloc Québécois
Bourassa (Quebec)
Birth Date
September 10, 1938
arbitrator, lawyer, union advisor

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Bourassa (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 79)

March 18, 1997

Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ)

Madam Speaker, my colleague is pleased with the budget and the success in the battle against the deficit. However, he does not say a word about child poverty, a serious issue in Canada and Quebec nowadays.

There are 1.5 million children who live in poverty in this country, and the government has no real intention of solving this problem. The government has set targets in its battle against the deficit and it has met them, but it has not set any objectives in dealing with the very serious problem of child poverty.

I would like the member to explain to us why the government is investing only $600 million in the fight against child poverty, while various anti-poverty organizations tell us that it must immediately invest at least $2 billion in concrete measures in order to address this problem.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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March 18, 1997

Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the fourth budget tabled in this House by the finance minister, on February 18.

It is an election-minded budget because most of the cuts had already been announced in the three previous budgets. Once again, the main victims of that budget are the provinces, the middle class, the unemployed and the poor. The greatest tragedy, the biggest scandal in Canada, the major failure of this government is the unemployment rate.

However, this budget does nothing in the area of job creation. The Liberals rely solely on market forces and on the private sector for job creation. Up until now, that strategy has been a total failure. Yet, during the 1993 election campaign, the Liberals did promise they would create jobs, jobs, jobs, as their famous slogan said.

They did not meet that commitment, which was a determining factor in their victory. The Liberals have consistently reduced the access to and duration of UI benefits. Let me remind you that, when the Liberals came into office in 1993, only 33 per cent or a third of the unemployed did not receive benefits. Today, the figure is 55 per cent. It is appalling.

To these restrictions, we must add the carelessness of the government and its failure to act when faced with multiple business shutdowns. On that point, I would like to draw your attention to one human tragedy that occurred in Montréal-Nord, in my riding of Bourassa; at the end of February, the Zellers distribution centre announced that it would close on July 1. Because of that closure, 379 men and women will lose their jobs in my riding, which is already hard hit by unemployment and poverty.

I have asked the federal ministers of industry and labour and the President of the Treasury Board, who is responsible for Quebec, to take the necessary measures to prevent that distribution centre from closing so that these workers may keep their jobs and their dignity.

I hope that the federal government will act in good faith and co-operate on this issue. I hope also that the results of its action will demonstrate that it is truly trying to create jobs. Up to now, I have not had any response from the government on this.

Since 1993, I have been the official opposition critic for Citizenship and Immigration. Therefore, I would like to make a few comments on that department. The budgetary needs for 1997-98 have been set at $575 million, that is to say $40 million less than the previous year. The budget was reduced 6.5 per cent over last year, and the staff 20 per cent.

Since the Liberals came back to power, the government has imposed unprecedented cuts on the department. Several centres in Quebec and elsewhere were closed, and thousands of employees were let go, at a time where extra efforts are needed to integrate newcomers.

Yet, with the creation of an immigration tax of $975 per person, and a $500 fee per application, plus the steep increase in other user fees, revenues have increased tremendously. They will reach$363 million for the current year and cover 63 per cent of expenditures. Previously the revenues amounted only to 54 per cent of expenditures.

Despite budget cuts, the government will spend $3.4 million on the promotion of Canadian citizenship. This money will be used for advertising and propaganda campaigns to promote Canadian unity. If we add the tens of millions of dollars allocated to this same objective by the heritage department, it is clear that the government is making cuts in areas in which it should be investing, while wasting public funds on unnecessary things.

Last November, I went to Taiwan as part as a parliamentary delegation. In Taipei, I met with the diplomats and immigration officers of the Canadian mission. I learned that, just from granting visitor's visas and charging fees to the Taiwanese who come to live in Canada, the government had collected more than $9 million in the last year. It must be pointed out that more than 100,000 Taiwanese tourists came here in 1996. Yet, the mission only costs a third of that amount. At that rate, the citizenship and immigration department will be making profits in a few years, which is neither the role nor the objective of the government with regard to immigration.

I would also like to deal with the issue of child poverty. One child out of five lives in poverty in Canada. Among industrialized nations, this country ranks second after the United States for child poverty. The Liberal government forgets that children are the future of the country. The budget does nothing to create jobs and unemployment means poverty. There are 1.5 million poor children in Canada. That is appalling.

In the face of this disastrous situation, the government is only committed to injecting $600 million, which is clearly not enough. According to the Caledon Institute, there should be at least$2 billion more each year to really deal with poverty.

As in the previous years, this budget has been praised by big business and the financial sector. However, it has been denounced and condemned by the labour movement and anti-poverty organizations.

Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, has this to say: "This budget is a cynical and political attempt by the federal Liberals to manipulate public opinion before the next election". He adds: "We were told that, if we reduced the deficit and focused on business, everything would fall into place. However, the private sector itself has shown that it is unable to generate

the jobs that Canadians need, and the finance minister's cuts have only made the situation worse".

As for Bob White, the president of the CLC, he condemned the fact that the Liberals have cut $14 billion in social programs since 1994. He said this: "The only plan this government had with regard to job creation is to put blind and almost reverend trust in the markets to do the job".

In Quebec, similar criticisms were voiced by FTQ, CSN and CEQ leaders. FTQ president Clément Godbout deplored the lack of job creation initiatives, particularly ones encouraging the reduction of work time and the restructuring of work. He also condemned the cuts made in transfer payments, which hit Quebec real hard.

I condemn this fourth budget of the Liberals because it does not give any hope to the 1.5 million Canadians and Quebecers who are jobless or to the 1.5 million who are employable but have given up looking for a job. It is a scandal to have 10 per cent unemployment in Canada, and more than 20 per cent in my riding of Bourassa. Even Chile, a developing country, has managed to bring unemployment down to 5 per cent, as in the U.S.

It is unacceptable that 17 per cent of our young people do not have jobs, that the wages of millions of workers have been either frozen or cut back, that 5 million Canadians and Quebecers-a 500,000 increase since the Liberals took office-live under the poverty line, that some businesses and some rich people do not pay taxes, that the gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing. That is an immoral and outrageous situation the federal government should deal with.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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March 13, 1997

Mr. Nunez

Madam Speaker, I was late, but had I been here I would have voted with my party.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Copyright Act
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March 11, 1997

Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to take part in the third reading debate of Bill C-66 to amend the Canada Labour Code. It is a reform of part I of the code dealing with labour relations.

Key changes include the creation of the Canada Industrial Relations Board; the modification of the conciliation process; the clarification of the rights and obligations of parties during a work stoppage; a requirement for parties involved in a work stoppage to continue services necessary to protect public health and safety; making the undermining of a trade union's representational capacity during a strike or lockout an unfair labour practice; and improving access to collective bargaining for off-site workers.

The Canada Labour Code has not undergone major changes since the early 1970s. We all know that labour relations are a fast evolving area. In 1995, the then Minister of Labour established a task force composed of labour relations experts, including Rodrigue Blouin, professor of industrial relations at Laval University, and Paula Knopf, under the chairmanship of Andrew Sims.

The mandate of the task force was to recommend changes to part I of the code. Its report entitled "Seeking a Balance" was made public in February 1996. Labour unions and employers under federal jurisdiction in the private sector agreed with several general recommendations made by the task force. However, there was no consensus on some very important issues such as replacement workers. I recognize that this bill contains certain positive elements, but it also contains many flaws.

It must be noted that the Canada Labour Code applies to some 700,000 workers and their employers under federal jurisdiction. This sector includes banks, interprovincial and international rail and road transportation, pipelines and shipping, airports and air carriers, broadcasting and telecommunications, port operations and longshoring, grain handling and other industries declared to be to the general advantage of Canada, as well as some crown corporations. The code also applies to private sector employers and workers in the territories.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board, composed of a chairperson and vice-chairpersons and an equal number of members representing employers and workers, will replace the present Canada Labour Relations Board. These individuals will be appointed by the government. My fear is that here, as with other organizations like the IRB, the main criterion for appointment will be the political affiliation of candidates, not their ability, despite the labour minister's earlier attempts to reassure us.

The board is expected to deal rapidly with routine and urgent matters. Certain cases will be able to be heard by the vice-chairperson alone, rather than by a panel of three, as is now the case. One of the major difficulties today is the length of time it takes the board to process cases.

I have already spoken to the labour minister about the serious problems existing within the board, particularly the chairman's lack of leadership. The minister's response was neither satisfactory nor appropriate.

I hope that, with the amendments introduced by this bill, the operation of this organization will improve in future. Certain powers of the board need to be clarified, particularly with respect to the review of bargaining units and the sale of companies. It will also have to take the appropriate action with respect to certain unfair labour practices, such as those involving bargaining in bad faith. It will also be able to certify a union, even if it does not have the support of the majority of members, in cases of unfair practices by an employer.

The board will have the discretionary power to give an authorized union representative the names and addresses of employees whose normal workplace is not on the premises of the employer and to authorize the union to communicate with those employees.

I am opposed to Bill C-66 for a number of reasons, although I do acknowledge that it contains some positive points. This is an inadequate and incomplete reform. The Liberal Government has lacked courage on some very significant points, such as anti-scab clauses. Replacement workers can still be used, for the minister has made only one cosmetic change in that area.

In this connection, the government has shown itself incapable of siding with the workers. It has shown itself instead to be pro-employer. As in other bills, it has accentuated its slant to the right by giving in to pressure from employers. It must be kept in mind that the Liberal Party of Canada had voted in favour of the anti-scab measures when in opposition.

My major criticism of this bill is the lack of real anti-scab measures. As you know, I was involved for 19 years in the FTQ, the major central labour body in Quebec, which has a membership of close to half a million, 480,000 to be exact. This past February 16 marked the 40th anniversary of its founding. I attended celebrations at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. These were held in exactly the same room its founding assembly had taken place in

A very well made video on the history of the FTQ was shown.

It was a moving experience to hear the first leaders, many of whom are still alive, of a labour congress that today plays a major role in Quebec society. I am very proud of the years I spent in this organization with outstanding leaders like Louis Laberge, Fernand Daoust, Clément Godbout, Henri Massé, Claude Ducharme, Émile Boudreau, and so forth.

It was after a strike that went on for more than 18 months at United Aircraft, today Pratt & Whitney, in Longueuil, a strike led in 1974-75 by the Canadian Auto Workers union affiliated with the FTQ, that the Parti Quebecois government and the National Assembly adopted anti-scab legislation in 1976. It was the first legislation of its kind in Canada and came into force in 1977.

Unlike the Quebec system, because of the lack of anti-scab provisions in the Canada Labour Code, employers can resort with impunity to using replacement workers during a labour dispute. This also creates an imbalance that prevents free bargaining in good faith. It is also a source of frustration and violence. The presence of scabs, escorted by private security guards and often by the police, is unacceptable and indeed shocking. Workers who built the reputation of a business or an institution see scabs walking past them every day.

Previously, I spoke out in the House of Commons against the use of replacement workers at Ogilvie Mills in Montreal, where the workers are represented by the CSN. We also saw instances of violence in other labour disputes, especially in the railway sector.

I therefore tabled in the House on October 22, 1996, Bill C-338, legislation that would add anti-scab provisions to the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The bill also contains provisions to ensure that essential services are maintained in the event of a strike or a lock-out.

If passed, the bill will apply to more than 700,000 Canadian workers in federally regulated sectors.

By tabling this bill, I kept a promise I made before I was elected as a member of Parliament. Unfortunately, up to now, it is still at first reading, as it has not yet been selected in the draw.

However, many union leaders, lawyers, university professors and labour relations experts have expressed their support for it. Some union people have even written their members asking them to vote in favour of C-338 when the time comes. Despite the fact that the government showed no courage in this area, I know that a number of Liberal members agree with such legislation. Naturally my own party, the Bloc Quebecois, has expressed its approval and supports my efforts. The union movement is also going to have to exert a lot of pressure to get the federal government to introduce anti- scab legislation, finally.

Bill C-66 before us does not contain a blanket prohibition against the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage or a lockout. It prohibits their use in one very limited instance. Thus the new section 94 of the code will read as follows:

No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use, for the purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity, the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit on the date on which notice to bargain collectively was given and was hired or assigned after that date to perform all or part of the duties of an employee in the bargaining unit on strike or locked out.

Unfortunately, in his speech this morning in response to criticism from management, the minister interpreted this section even more restrictively.

The industrial relations board will decide if an unfair practice undermines a trade union's representational capacity. This is hard to prove. If it is proven, the board will order the employer to stop using replacement workers as long as the dispute lasts. I hope the board will act quickly on issues of this kind. If it were to wait too long before coming to a decision, clause 94 would be inoperative. And the dispute would be settled before the board handed down its decision, probably to the detriment of one of the parties.

The government should look into the Quebec's experience since 1977, which has been very positive. Its antiscab provisions have resulted in less violence and reduced tension on the picket line. Members will remember that, at the time, this legislation met with a lot of anger and negative feelings on the part of Quebec's Conseil du patronat, which even challenged it in court. A decision of the Supreme Court of Canada allowed it to proceed as the representatives of employers. However, subsequently, the Conseil du patronat decided to drop the challenge because it felt that the labour relations climate in Quebec had changed a lot since passage of the legislation and, consequently, it did not want to antagonize labour. Canadian business leaders should show similar open mindedness.

I have other criticisms of Bill C-66. For instance, too many conditions apply to the right to strike or to lock out. Why should a union have to hold a secret ballot within 60 days before a strike? Why should it have to give notice of a strike 72 hours in advance?

This provision obliges the union to hold several ballots whenever negotiations drag on. Also, strike mandates will tend to disappear. The notice period is too long, even unnecessary. Because of these hard to meet requirements, many strikes will become illegal. But what is even more unacceptable is the labour minister's powers to impose a secret ballot on the employer's last offers. I condemn this undue political interference in labour relations. It is unwar-

ranted meddling in the collective bargaining process, by a third party.

I already condemned the use of this provision, passed by Parliament in 1993, during last year's dispute between Canadian International Airlines and the CAW. The vote was held. The employees agreed to new cuts in salary and new concessions, over and above what had been imposed previously. But it is not sure yet if Canadian will be able to survive.

I already mentioned some operating problems in the Canada Labour Relations Board. The bill provides for some reforms to this organization, but it should have gone a little further. For example, the government is committed to consult labour and management with regard to appointments, but it has refused to make such appointments based on lists provided by the parties. The minister missed a good opportunity to ensure that the board becomes truly representative of the parties. Political patronage, which is a trademark of this government, will continue.

Also, the board did not receive extended powers allowing it to order any compensation that, according to its judgment and experience, would reasonably correct any violation of the code and any harm that such violation may have caused.

Moreover, the bill does not deal with a demand that was made several years ago by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which is that public servants come under part I of the Canada Labour Code. At the present time, the alliance cannot negotiate the issue of employment security, protection against technological change, job classification, appointments, promotions, transfers and so on, because it is governed by the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

Also, the bill does not allow RCMP officers to unionize and to resort to collective bargaining for their working conditions, which is unfortunate.

In the area of technological change, the government could also have been a little more daring. It could have gone further in this area, which is essential to the economic development of any country today. Workers and unions must be involved in technological change.

I would like to talk briefly about preventive withdrawal from work. Women's reproductive function causes serious discrimination in the workplace. Still today, the Canada Labour Code does not adequately protect the rights of pregnant women and nursing mothers. This is why I support the campaign launched by the Public Service Alliance of Canada to address this rather regrettable situation.

Under normal circumstances, pregnant women should be able to work. However, safe and healthy working conditions will have to be provided to ensure nothing threatens the woman or the child she is carrying or nursing.

Unfortunately, not all employers apply this principle. Instead of making the workplace a safer and healthier place-which would benefit all workers-several employers take the easy way out and withdraw pregnant women from work.

This is why the Canada Labour Code should include special provisions to ensure pregnant or nursing women can continue to work in a safe and healthy environment or receive compensation equal to their pay. In addition, it is important that this legislation apply to all Canadian women. It is time society assumed its responsibilities.

Women should not have to put up alone with the drawbacks of reproduction. Again, I call upon the government to introduce legislation on this.

Furthermore, the Sims report recommended that some powers held by the Minister of Labour be transferred to the federal mediation and conciliation service, which, unfortunately, has not been done.

Finally, I regret the government majority defeated every amendment moved by the Bloc Quebecois, although these were all amendments designed to improve the bill. For these reasons, I will vote against Bill C-66.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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March 11, 1997

Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the report released last Friday by the B'nai Brith showed that the number of antisemitic incidents in Canada had dropped substantially, by26 per cent, between 1995 and 1996.

In Quebec, whose Jewish community is one of the largest in Canada, the drop in the number of such incidents was 40 per cent. Renowned for its tolerance, Quebec has now become the region where the plague of antisemitism is the least widespread, with12 per cent of the incidents for 24 per cent of the population.

In September 1996, I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington. There I saw the extent of the tragedy and suffering endured by the Jewish people during the second world war. I encourage governments to keep up the fight to eradicate antisemitism in our societies.

I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Jewish community for its remarkable contribution to the development of Quebec and Canada.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Antisemitism
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