Bill C-328 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Monique Guay Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Private Member's Business
April 23rd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
Mike Wallace Burlington, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to this motion.
Today the House is debating a motion tabled by my hon. colleague, proposing to make significant changes to key sections of the Canada Labour Code. This motion, if passed, will ban the right of federal employers to use replacement workers during a labour stoppage.
These proposed measures should not be treated lightly. This motion is the most recent of a series of attempts by some members of the House to try to bring wholesale changes to federal labour law in Canada without consultation or compromise.
Let me be clear. We remain firmly opposed to the motion, just as we have been opposed to similar legislation or legislative efforts introduced previously in the House. Our position is clear. We do not support the proposed amendments in Motion No. 294, and there are four compelling reasons why.
First, our modernized Canada Labour Code works well. It provides adequate protection to employees involved in a legal work stoppage.
Second, the motion, if passed, will disrupt the balance that was achieved when the Canada Labour Code was modernized back in 1999. It will leave federal employers unable to operate at minimal levels during a strike or lockout. This in turn could result in productivity losses to our national economy at a time when Canadians can least afford it.
Third, it would make labour relations more adversarial in the country. Energies and resources should be focused on solving labour relation issues in a peaceful manner. This is a situation that no one can afford to have happen during times of economic uncertainty both in Canada and around the world.
Fourth, we do not see any compelling evidence to support the argument that a ban on the use of replacement workers would reduce the number or duration of work stoppages and benefit workers in a federal jurisdiction.
As I mentioned earlier, the motion is the latest in a series of similar legislative efforts. It is worth taking a moment to take note of that fact, because they share some of the common characteristics and deficiencies of previous legislative efforts over the last number of years.
Over the past two decades, the House had debated numerous private members' bills on the matter of replacement workers in the federal domain.
First, there was Bill C-201, tabled in April of 1989. Next, there was Bill C-317, tabled in June of 1995. There were two more attempts between 2002 and 2005 in the form of Bill C-328 and Bill C-263, the latter of which was defeated after second reading. Next, there was Bill C-257, tabled in May of 2006. It was also defeated on third reading. Finally, there was the predecessor to the motion before us today, which was Bill C-415. It died on the order paper at the dissolution of Parliament in September of 2008.
All these bills were defeated because a majority of members of the House recognized that what each bill proposed would be ineffective and would have negative effects on labour relations and on the economic health of Canada.
A common characteristic shared by some of the more recent legislative efforts is that they do not fully consider just how vital it is that a middle ground be maintained between unions and employers on the matter of replacement workers. They overlook what was accomplished when the Canada Labour Code was modernized in 1999. The existing replacement worker provision in section 94(2.1) of the Labour Code was the product of much consultation with stakeholders. It also provided an ever important characteristic, one that is the backbone of this country, and that is compromise.
Existing provisions do permit employers to at least try to carry on basic operations during work stoppages. However, it also protects the union's right to strike and its bargaining authority. The balance would have been lost if any of these private member's bills had been passed by the House to eventually become law.
Motion No. 294 before this House today is no different in terms of the disruption that it would pose to labour relations and the economic health of our nation. As with the private member's bills that have preceded it, this motion stands in complete opposition to the well-established facts about replacement worker legislation.
I will review these key facts in the House right now.
First, legislation of that nature is rare in Canada. Only two provinces have legislation that restricts the right of employers to use the services of replacement workers during work stoppages. Quebec implemented its legislation in 1977. In 1993, British Columbia passed its own regulations. Ontario had enacted similar provisions in 1993 but they were repealed in 1995.
That leads me to my second point of fact. After nearly two decades of experience with this kind of legislation in Quebec and in British Columbia, the results are not encouraging for Canadian workers. Statistical data analysis provided by the labour program suggests both of these provinces continue to experience work stoppages of long duration and the length of their work stoppages is not that much different from other jurisdictions in Canada that do not have the replacement worker legislation.
For instance, in the period from 2005 to 2007, the average duration of a work stoppage in Quebec was 43.8 days compared to 43.6 days in Ontario and 41 days in the federal jurisdiction. This data supports independent findings which maintain that statutory prohibitions on the use of replacement workers are not necessarily effective in reducing the duration of a work stoppage.
That takes me to the third key fact that I want to share with the House this evening. Since the 1980s, over 90% of disputes in federal jurisdiction have been settled without a work stoppage, and that is often with the assistance of federal mediators and officers. In the majority of cases, employers do not employ external replacement workers to keep their operations functioning. Instead, they reassign management and other non-bargaining unit personnel.
What does Motion No. 294 seek to accomplish? In light of the facts that I have shared with the House, it is unclear what the drafters of Motion No. 294 are seeking to accomplish with this latest in a series of legislative attempts to drastically revise the Canada Labour Code, the outcome of which would essentially outlaw any use of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction. It cannot be to bring about balance and fairness to labour relations in Canada. The proposed amendments would undo what has been achieved over the past decade. It cannot be a solution to help reduce the number of work stoppages. The experiences in the two provinces with anti-replacement worker legislation show us that they continue to struggle with lengthy work stoppages. It cannot be a solution that would help boost Canada's ability in today's competitive environment.
The proposed amendments call for changes that would bring instability and uncertainty to Canadian labour relations and would do so in the midst of significant global economic difficulties.
The facts and the risks posed by anti-replacement worker legislation are just as clear today as they were in the past. As with each previous legislative attempt introduced in this House, this motion calls for amendments that would ultimately harm workers and undermine the labour peace that both sides have enjoyed for years.
For those reasons, I remain firmly opposed to this motion.
The Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
October 22nd, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-328 under private members' business.
After the taking of the vote:
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
October 21st, 2003 / 6:25 p.m.
Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON
Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to join the debate on this bill.
The issue of replacement workers is a controversial one and one that can be guaranteed to generate debate wherever it is introduced. However, anyone who knows the labour policy file, knows that it is virtually impossible to achieve consensus on this issue. Typically, employers and their representatives have one point of view and just as typically, employees and the unions have an opposing point of view. That is only natural.
Bill C-328 represents only one of these points of view, and that is the union side. However, I feel the government has to bring a balanced perspective to this issue, such as it did when it made the changes to the Canada Labour Code in 1999. At that time, the government consulted widely with representatives of employees and employers as well as many professional consultants who were familiar with labour policy issues. It was clear then that there were two opposing points of view on the question of prohibiting the use of replacement workers under the Canada Labour Code.
It is clear that no consensus position or compromise looks likely today. Therefore, the balanced approach to a legislative solution, which the government introduced in 1999, is still the right approach to deal with this issue today.
The current provisions of part I of the Canada Labour Code mean that the employers in the federal jurisdiction are not strictly prohibited from using replacement workers during times of work stoppage, but rather that their use of such workers is subject to clear constraints. For example, replacement workers cannot be used to thwart the legitimate bargaining objectives of a union during a legal strike or lockout. Thus, employers are provided with some flexibility to use replacement workers to continue operating, but they cannot engage in unfair labour practices.
This balanced approach to the issue of replacement worker legislation was debated actively, with great vim and vitality, and agreed to finally by this House in 1999. Since then it has been accepted as a practical reality by most parties governed by the Canada Labour Code, not everyone but most.
By advocating for a prohibition on the use of replacement workers during work stoppages, Bill C-328 would upset this balanced approach. It would reopen a divisive debate that took place during the time leading up to amendments in the Canada Labour Code in 1999. We do not think that is the way to go.
As it is now, well over 90% of the workplace disputes under the Canada Labour Code are settled without a strike or lockout. Therefore, in the overwhelming majority of cases the question of replacement workers is not even an issue because there is no work stoppage and no need to replace striking or locked out workers. As well, most employers that fall under federal jurisdiction would not use outside replacement workers during strikes or lockouts, in any case, because they would use members from the non-bargaining units or management.
Thus, for the over 700,000 workers under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code, the question of replacement workers is not likely to be a major concern. Of course, there are many other employees in Canada who are not subject to the Canada Labour Code.
I think it is important to remind members of the House that jurisdiction for labour legislation in Canada is shared between the federal and provincial governments.
This is extremely important. Close to 90% of Canadian workers, for example, are governed by provincial labour legislation and some provinces do have a legislated ban on the use of replacement workers. For instance, we know Quebec has had such legislation in place since the 1970s and British Columbia since 1993. Ontario brought in replacement worker legislation in 1993, but it was repealed in 1995.
Even though the Canadian way is to share jurisdiction for labour legislation between federal and provincial governments, we all share a common vision. That shared vision is to promote fair, safe, healthy, stable, cooperative and productive work environments, work environments that contribute to the social and economic well-being of all.
On a personal note I must say that I know the value of unions. Through the negotiating process they have played a major role in uplifting the quality of life and enhancing the lifestyles of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I have had the experience. I have been on the picket line. I know what it means to be in a position to fight for one's rights.
A study on the impact of the ban on replacement workers in these provincial jurisdictions was performed in 1999. It provides us with some interesting findings to consider in the context of this debate.
The researchers found that legislation prohibiting the use of replacement workers could actually prolong work shortages. In the study for example, they show the effect of a ban on replacement workers was to prolong strikes by 31.6 days. They also found that prohibition on replacement workers correlated to an increase in the incidence of strikes. Let me say that a different way. This study found that a ban on the use of replacement workers meant not only longer strikes, but also more of them.
Findings like these raise challenging questions for those who hold the view that a ban on the use of replacement workers will improve the labour management relations climate. In fact, this study on replacement worker legislation suggests the opposite might be true. By the way, the study was done for the September 1999 issue of the “Labour Law Journal” and is entitled “The impacts of strike and replacement bans in Canada”.
The point is that there are different opinions on this question. That is why the compromise approach that we currently have in place under part I of the Canada Labour Code is the right one. It does not support one side or the other as Bill C-328 does. It works to balance the rights of workers to protect their interests during legal work stoppages. At the same time, it allows employers some flexibility to continue to operate.
This is an issue that the government has considered very carefully on a number of occasions. It is one that remains of ongoing interest. It is not a matter that the government believes requires specific new legislative action at this time. Therefore, we do not support Bill C-328.
October 21st, 2003 / 10:20 a.m.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege this morning to present to the House a petition bearing 46,000 signatures in support of my bill, Bill C-328, which will be considered this afternoon for a second hour.
I hope that the 46,000 petitioners will be heard and that, when members vote on this anti-scab legislation tomorrow, they will remember that over 46,000 people from Quebec and the rest of Canada have signed a petition supporting the bill. Without further ado, I present this petition to the House.
Canada Labour Code
Statements By Members
September 15th, 2003 / 2:05 p.m.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois and I toured more than 30 ridings in Quebec to meet with union representatives and to raise awareness of the need for federal legislation that is as effective as the anti-scab legislation in Quebec.
All the stakeholders unanimously applauded and supported my bill, which is designed to prohibit the use of scabs. Adopting Bill C-328 will correct the injustice suffered by the workers at Cargill, Vidéotron, SECUR, Société du Vieux-Port and that the workers at Radio Nord Communications in Abitibi have been suffering for more than ten months.
In a few weeks parliamentarians in this House will be asked to participate in an historical vote. In a show of solidarity, I call on parliamentarians and the public to sign the petition that is circulating throughout Quebec and Canada in support of workers.
May 1st, 2003 / 1:50 p.m.
Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is with a deep feeling of justice that I rise today to speak to the Bloc Quebecois motion that asks very clearly:
That this House recognize the urgency of amending the Canada Labour Code to ban the use of strikebreakers.
Everybody recognizes that in Quebec during the last 50 years of the twentieth century, 1976 was a turning point. That was the year René Lévesque came to power. The following year, the National Assembly passed an anti-scab law. I would like to talk about Quebec before and after 1977.
What happened in Quebec before 1977? Even though I was very young, I still remember very clearly the strike in Asbestos. I clearly remember the strike in Murdochville. I clearly remember the strike at Radio-Canada. Those strikes were long, tough and marred by violence, by a blatant lack of respect for workers and their families. Wildcat strikes such as those that occurred in Quebec before 1977 resulted in extremely violent clashes between workers and employers.
In life, when disputes occur, they have come to an end eventually and then we must move on together. After each violent strike, huge walls separated employers and workers. I do not know if there are many members in this chamber who have been on picket lines. For my part I was on a picket line three times. The first time was in 1963. It was the first time nurses were on strike, and it was an illegal strike on top of that. It lasted one month. There were no scabs because the workers to be replaced were nurses and naturally in those days nurses were just as scarce as today.
In 1973, I was still at the hospital, and the hospitals were again on strike. Therefore, there were no scabs that time either. I firmly believe that if there had been scabs, the hospital work environment after the strike would have been terrible. Patients would have paid the price of that terrible environment and that would have been unacceptable.
Quebec has had anti-scab legislation since 1977 and British Columbia since 1993. My colleague for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has mentioned some figures that were not to the liking of our friend on the other side.
Maybe I should mention some figures on recent disputes in Quebec businesses governed by the Canada Labour Code.
An 18-month-plus strike with scabs forced Vidéotron to sell off a large number of shares. Mr. Péladeau was a little put out and not very happy. At Sécur, the strike lasted three months. At Cargill, the strike is entering into its fourth year.
I am so worked up that I have forgotten to say that I must share my time with my colleague for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, since I will have to leave after oral questions.
The strike at Cargill is in its fourth year. At Radio Nord Communications, it has gone on for six months and we are wondering when it will be over.
One thing is quite clear. When a strike lasts, as it did at Vidéotron, more than 340, 350 person days, how do you think families can survive? How do you think social networks can hold up? These disputes create unacceptable social tensions. I believe that the present Canada Labour Code promotes these social tensions.
I will read you a quote from a worker at Cargill. This quote comes from an article that appeared in La Tribune in late January 2003. Here is what this man said:
I found work eight times.
When you are out of your company for many years, you try to find work to survive:
And in all eight of them, Cargill managed to have me fired. In the meantime, we are still tied to Cargill. We cannot get employment insurance or social assistance. If the lock-out lasts 10 years, I will not be eligible for employment insurance.
We know where the employment insurance surplus comes from.
Even if I worked elsewhere for six years, the day I am fired, I will still be considered to be in lock-out status.
This is a striker who is speaking. This is someone who must wonder every day if he will be able to put enough food on the table for his family, to pay his mortgage.
I will quote a professor of industrial relations at Laval University.
He is very clear. He states:
In the absence of federal legislation, a dispute turns into a war of attrition where the most powerful wins. This encourages traditional strategies that are disruptive and damaging for economic and social performance.
Furthermore, these traditional strategies are confrontational.
I would also like to address another issue. Canada takes great pride, and rightly so, in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, the charter is a wonderful piece of legislation and serves as a model to the whole world. I wonder if the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not give a worker, who is first and foremost a citizen, the right to respect and justice. I wonder if the Charter does not give a citizen, who is also a worker, the right to bargain in good faith.
In your opinion, Mr. Speaker, will the Charter of Rights and Freedoms create or recognize the need for arrogance or scorn, which are seen in disputes that last for months on end and during which employers do not hesitate to hire replacement workers to do the job? Will the Charter of Rights foster social and economic tension? I have great respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I am certain that it does not condone unfair social tension.
I encourage all members to support the motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois and I ask all parliamentarians to strongly support Bill C-328 when it comes back to the House. Thus, Canada will follow Quebec's lead and I will be absolutely delighted.
May 1st, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion brought forward by the Bloc Quebecois.
Today being May 1, which is International Workers Day, the Bloc Quebecois motion that we are debating in the House is even more important.
The motion reads as follows:
That this Houserecognize the urgency of amending the Canada Labour Code to ban the use of strikebreakers.
I am from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area, the most unionized region in Quebec, and I am proud to say so. I am proud to say that, over the years, my region has contributed to the constant evolution of Quebec's society. It has helped workers, employers and society as a whole to feel comfortable within a specific framework which everyone helped put in place.
I fail to understand why the government is being so stubborn. I do not know if it can be so out of touch. However, today, it will have to tell all workers how out of touch it really is. The members opposite ask these people to elect them, but once they are elected, they do not represent them.
I am proud to be a member of the Bloc Quebecois, which is here to protect the rights of workers. I am also proud to be a colleague of the member for Laurentides, who introduced Bill C-328, the purpose of which is to eliminate the regressive practice of using scabs during strikes or lockouts.
Members of the Bloc Quebecois are also stubborn. We are here to promote the sovereignty of Quebec. We are here, in this federal institution, to defend our workers as well as our constituents.
With the member for Laurentides and all our colleagues, we will fight hard to have this bill passed in the House, urging every member on the government side as well as those in the Canadian Alliance, the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party to get involved and to do a little bit of soul-searching. Then they will be able to say what they think by going back to their true fundamental values, those of a fair and just society.
When we work, we have the right to do so under conditions that allow us to give our most to our employer. However, we should expect the same in return from the employer when it comes to its workers. They have the right to ask their legislators to come up with legislation to protect them and defend their fundamental values. The Canada Labour Code does not do this.
When I was young, I witnessed barbaric strikes in my region. They did nothing to improve anything for either party. In the end, people need to sit down and bargain. However, individuals, society and the people of my region will never forget. Ask around in Jonquière and people will talk to you about the strikes they lived through.
This is 2003, Quebec has had anti-scab legislation for 26 years now. That is something. People always say that Quebec society is a modern society, one that listens to people. This is yet another example here of how Quebec society is progressive.
It was the late René Lévesque, in 1977, who allowed the National Assembly to pass this legislation, which prevents employers from hiring people to do the jobs of workers who are walking the picket lines.
Before being a member of Parliament, I walked the picket lines to defend the interests of my workers who were subject to the Canada Labour Code. It was not pretty. At five in the morning, it was minus 40 degrees and we were picketing to prevent scabs from crossing the line. That is what I remember.
Today I still run across people who were picketing with me. They still remember, and nothing has been the same for them since then. It is a misconception that there is no social role for the government when it comes to workers and the people who make up the society that it represents.
I refuse to believe this. I am a girl from the Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay region, from a family of die-hard unionists.
My father, who is now deceased, worked at the Alcan plant. At the time, the Alcan plant in Arvida was not a great place to work. There was pollution; it was a horrible environment. What changed labour conditions? What ensured a balance between the employers and the workers? The unions did. Thanks to proactive measures adopted by the Quebec government we can say, in my riding today, that there have not been any strikes for a long time, with the exception of the Vidéotron strike.
Why was there a strike at Vidéotron? There are many reasons. One of them is because it was under the Canada Labour Code. That is the starting point.
I refuse to listen to double talk any longer. I feel sorry for the Minister of Labour. I know her personally. She is a woman with a big heart. I know that today she must be very uncomfortable. I know that she has feelings and that she has to defend the position of her government, which will not lift a finger to help the workers.
However, when the time comes to plunder the employment insurance fund, it does not ask for permission. It says, “Hey there, back off, we decide”. It always looks good and always puts on its kid gloves to talk to workers. It does not do so when the time comes to return the favour, as I am sure the Liberal government's Minister of Labour would like to do. It says to workers, “Forget it”. This is unacceptable.
On this day, May 1, International Workers' Day, I ask all my colleagues from all parties to do some soul-searching, to live by their values and to say yes, we will be with you and we will work with you toward creating a society that is increasingly just and fair for those who are part of it.
I ask them to be there for the vote, but to vote as their conscience dictates, to set aside party lines and to answer our appeal. It is not true that there are not people in their region and their riding who do not come under the Labour Code. In my riding, there are people at the tax centre, there are postal workers. There is a lot of people. They are the ones I will defend. This is why I commend my colleague from Laurentides for asking that this opposition day be used to discuss her bill.
We are with her, we will continue to fight and we will get these changes for workers implemented.
May 1st, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.
Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate, especially since today, May 1, is International Workers Day, and I take this opportunity to salute all workers.
I will go back to November 24, 1992, at a time when private members' bills were a very popular topic. That day, in the House of Commons, I introduced Bill C-376, a bill to amend the Canada Labour Code. I asked for leave to introduce that bill to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to scabs and essential services. In my remarks, I said:
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to amend the Canada Labour Code to preclude Crown corporations from using scabs during a strike and also to maintain essential services. Indeed, for some time now the major central labour bodies in Quebec have been shifting toward responsible and civilized trade unionism.
This bill will encourage workers to stand up for their rights and interests as members of a society where the improved standard of living of individuals is achieved through consultation.
I want to inform my Liberal colleagues that I will support these provisions, just as I supported the bill that was debated in the House in 1995 and that was introduced by the member for Manicouagan. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was Bill C-317. Today, we have Bill C-328, which was introduced by the member for Laurentides. It has already been debated for one hour in the House of Commons and is the 29th item in the order of precedence on the Order Paper. In a month or so, it will be debated again in the House, and I will support it.
But what should we do about this motion that is before the House on this opposition day? I must say that our society has come a long way since the first International Workers Day in 1886. Together, workers, employers, unions, governments and organizations of all kinds have made Canada what it is today.
We are very proud of and very grateful for this heritage from our ancestors. We all have the desire to continue to improve the well-being of Canadians and to ensure that Canada remains a great country in which to live. This is the goal that we have in mind every time we tackle an issue, including the reform of the Canada Labour Code.
In the case of the Canada Labour Code, we apply the basic principle of labour-management relations that says that employees and employers are in the best position to determine what is more appropriate for them.
We know that two provinces in Canada are against scabs. First, there is Quebec. Today, I salute the new Quebec premier who was democratically elected recently. The hon. Jean Charest spent several years here and will continue down the same path with respect to labour relations. British Columbia is also anti-scab.
Consequently, today, the government's role is to support employees and employers in their discussions and to help them find appropriate solutions to meet their needs. In some cases, it is possible to reach an agreement, as was the case with most of the key amendments made in 1999 to Part I of the Canada Labour Code. In other cases, however, it is more difficult to achieve a compromise. This is particularly so with replacement workers.
As the government says, this is a sensitive issue. But if we follow the same principle as the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, we will be able to find a solution. Today, we say that this sensitive issue has been debated many times over the years and that, each time, stakeholders maintained their initial position. We were able to see this once again during the extensive consultations that the Canadian government held in 1999 with representatives of labour and management as well as with many people who have a good knowledge of labour policy issues.
Unions almost unanimously support the implementation of legislative provisions prohibiting the use of replacement workers. For their part, employers are categorically opposed to such a measure. What is more, both employers and unions have legitimate arguments.
This is the case, among others, of the communications and transportation sector, where managers and supervisors often replace employees on strike or locked out. We have an example today with the issue of the communication sectors. Right now, and I want to say this, Radio-Nord strikers, who are members of the union of communication employees of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, have filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board for unfair practices.
Even though the strike started October 25, 2002, Radio Nord Communications is still broadcasting both on television and radio thanks to scabs. This is 2003, and today Radio-Nord, which is a big company—I cannot deny it, it is very well run—does not know how to manage its employees.
In our area, for instance, Radio-Nord has been cutting jobs for several years. Currently, management and contractors are replacing striking employees.
Radio Nord Communications has hired over 25 persons or businesses on contract to do the work of strikers in part or in whole. This is unfair. It is unfair for their families. Recently, I met one of my good colleagues, who is a journalist, Gilles Hamel, of Radio-Nord Val-d'Or. He came to my constituency office in Val-d'Or and told me, “Guy, the current strike is having an impact on children's school work, and on families too”. Why? Because Radio Nord is using scabs.
Today, the head of the union, André Anglehart, and several workers, men and women, are here in the House of Commons to protest against Radio-Nord Communications, which by using scabs has been denying them their bargaining rights.
A solution must be found. There is nothing difficult about it. We started working on the issue of scabs in 1999. Indeed, the Canadian labour minister should conduct another consultation and hold truly comprehensive meetings, maybe in a few weeks' time, since two provinces in Canada were able to find a solution, to see if the other provinces could do likewise.
However, there must be an outright ban on replacement workers during work stoppages. True, the code considers it to be an unfair labour practice to use such workers to undermine a union's representational capacity rather than to pursue legitimate bargaining objectives.
Under the current legislation, one can appeal the use of replacement workers. We would not need this motion if there were a recourse. It should be banned completely since we know that when an appeal is launched, it takes several weeks or months before the committee renders its decision. But it is always possible for unionized workers to lodge a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board.
Since 1999, the Canada Labour Code has given employees an avenue of recourse. But we should also state that we are against the use of scabs, and then the employees would not have to wait for weeks for the Canada Industrial Relations Board's decision, and we would save the taxpayers money. If we are against the use of scabs, we should clearly say so once and for all.
The Board is an independent quasi-judicial body responsible for the interpretation and the enforcement of Part I and some provisions of Part II of the Canada Labour Code. It is composed of representatives of the employers and the unions, one chairperson and various independent vice-chairpersons.
We would only have to add one provision against scabs to the Canada Labour Code and that would be the end of it. There are many representations from employees and others today in this regard.
We are often asked why government did not ban the hiring of replacement workers when Part I of the Canada Labour Code was amended. That amendment did not completely ban the hiring of replacement workers during work stoppages.
The use of replacement workers for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a union's representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives will be considered an unfair labour practice.
The labour and management parties that bargain collectively under Part I of the Code have accepted this approach as being a reasonable compromise. They had in fact accepted a compromise back in 1999, but it is now 2003. We should make another compromise and not accept any scabs.
I know, I do sometimes go to the picket line in front of Radio-Nord in Val-d'Or. Managers are doing the work. Guys like Gilles Hamel come to my office to explain a few things to me. I often meet with a former union leader who is now retired, Antonio Bruno of the United Steelworkers of America. I saw him last week. He spoke to me about this strike that has gone on for six weeks.
In recent years, there have been two strikes in Val d'Or. A solution must be found. Credibility is being undermined, even within families.
We are still asking the same question, “Will the federal government admit that the amendments to Part 1 of the Canada Labour Code concerning replacement workers are ineffective?” They answer, “It is premature to conclude that the provisions on replacement workers are ineffective”.
Listen, we have examples of strikes going on right now. We have one in the communications sector in Val-d'Or. Radio Nord Communications is the best example we have. I am disappointed that they are here today. I am very disappointed that they are here today, on May 1, to defend their rights as workers as this should have been settled at the outset, on October 25, 2002. If the Canada Labour Code had banned strikebreakers, they would not be here today, six months later.
They were on strike in the north in the remote regions of Quebec. They picketed at -40
C. It went down to -52
C this winter in January and February. These people are diplomats. I met them a while ago in front of the Parliament buildings. I spoke with them and invited them in. About nine of them took me up on my offer. They are fine people, these men and women. They want the government to get involved for the sake of the future.
It is very easy. All it would take is to white-out one or two lines in the Canada Labour Code and write in “no strikebreakers will be permitted in future”.
I am in favour of this opposition day. When it is time to vote on the hon. member's private member's bill, I will vote in favour of it.
May 1st, 2003 / 10:20 a.m.
Sébastien Gagnon Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in this House today. I would like to congratulate my colleague from Laurentides for her initiative and commitment to workers.
This day is also a unique opportunity to salute the exceptional contribution of all those who, day after day, are helping build our society. It is worth mentioning. We must also pay tribute to all those workers who, through the years, have fought an epic struggle to have their rights recognized and respected.
For parliamentarians, this special day is a special opportunity to take stock of our contribution as legislators to the working world and more specifically to the important issue of labour relations. In this regard one of our major responsibilities is to facilitate the exercise of healthy and fair labour relations in our businesses and public agencies in order to optimize economic development and minimize the chances of labour disputes, strikes or lockouts, as well as their negative impacts on society especially for those involved in such disputes.
I would like to mention some of those negative impacts: a drop in productivity both locally and globally, especially in small ridings or in smaller areas such as Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, for instance, in my riding; a drop in revenue for businesses and public agencies; a drop in income resulting in lower buying power for workers involved in the dispute; the possibility of major social unrest as a result of the dispute, and a higher debt load for the families concerned. I could keep on going, with even greater eloquence, but I would run out of time.
The list of negative impacts could be a lot longer, but these few examples are enough to illustrate the harm caused by these disputes and show the importance of doing everything possible to keep them to a minimum.
Among the major factors that can contribute to the prevention of disputes, or at least greatly limit their negative impacts, for a number of years the Bloc Quebecois has been pushing a bill that has been consistently blocked by the Liberal government. I am talking about Bill C-328, which is aimed at eliminating the regressive use of scabs during strikes or lockouts in businesses governed by the Canada Labour Code.
The Bloc Quebecois' first attempt to get the Canadian government to introduce this legislation prohibiting the use of scabs was in 1989 and targeted only Crown corporations. This bill was debated at second reading, but it is important to note that the Liberal Party, which was then in the opposition, voted in favour.
All of the Bloc Quebecois' subsequent attempts were flatly rejected by the Liberal Party, which has since been in power in the House of Commons. This was the case in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2001, as well as five times in 2002. Today, we are debating Bill C-328 at second reading.
It is also important to note that meanwhile, the Liberal government introduced, in 1988, Bill C-19 amending Part I of the Canadian Labour Code governing staff relations, but this legislation contained no provision prohibiting the use of strikebreakers. It met with strong opposition from several Quebec unions and the Bloc Quebecois categorically refused to support the bill.
Why is the government so set against the introduction of such measures, when we know that similar legislation has existed in Quebec since December 1977 and that it has had very conclusive positive effects? One need only mention a few of these positive effects. For instance, the number of working days lost from 1992 to 2002 averaged 15.9 under the Quebec Labour Code, compared to 31.1 under the Canada Labour Code. This is a difference of 95.6%.
Here is another example: the number of days lost for every 1,000 employees between 1992 and 2002 was 121.3 under the Quebec Labour Code compared to 266.3 under the Canada Labour Code, a difference of 119.5%.
Of course, figures do not tell the whole story, but they are revealing enough to require the government to do a serious study of the issue, a course I urge it to take. If these data are not persuasive enough, allow me to mention a few more examples of major disputes in Quebec companies governed by the Canada Labour Code, some of which are still dragging on. There is reason for concern.
Among others, there was the Vidéotron case. That dispute lasted 10 months and caused the loss of 355,340 workdays in Quebec. More than one third of all workdays lost in Quebec in 2002 were lost because of labour disputes.
There was the case of Secur, a dispute that caused the loss of 43,400 workdays. There is Cargill, where the lockout has been going on for over three years, affecting 43 employees in Baie-Comeau. There is also the case of Radio-Nord Communications, on strike since October 25, 2002, involving the employees of three television stations and two radio stations in northwestern Quebec.
In my view, these cases illustrate the urgent need for the Liberal government to amend the federal legislation and put an end to the use of strikebreakers, and thus encourage the fair and civilized settlement of labour disputes in Quebec. Amending the legislation would also make it possible to put an end to the absurd situation by which there are two classes of worker in Quebec—those governed by the Quebec Labour Code and the unlucky ones governed by the Canada Labour Code.
It is a question of equity, justice and social harmony. I also hope that this May 1, Workers' Day in most of the world, will be an opportunity for the federal Liberal government to think seriously about the damaging effects of its inaction with respect to the use of strikebreakers, and that it will make a positive gesture toward the working men and women of Quebec and Canada by supporting Bill C-328 introduced by my hon. friend from Laurentides.
Workers' Day is a fine occasion for the Liberal government to send a clear signal about its intentions with respect to this bill.
This is an issue about which I care deeply. I spoke earlier about my riding. We are all concerned about everyday problems and the fact that businesses and organizations are going through such disputes.
I am pleased to know that we have the support of three Bloc members in the Saguenay—Lac Saint Jean area. I invite my hon. friend, the Liberal member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, to join with us as well.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to express myself on this matter in this House, and I wish the hon. member for Laurentides great success with her bill.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
April 29th, 2003 / 7:05 p.m.
Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on Bill C-328, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code.
We are all aware that the purpose of the bill is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. We certainly need this kind of legislation in the country to balance the rights of all individuals, the rights of people who are on strike and the rights of the employers as well.
Clause 1 of the bill provides that workers get reinstated after a strike or a lockout is over. If the striker is not recalled, the onus is on the employer to prove why the striker was not recalled. That sounds eminently reasonable as well. Every individual who is on strike and withdraws services certainly has the right after a strike is over to go back to work. If the individual is not recalled he or she should have a right to demand of the employer that a reasonable reason be given as to why he or she was not recalled. That sounds eminently reasonable to me.
Clause 2 of the bill, proposed subsection 94(2.1), gives detail to the proposed legislation, namely that an employer cannot directly or indirectly employ people to do the work of those who are on strike or locked out. Again that sounds reasonable to me.
Proposed subsection 94(2.2) provides an employer with the right to take measures to avoid destruction of his or her property. I would certainly have to agree with that particular clause. Many employers I am sure suffer a great deal as well when a strike is on, when the strike gets a little out of hand and the employers suffer destruction of the property. This will give the employer the right to take measures to avoid destruction of his or her property.
Proposed subsection 94(2.3) actually constrains the ability of the employer to abuse the right that has been given to him or her under proposed subsection 94(2.2).
Proposed subsections 94(2.4), 94(2.5) and 94(2.6) give the Minister of Labour the tools to investigate breaches of the act.
It appears to me that everyone is covered under the bill. The employer is covered and is given certain rights. The employee is covered and is given certain rights. The government's interests under the Minister of Labour are looked after as well.
Clause 3 of the bill amends section 100 of the Canada Labour Code to provide a fine for people found guilty of breaching provisions of the act.
I support the bill. I have long been a supporter of the fundamental right of an individual to strike. I have always been very reluctant as a matter of fact to place any restrictions on an individual's right to strike, provided of course, and we all agree, that the strike is legal.
Bill C-328 is a way of making the right to strike more effective once a strike becomes a reality. As I said a moment ago, if it is a legal strike, I would be very reluctant indeed to place any restrictions on an individual's right to walk out legally.
There are people who might say that having Bill C-328 is like the labour movement wanting to have its cake and eat it too. However, I would have to ask, what use is cake if one cannot eat it?
Why should anyone be satisfied with having a right but no means to effectively enjoy the right?
All of us have seen many strikes in our lifetime. Some have been easygoing and friendly; others have been very acrimonious, loud and bitter. In every case however, the introduction of a replacement worker has always made the matter much worse than what it really should be. It has always raised the temperature on the picket line when a legal strike is in progress and all of a sudden a replacement worker is bused in. It always sets the devil, if you will, in people on the picket line and well it should. When people have been on a picket line in the rain for days, the sight of replacement workers being bused in is really a bit too much for people to handle.
The employer has certain rights, but we have to remember that the individual has the right to strike. He has won the right to strike and there should not be replacement workers coming in. When it happens, shouts will sometimes replace dialogue. Very often we see that push comes to shove and we see violence on the picket line. Maybe the bill will have the ability to curb some of that. Implementing Bill C-328 would reduce the incidence of acrimony and violence on the picket line.
Very often management employees do as much of the work of the striking employees as they can. However when those management employees start hiring assistants to help them do the work of the strikers, they are asking for problems. They are asking for trouble, because when they do that, it is another kettle of fish. A strike is about withdrawing services. It is not about having the services replaced with the services of other people.
We have to remember something very important as well: Life has to go on when the strike is over. Things get back to normal a whole lot more quickly if there is no nasty incident happening on the picket line and no people are shouting and fighting because replacement workers are coming in. Doing things professionally and rationally is in the best interests of both management and labour.
Let me conclude by saying that in labour relations, let the strike and the lockout be the weapons of the differing parties. Without something like Bill C-328 in spirit or in law, the weapons in labour conflicts can be harsh words or even fists. Let us have Bill C-328 or something like it. In other words, let us have our cake and eat it too.