Debates of March 11th, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Criminal Records Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Canada Labour Code
- Canada Labour Code
- Scarborough School Board
- Workers' Memorial Day
- Joe A. Sellors
- Federal-Provincial Relations
- Chinese Golden Age Society
- People Of Tibet
- Reform Party
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Health Care
- Human Rights
- Bloc Quebecois
- The Deficit
- Commissions Of Inquiry
- Somalia Inquiry
- Presence In Gallery
- Canada Labour Code
- Parliament Of Canada Act
Canada Labour Code
Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
moved that Bill C-66, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have this opportunity to address the House on Bill C-66, the purpose of which is to amend Part I of the Canada Labour Code.
Today we are undertaking the third reading of this bill, which means we are approaching the end of a significant step in the modernization of the Canada Labour Code. Passage of Bill C-66 will mark the first in-depth revision of Part I of the Code since the 1970s.
It is very important for our government that the code be modernized. This was, in fact, designated as a priority in the most recent throne speech, since the favourable management-labour relations it will create will work in favour of economic growth and job creation.
At the outset I would like to paraphrase the Sims task force report entitled "Seeking a Balance" and say to the House that with this bill we sought a balance and I believe we found it.
While there may be differences of opinion concerning the precise drafting of specific provisions I am of the view that Bill C-66 faithfully reflects the outcome of the review process. All labour code issues covered in the bill were addressed by the task force or discussed during the subsequent consultations that took place.
I must say that one of the most rewarding aspects of this entire amendment process has been watching the result of consultations turned into action.
Too often, during my time in opposition, I witnessed the government of the time launching a process of public consultation, only to shelve the results afterward. There is nothing more discouraging than having one's opinion asked and then to see it being ignored.
I am pleased that, through the concrete measures contained in Bill C-66, we have been able to compensate those who contributed to our discussions for their trust and hard work.
The latest step in the consultation process took place just before the Christmas holidays, when the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development examined the bill.
I am also very grateful for the contribution made by many members of the labour movement, management representatives, academics, authorities responsible for enforcing labour laws, other experts and private citizens who also looked at our proposals and made sure that the proposed legislation was a realistic response to the current situation.
All of these different groups have played a part in designing the bill. As a result of the divergent opinions that were evident on some issues it is to be expected that people would react differently to various elements of the bill. We have witnessed this reaction to such matters as the provision dealing with off site workers, grain shipments and replacement workers.
Take the example of off site workers. The changes the bill makes will allow unions to contract employees who work outside traditional workplaces. Some have expressed a concern about this development raising issues of privacy and security. I can assure the House that these worries are groundless. Access to such employees will be overseen by the new Canada industrial relations board which will assure that the privacy and the personal safety of the affected people is protected. I see this amendment as one element in our government's attempt to deal with the workplace of the future and I will not allow this new access to be used in inappropriate ways.
Another sensitive area of this bill is our amendments affecting the shipping of grain. In this area we are introducing amendments to require parties in the ports to continue providing services to grain vessels in the event of a work stoppage. In other words, from now on all grain that is brought to the dockside will have to be moved regardless of work stoppages in other port activities.
This amendment is very important to Canada. The shipment of grain is a multi-billion dollar industry. We export to over 70 countries. The livelihoods of over 130,000 farmers and their families depend on our reputation as a reliable supplier and exporter.
The importance of grain exports to the Canadian economy, in particular the economy of the prairie provinces, cannot be over emphasized. In fact, the grain industry has been declared to be for the general advantage of Canada.
Another advantage is that these changes will help improve labour relations in our ports. We all know that when a work stoppage interrupts grain exports, Parliament intervenes without delay to stop and settle disputes in our ports which threaten these exports.
The parties have come to expect Parliament to intervene, which releases them from any responsibility for dealing with their own problems and lets them blame Parliament for any negative repercussions. This goes against our resolve to promote constructive and positive labour relations.
Some members of the House want all labour management disputes in the ports and in the entire grain transportation industry, including the railways, to be resolved by a binding arbitration process known as final offer selection. I do not favour this approach, nor do the vast majority of federally regulated employers, nor do the unions, nor did the Sims task. It pointed out that final offer selection is not effective appropriate dispute resolution mechanism for complex disputes.
The task force advocated a less individualist approach, which is reflected in Bill C-66. It is an approach which illustrates how our government is acting as a catalyst for positive change. We will encourage parties to settle their differences in a less adversarial manner.
The most controversial aspect of Bill C-66 remains the provision on replacement workers. The long-standing differences between labour and management on the subject is one of the items on which
the labour management consensus group of the Sims task force could not agree.
In fact, even the members of the Sims task force failed to produce a unanimous statement on this controversial issue. The provision on replacement workers was drafted so as to include the text of the majority recommendation of the Sims task force. Basically, what we are saying is that there should not be a general ban on the use of these workers. In fact, they can be used to pursue legitimate bargaining objectives.
Employers cannot use replacement workers to undermine the ability of the unions to represent their members. That would be an unfair practice. If the new Canada Industrial Relations Board concludes that is the case, it will have the authority to order the employer to stop using replacement workers.
I believe that the proposed amendments will help us take a balanced approach to a delicate and complex issue. Employers will always have the right to use replacement workers, but there will be two major restrictions on that right. first, employers will not be able to use replacement workers for illegitimate ends; second, they will have to rehire workers who were on strike or locked out, rather than their replacements, once the work stoppage has been resolved.
Some employer groups have contended that the wording of this provision is too broad and absolute and that it allows the unions to contest any use of replacement workers. These groups have cited suggestions by union representatives to the effect that the mere presence of a replacement worker would undermine union representation.
I have to say very clearly that this interpretation is not valid and is not the intent of the bill. I can assure the House that, if it were the intent, the wording of the provision would be more restrictive.
In contrast, the Canadian Labour Congress expressed its worry that the section will be applied very narrowly and come into effect only when the employer's behaviour is particularly egregious. That labour and management have taken opposite positions on this section suggests to me that we have achieved the right balance.
In any event, I am confident that the new board, representative and balanced in nature, will interpret the provision intelligently and appropriately. Indeed, I believe that the Canada industrial relations board may prove to be the most important feature of the modernized labour code.
The task force and the labour management working group both proposed this new body. The Canada industrial relations board would comprise a neutral chairperson and vice-chairpersons, three full time members representing labour and three full time members representing management.
Part time members will also be appointed, in the regions. The addition of union and employer representatives to the board will no doubt make it more sensitive to the needs of those it serves. It will also guarantee the parties that the board's members properly understand the situation.
The parties will also likely find the decisions of a representative board more credible. The bill provides that the board's representative members are to be appointed after the minister has consulted the appropriate union and management organizations.
While on the question of board membership, I wish to emphasize that as a result of the legislation the major criterion for appointment as chair or vice-chair will be competence and not political affiliation.
A new clause has been inserted which states:
The chairperson and vice-chairpersons must have experience and expertise in industrial relations.
The new board will be given additional powers and responsibilities and greater flexibility to deal quickly with routine or urgent matters and to avoid undue delays.
The board's remedial powers will be expanded to ensure good faith bargaining. An amendment will confirm the ability of the board to direct that a party include or withdraw specific terms in a bargaining position in order to rectify a failure to bargain in good faith.
As important as it is to enhance the board's powers, the government has accepted two standing committee suggestions that will ensure they are not abused.
These are intended to place a reasonable check on the board's powers to compel the production of documents at any stage of a proceeding and to amend collective agreements following a restructuring of bargaining units.
Finally, I mention another change contained in the legislation, that is the one regarding the federal mediation and conciliation service or FMCS. As a result of Bill C-66 the critically important role of this body will be recognized in the code.
Its role will be spelled out and the head of the service may be delegated new powers. It is worth noting that in the new code the head of the FMCS will report directly to the Minister of Labour as was suggested in the Sims report.
Careful study of changes to the bargaining cycle will reveal that they all lead to the same goal: streamlining the conciliation process. This is something that both labour and employer groups
have been asking for, for a long time. I am proud our government has delivered.
I would like to say in closing that Bill C-66 represents a great step forward in preparing the Canadian workplace for the advent of the next century.
The increasingly competitive world economy requires our businesses to be as effective and productive as they can be. The improvement in labour relations resulting from the amendment of the code will lead to increased productivity, greater job security and more say for workers in decisions taken at the workplace.
Bill C-66 shows that good labour policy is also good business policy. However, although we are getting to the end of the process with regard to Bill C-66, in the House at least, there is still a lot to do to get the Canada Labour Code ready for the next century.
Within the next few months we will propose changes to bring other parts of the Canada Labour Code up to date. These changes will focus on health and safety issues and on labour standards.
It is my hope that the government will be able to count on the same level of energetic co-operation from members and other stakeholders as we did during the Part I review. I hope that all the members in this House will join me in supporting Bill C-66.
Before concluding, allow me to thank all the members, especially those on the House of Commons Committee on Human Resources Development, who have done a tremendous job in such exceptional circumstances.
I would like to thank two of my colleagues, the critic for the Bloc Quebecois and the critic for the Reform Party, for their co-operation. We want to pursue this issue in this same spirit of co-operation. It is my hope that we will always be able to count on their co-operation, and that this bill will pass in this House and in the other place and will soon become law in the true meaning of the word.
Canada Labour Code
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to welcome this bill. We will have the opportunity to come back to it, but I must say this bill needs some significant amendments. We wish the minister had been more courageous as far as replacement workers and technological changes are concerned and he is aware of that, but nonetheless, I am convinced that the minister acted in good faith and gave the committee all the information we asked for and I want to thank him and his associates, Albano Gidaro and Pierre Tremblay, for that. I also want to thank our researcher, Marc-André Veilleux, who worked hard in order to propose some very appropriate amendments.
That being said, we must remind the House that this bill is far more than an ordinary law, more than a simple law, because it deals with the Canada Labour Code. Authorities will be required to make some extremely important rulings based on the wording of the code, as these rulings will impact on labour democracy and on the balance we have the right to expect in labour-management relations.
I wish the government had done much more. I understand that the conditions one must deal with as Minister of Labour in a continental country like Canada, where conservative forces are extremely active, are not the same as in Quebec. We will have the opportunity to come back to this, but, as you know, in Quebec, the whole issue of labour democracy and replacement workers has been settled for at least 10 if not 20 years.
Let us start at the beginning, that is with the positive aspects of the bill. I believe that all the parties mentioned that the Canada Industrial Relations Board, which will replace the present Canada Labour Relations Board, will be much more representative. The concerned parties had asked to be associated with the appointment process and, indeed, the new board will have three permanent members appointed from among the employers and three permanent members from the union movement. That is positive.
There is also in the bill a willingness to give the board more power to avoid what happened a few months ago, when a major crisis almost split the board-those who followed the issue will understand-while at the same time defining the scope of the board and the powers given to the chairperson, and this is positive as well.
We also welcome the possibility for the board to have a panel of one. This will make the process much more efficient. Work will proceed faster, and this should be to the advantage of all parties involved.
We are also pleased by the willingness of the government to redefine the role of Director General of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. That person, a man at the present time, intervenes at every stage of a labour dispute and is responsible for making very important recommendations to the minister. To that extent, we believe it is wise that his or her role be clearly defined.
One of the most remarkable achievements of the bill is probably the addition to the new labour code of a single-stage conciliation process, something which had been requested by all parties. I will come back to that point, but let me say that the previous two- or three-stage process was extremely time-consuming and probably not very conducive to bringing the parties together.
That being said, it would have been possible for the minister to be much bolder, much more enterprising.
We have to admit that, even though a number of amendments are worthwhile, this reform is incomplete. Still, extremely important
demands were made, by both management and labour, but the government did not respond favourably to them.
I will give some examples. First, it has long been recognized that RCMP officers and workers are being discriminated against. The Sims report, which the minister likes to quote at length, shows it makes absolutely no sense for the RCMP to be the only police force in Canada not to have access to collective bargaining.
We are not talking about the right to strike. No RCMP spokesperson, both in the recent past and in the evidence submitted to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, asked for the right to strike. They understand the nature of their work. However, they legitimately asked to be able to negotiate, to have access to collective bargaining, like all other public sector workers.
When they were on this side of the House, the Liberals moved some motions calling for the right of RCMP officers to unionize. Now in government, the same Liberals are cruelly letting them down.
The House will recall that the official opposition tabled a motion but the Liberals refused to debate these matters. Today, we are faced with this kind of discrimination being perpetuated, maintained and condoned by a government, which should be ashamed of itself for denying people as central to the functioning of society as RCMP members the right to unionize.
Same thing with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of the Public Service. Both unions have made representations to the government in order to come under part I of the Canada Labour Code. This demand was made in committee. They met privately with the minister, but in the end, although this would be in their best interest, these workers are still not allowed to negotiate under part I of the Canada Labour Code.
Why did PSAC and PIPS members ask for this right? Quite simply because, being subject to the Public Service Staff Relations Act, PSAC cannot negotiate provisions as important as those governing job security, protection against technological changes-I will come back on that-job classification, appointments, promotions, transfers, all very important aspects of a career plan.
What difference would it have made for the government to recognize that it would be beneficial, a very significant motivating factor for public service employees to be able to bargain under part I? It must be recognized that there was serious lack of sensitivity on the part of the government on this issue in particular. Sensitivity is what sets great reforms apart.
This is an amendment that would not have cost the public purse tremendous amounts of money. We can see in what shape public finances are in Canada. This is an amendment that would have represented a very significant motivating factor for workers. It is sad to say the least-and that is what bothers me the most-that the government turned a deaf ear. And I know my colleagues are as disappointed as I am.
Canada Labour Code
Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC
Canada Labour Code
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
I am grateful to them for sharing a sorrow as deep as it is obvious, when all is said and done.
The parliamentary secretary is laughing, but he did go along the government. He said nothing. He remained silent, close-mouthed. He did not let on anything, when he should have come to the defence of civil servants on this issue.
The bill has another flaw, another major shortcoming, which concerns the committee. All the hon. members in the House spend a lot of time in committee; come would even say too much time. We wanted the committee to be involved in the appointment process, to be involved in certain strategic decisions regarding the Canada Industrial Relations Board.
We have been extremely supportive of the government's amendments, when these resulted in allowing the Board to act more expeditiously, much more diligently. We believed, and we still do, that one way to improve the labour relations process, as far as appointments, or certain strategic decisions, are concerned, would be to establish a link between this process and the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, which includes elected members of all political parties. Sadly, we met with nothing but indifference in this regard.
The bill has another flaw, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will agree with my analysis that the situation is perfectly ridiculous. On a bright sunny day, the CSN appeared before the committee. The very vocal CSN came to see us, and so did workers from Ogilvie Mills, who went through a long, hard and risky work conflict that left very concrete scars, all this because of the lack of antiscab provisions in the federal legislation. But I will get back to this issue later on.
We proposed a seemingly unimportant amendment, which did not ask the government to spend more or to change its philosophy. What did we ask? You will not believe this. We asked that flour mills come under provincial jurisdiction. Believe it or not, our amendment was not taken into consideration. And yet we had made it very clear that mills had to come under provincial jurisdiction.
Could someone in this House, perhaps the parliamentary secretary, tell us for what reason mills were under federal jurisdiction in such unusual circumstances as World War II? We can understand why, in that specific context, mills would come under federal
jurisdiction, but what was the rationale behind this? I am convinced that if we did a little survey and asked people around why, in 1997, flour mills are under federal jurisdiction, no one would be able to provide an explanation.
Everyone knows that it would be much simpler, wiser and smarter to have mills come under provincial jurisdiction.
Believe it or not, the government bluntly rejected our amendment. I made a wager, something I very seldom do, I bet that if there were an amendment from the Bloc Quebecois that had a chance to be well received by the government, it was not the one about replacement workers nor the one about the right to strike, but the one about flour mills. Well, my amendment was defeated. I found myself with both feet in the flour.
I want to quote what the CNTU people told us: "Most people who get involved in our labour relations for the first time are always surprised to find out that mill workers come under the Canada Labour Code. As for us, after having been a union for more than 30 years, we are still wondering about this situation. Why is that? Because before modern laws governing collective labour relations came into effect, the federal government, using its declaratory power-and I know the hon. member for Chambly, being a lawyer, understands the impact of the declaratory power-ruled that flour mills came under its jurisdiction".
The witness went on: "Such an initiative may have been justified in an era of world conflicts and protectionism, but not today, especially since the Americans have gained control over most of this production, and especially since the Crow's Nest rate was abolished and it is easier to move wheat across the U.S. border. The argument no longer holds".
It is not the Bloc saying it, nor the opposition critic for labour relations, it was a witness as neutral as the CNTU. So the CNTU is telling us that there the argument no longer holds. Just like beer production-an example that strikes a chord with about everyone-flour production should fall under provincial jurisdiction.
It was useless. I pleaded, I presented a brief, I asked questions of witnesses, but I got nowhere. That is what happened with the flour production issue.
The government is quite silent on another extremely important change. Unions have been making demands that are eminently sensible in a context of technological change. Everybody is talking about technological change. We all know this is an issue we should be discussing. Chances are that a worker who is 20 years of age today will have five, six or seven different jobs during his or her adult life. Our context today is quite different from the one my father knew.
My father, who must be listening today, worked at the same job for 30 years, and was quite happy with that. His career started in one company where he obviously had successive promotions, but he always worked for the same company doing the same kind of job.
Workers today will have five, six or seven careers. What does that mean? It means that individuals need mobility, and that is why we talk about ongoing training. It also means that production cycles keep changing. Chances are any given product is not manufactured the same way today as it was in 1985 or will be in 2003 or 2004. That is why unions have asked that every technological change implemented led to the reopening of collective agreements.
Not content with reopening collective agreements, unions wish to take part in the implementation of the technological change, because for the production processes to be successful, they have to be agreed upon. Employers and management not only have to advise workers, they have to work hand in hand with them. Believe it or not, the supposedly modernized Canada Labour Code remains absolutely quiet on such an important issue as technological change.
Again, we have played our part as the opposition, we have put forward an amendment, we have pleaded with the government, but what did it do? It rejected our amendment out of hand. I want the viewers from every region of Canada to know that the Bloc Quebecois came up with about fifty amendments. Unfortunately, the government did not approve any of them even though we worked very hard on them, attended all the committee's hearings and put questions that helped with the testimonies of witnesses.
Even though we co-operated, even though we took part in all the committee's hearings, believe it or not, the government did not approve any of our amendments. Let that be a lesson for things to come.
The biggest flaw of this bill, the area where the minister was the most overcautious, where he lacked fortitude, where he showed no backbone, if I may say so, is the provisions concerning replacement workers.
I will only say a few words about this issue, because, as you know, two of my colleagues in this House have introduced bills related to this matter.
The hon. member for Bourassa, who himself came from the great central labour body that is the FTQ introduced, soon after taking his seat in this House, a bill to that effect. He has always bee concerned with the issue of replacement workers. We know this is a significant factor for striking a balance in a conflict. I will come back to this point later. I know the hon. member for Bourassa will speak on this issue. If I am not mistaken, our colleague, the hon. member for Manicouagan, also introduced a bill very early on.
When we formed the official opposition, we asked questions to the government, we asked it to step in, we introduced bills. What are we talking about? We talk of the following fact. A strike is the ultimate stage, the last resort the union has to get its point across. Nobody goes on strike deliberately, for the fun of it. When people finally accept a strike, it is really because they feel this is their last resort in making their point.
It is important to know that pursuant to the Canada Labour Code, no strike can be authorized without the consent of the Minister. Therefore, this is not a process marked by anarchy but a controlled process. Steps and deadlines are set out. Conciliation is even possible in one single step, and this is one of the improvements brought in by the bill. What, however, is the use of all these amendments if the employer can still use replacement workers? What does this mean?
This means that when a bargaining unit is on strike, with the Minister's consent, it is possible that workers who are duly authorized to strike see part of their duties done by what we call scabs. This is extremely negative in the workplace, since two categories of workers are thus created. This also breeds hostility.
We would have liked the Canadian government to use what was done in Quebec as a model. In 1977, in Quebec, the then minister of labour, Pierre-Marc Johnson, a member of the Lévesque cabinet, introduced legislation to include in Quebec's labour code a provision declaring it an unfair practice to use replacement workers.
When an employer resorts to replacement workers, this gives the union an automatic right of recourse. It is considered an unfair practice subject to legal action and fines. There is nothing ambiguous about it; it is clear. It is an accepted rule of the game recognized by everyone. It is a final resort, I repeat.
We are not saying that the parties are not first asked to negotiate, or that the possibility of turning to conciliators and mediators does not exist. We are saying that when all avenues have been exhausted and it is impossible to reach agreement, the right to strike ought to be exercised with the assurance that replacement workers will not be used.
The Canadian government has not had the courage of its convictions. When the Liberals were in opposition, they favoured the adoption of policies limiting recourse to replacement workers. Now that they form the government, they have shied away from that position.
Let us be clear. Can there be consensus on this issue in society? Of course not. Pierre-Marc Johnson did not have it when he proposed his legislation in Quebec in 1977. The Conseil du patronat threatened to take the matter to the courts.
Pardon me, Mr. Speaker. I am getting over a cold. However, I would like to reassure the government that I will be there for the next election. I am amazingly resilient. Give me two days and I will be a new man.
Regarding replacement workers, I want to remind members that the argument used by the government, when it says there was no consensus in the Sims report, does not stand up to close scrutiny.
Of course, there was no consensus. Could one have been reached on such a delicate issue? Do you think that if the Government of Quebec, which was headed by René Lévesque at the time, had waited for a consensus, Quebec would now have legislation like the measure I referred to? Of course not.
There are times in politics when you cannot rely on consensus but rather have to act with courage and have a certain vision. You will understand that the government in front of us has failed miserably, on both these counts.
What impact has the act forbidding the use of replacement workers had in Quebec since 1977? There have been fewer labour disputes. The act did not automatically ensure settlement of disputes, but there have been fewer of them and, most importantly, they have been shorter and less violent.
You will understand that there is less violence because replacement workers are no longer allowed. Should we not consider what happened during the labour dispute at Ogilvie Mills, which was a long, violent and a very bitter dispute? As lawmakers, is it not our duty to remember that it is not only the workers who suffer during a strike, but also their families?
When a worker is on strike for a year and a half or even two years and a half, his family must bear very serious consequences. There is a loss of income and, in a number of cases, discouragement and depression, which are very normal and human reactions, set in.
They could have taken up the defence of workers if they had had the courage of their convictions. Had this government called on us to pass an anti-scab clause, it would have gained the unfailing support of the official opposition. All members of the official opposition, whatever region they come from, their education or their age, would have agreed to such a clause. Unfortunately, the government refused to go ahead.
As I said, the official opposition's arguments about flour mills, scabs and technological change were ignored. The opposition's willingness to co-operate was turned down. It is unfortunate, and we will never forget it. We will not live long enough to forget the contempt we endured as the opposition here. I am not afraid to say so, because I worked very hard on this issue. If we had to start all
over, we would still move the same amendments and make the same arguments, because we have principles.
There is another shortcoming in this bill. The government could have built on Quebec's experience. In Quebec, there is an evergreen clause, when a collective agreement has expired. Which means that until a new collective agreement takes effect and is signed by the parties, there is what is called an evergreen clause.
I would not be able to say it in Latin, although others may be, but the fact remains that, in principle, workers are not deprived of the protection provided to them by their collective agreement because they are engaged in a collective bargaining process.
You can guess what happened. The government disposed of our amendment as it did with everything else. This amendment was defeated. I know this may come as a surprise to my colleagues, but that is the reality.
I am afraid that my time has expired. Mr. Speaker, can you tell me how much time I have left?
Canada Labour Code
The Deputy Speaker
You have ten minutes left.
Canada Labour Code
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted. Ten minutes is far more than I need.
I would also like to bring to your attention what the Sims report said. Although a number of provisions in the bill have been improved, the fact remains that this bill is, in some respects, quite paternalistic.
Think of the power that the minister has to impose, to demand that the parties hold a secret strike vote. This is a very paternalistic element, because what the unions told us is that they do not need the minister telling them to hold a secret ballot, that this is already union practice. This authoritarian, paternalistic, backward-looking, outdated, old-fashioned power is not granted to the minister. However, in collective agreements, in union practices, it is recognized that, such an important decision, a decision as strategic, as binding on the parties as the decision to strike, must be voted on by the workers. This power that the minister is claiming for himself is simply in bad taste. We, of course, had to put forward an amendment to limit this power.
The Canada Labour Code contains some shameful remnants from a paternalistic era. Indeed, the Sims report suggested that eight powers presently exercised by the minister be transferred to the federal conciliation and mediation service.
I am speaking, of course, about section 57.5, which makes reference to the power to appoint the arbitrators and arbitration boards; the power conferred by section 59 concerning the possibility of receiving, first and foremost, in a privileged way, copies of arbitral awards; the power conferred by section 71 concerning notices of dispute; the power conferred by section 72 to appoint conciliation commissioners and conciliators; the power conferred by section 105 to appoint mediators; the power, which is probably the most outrageous, conferred by section 108.1 to order a vote on the employer's last offers; and section 97(3), which provides that the minister can authorize one of the parties, the union, to file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board concerning allegations of bad faith.
It is crystal clear; according to the Sims report, all these powers had to be transferred to the federal mediation and conciliation service.
Again, these are amendments that would have been in the best interests of the government and that would have allowed it to comply with the requests of the official opposition and to co-operate with it.
To summarize, I must once again say this: we recognize that the bill has been improved because of a number of clauses that allow the Canada Labour Relations Board to act more expeditiously. We recognize that the Canada Labour Relations Board, which will become the Canada Industrial Relations Board, will be more representative of the stakeholders, and we welcome this change.
But we think that the minister could and should have shown more leadership and courage by including in the code some very clear clauses designating the use of replacement workers as an unfair practice, as the Quebec government did.
We also believe that the Canada Labour Code should deal with the inevitable technological changes and that it would have been profitable, innovative and visionary for the government to let the unions not only participate in the implementation of technological changes, but also, in case of disagreement, to give them the opportunity to re-open collective agreements.
We also think that we should have taken this opportunity to extend Part I of the Canada Labour Code to the members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, as they have been asking for almost ten years now.
But the government will suffer even more disgrace when the Canadian people realize how it keeps discriminating against RCMP employees by refusing them the same access to collective bargaining as all the other police forces in Canada.
Is it acceptable that, in the RCMP, a grievance from an employee must be heard by the RCMP commissioner, which makes him both judge and jury? This goes against one of the most basic principles of natural justice.
So the reform did not go far enough and, I think it must be said, lacked vision and breath, but we were vigilant and we moved amendments. Everybody must know that the government did not
pay due consideration to our amendment proposals. They were rejected offhandedly, yet they would have greatly improved the bill.
I want to tell you-and I will conclude on this-that if the same bill were to come up for study once again, we as people of principle would not hesitate to move exactly the same amendments.
Canada Labour Code
Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB
Mr. Speaker, the first phase amendments to the Canada Labour Code will soon be sent off to receive their rubber stamp from the other place. It also appears that changes to parts I and II of the code will have to wait for another Parliament. Hopefully the next Parliament will be more even handed with the revisions than this one was.
During the debate at report stage I proposed 16 amendments to the bill. Reformers thought these would clarify and improve the legislation. We wanted to give labour and management the mechanism to solve their differences. The government, however, is more interested in courting the favour of the separatists than in bringing in balanced labour laws.
Federal jurisdiction in labour matters is interprovincial and international in scope. While less than a million Canadians work in industries covered by the Canada Labour Code, federally regulated businesses are service oriented and involved in the free movement of goods and services, capital and people across Canada. Because of the unique nature of the federal system, alternative sources are often not available. The operation of these industry sectors are vital to the nation's economy and to the nation's daily functioning.
Canada has a world class transportation system and a communications infrastructure that should not be allowed to become vulnerable to closure. A disruption in the day to day operations of vital transportation sectors would inhibit the functioning of the national economy. The potential impact of even a short disruption of many federal operations would not only be catastrophic to Canadian businesses but to the Canadian economy as a whole.
A strike in either the rail, truck or sectors that service the Canadian automotive industry which has to move its finished products, raw materials and parts throughout North America on a daily basis could also be catastrophic. For example, two million manufacturing jobs depend on the federally regulated sector to provide the services and infrastructure vital to their existence. Many manufacturers operate on the just in time principle and disruption in the source of supply is felt immediately.
For instance, at General Motors over 100 rail cars and 925 trucks deliver components to their Canadian plants daily and over 225 rail cars and 180 trucks are required to ship finished products across the country and United States every day. A work stoppage in these vital sectors affect all GM employees who face layoffs when the parts and components are not available. Companies must be flexible, adaptable and efficient to meet changing conditions and the changing needs of their customers.
The government should be minimizing the intrusions into labour markets and employer-employee relations by passing legislation to ensure that both parties negotiate within an equitable and fair bargaining environment.
Legislation and regulation should help create an environment which encourages economic growth, investment and job creation. Collective bargaining is about compromise and negotiation. We cannot legislate good labour relations.
I would like to talk a while about final offer selection arbitration. This certainly is not the first time I have spoken on that concept in the House. It is interesting to note that the previous speaker, the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, went on and on about the need in his estimation for anti-replacement worker legislation.
With the adoption of final offer selection arbitration there would be no need to have anti-replacement worker legislation. If the two parties could not come to an agreement they would have an agreement imposed on them from one of their positions. We as a party prefer this method to the other one that has been used in the House many times.
When back to work legislation is used as it has been 19 times in the last 20 years, we find that after the parties have been legislated back to work they have to go through final offer arbitration as a result and come to an agreement at that point.
If it is good in one situation why not make it available at the beginning? The parliamentary secretary has agreed with us that the method of legislating workers back to work has not been effective. As a matter of fact in his own words-and I agree with his summation-it encourages both management and labour to depend on back to work legislation.
One of the unique things about final offer selection arbitration is that it does not in any way diminish the negotiation process. It is a tool that will help improve the bargaining process by having both parties get their positions as close together as they possibly can, knowing that if they are too far apart they may be risking a final arbitration decision that would not be anywhere near what they would like.
The thing about a final offer arbitration that makes it rather unique is that while it is there to be used in a situation where the parties cannot agree, the ultimate use of final offer arbitration selection would be not to use it at all. It would encourage the two parties to come to agreement on their own. Any agreement the two
parties can come to on their own is the best possible agreement for all involved.
Stable labour relations will provide investment and reinvestment in a country that does not have what is considered to be by management stable labour relations. Management will be tempted, if not forced, to look to other countries in which to set up their businesses.
Our economy is such that we cannot afford to have job producing businesses move out of the country. It is entirely incumbent on us as legislators to create a climate in which as many people as possible can be kept employed within our borders. We should be encouraging businesses, manufacturers and employers of all kinds to set up shop and employ Canadians. If we do not, we certainly risk our reputation as a worldwide exporter and supplier of goods. We also risk the possibility of employers moving to other countries where labour laws are a little more beneficial to them.
Final offer selection arbitration does not favour one side or the other. It is an equal tool that can be called for by either party. The two parties have to agree on an arbitrator. They have to put forth the respective parts of the agreement that have been agreed and not agreed on and their final positions on the items on which they do not agree.
From that the arbitrator chooses all of one position or all the other position. Through this process the two parties will come as close as they can to an agreement, knowing full well that the arbitrator can select all of one or all of the other. The arbitrator's decision would be binding.
A permanent and fair resolution process must be put in place that is removed from the whims of government. Back to work legislation has become all too predictable. Management and unions have become accustomed to it and in some cases rely on it. Permanent legislation would provide both sides with predictable rules and a timetable by which to negotiate.
We have talked about Canadian jobs. I do not think there is a member of the House who is not concerned about the high rate of unemployment in Canada today. We should all be, as I am sure we are, thinking of ways to ensure that more and more Canadians are employed. The risk to Canadian jobs should be minimized by what happens in the House.
Not only will there be a significant impact on the number of jobs lost in the export sector if disputes cannot be resolved, but jobs at the ports will be at severe risk. We are in a position where shippers and receivers of goods will be looking to other ports if we cannot resolve the issue of work stoppages, particularly on the west coast ports of Canada. We have to compete whether or not we like it with ports along the west coast of the United States, most notably the port of Seattle.
Any interruption in the services covered by part I of the Canada Labour Code can have a very devastating effect on the Canadian economy. There must be some regulation by various levels of government. It is unnecessary to put unnecessary measures in place each time labour and management are unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. That is what has happened in the past. Resolving the differences of the two groups can be achieved without interrupting the regular flow of government proceedings.
We are not talking about doing anything whatsoever to inhibit or endanger the collective bargaining process. We are talking about a way to enhance it and that way is final offer selection arbitration.
Each time we have used back to work legislation in Canada the legislation has the effect of doing what is not supposed to be done in Canada. It takes away the right to strike or to lockout and it usurps the collective bargaining process. That practice should be replaced with final offer selection arbitration.
Some people will see the inclusion of grain and the loading of ships for which the grain is already in port as an improvement. As the previous speaker pointed out, since World War II flour mills and grain elevators have come under federal jurisdiction. They were considered essential to the national interest.
It is a slight improvement that grain at the port will now be loaded on the ships. In other words it is declaring it an essential service of one particular group of people. I am really quite surprised it has not been reported as such by declaring a group of people an essential service.
Under the general terms that grain has been essential to the national interest, many other commodities fit into that category. Potash, coal, sulphur and timber products have a huge impact on the national economy as well. The bill is deficient in that those other commodities are completely absent.
Parliament has been asked or at least felt obligated to end 19 work stoppages in the last 20 years through back to work legislation. Now we find that once the grain reaches port section 87.7 will ensure that it will be loaded. There is no provision whatsoever to ensure that the grain will actually reach the port. Many work disruptions could take place between the farmgate and the port that could tie up the system. The House could be called upon or feel obligated to use back to work legislation again and again.
We should be grateful for half measures, but I do not know why we have to move in half measures. I do not know why we could not
make some changes to the system to keep us competitive with aggressive operating ports like the port of Seattle.
With regard to final offer arbitration, in the national interest final offer arbitration would be a far more effective way to ensure a continuous flow of grain to national markets.
Grain represents about 30 per cent of the business going through the port of Vancouver. I agree with the government that it is a very important commodity. However it is not the only commodity that is important to the national economy. Groups such as the B.C. Maritime Employers Association represent 77 wharf and terminal operators and stevedore firms at Vancouver and Prince Rupert. They fear that the grain provision could worsen the already rocky history of labour disputes at the port. If some longshoremen can keep earning wages for loading grain they might have less incentive to end the strike quickly.
We must maintain our reputation as a reliable shipper of goods. If we do not, I do not have to say how easy it is for our credibility to be damaged and for our customers to look elsewhere. Customers are being wooed by other very aggressive marketers. Their bottom line is that they cannot sit in port waiting for a load. They have to get their load and they have to get it delivered in order to keep paying their employees and to satisfy their customers. We are in a position where we have to compete whether we like it or not with these aggressive and market oriented ports.
It is certainly in our best interest to settle these disputes as quickly as possible and to make sure that whether the ships are arriving for coal, grain, lumber or whatever it is, they are assured that when they get there they are going to get a hold full of whatever they came for and be impressed enough to come back another time.
That fits very well with the government's suggestion that it would like to create jobs and of course it cannot just create jobs out of thin air but it certainly can create an environment in which business and industry can thrive and prosper, and they will certainly create the jobs. Creating jobs is not an end in itself but we have to have a customer to purchase the things that those jobs produce.
In 1994 the west coast port strike was estimated to cost Canadians over $125 million. The indirect costs are to be probably double that. If we were to talk about the possibility of losing grain sales in the future the estimated cost to the Canadian economy could run to $5 billion.
What I am saying is there should be some provision in this bill that protects the economy and the innocent third parties from work stoppages in the public sector for which there is no alternative. We use the public sector to transport our goods or we do not transport them. Canada has a world class transportation system and communications infrastructure that should not be vulnerable to closure.
Some of the witnesses who appeared before our standing committee had some very interesting points with regard to the provision on grain. I would like to quote Donald Downing, president of the Coal Association of Canada: "This amendment cannot be allowed to stand. It discriminates between commodities and makes a special case for one. It suggests the Government of Canada places a priority on special status on grain that would be impossible for us to explain to our valuable coal customers in over 20 countries".
Sharon Glover, senior vice-president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, suggested: "The negative impact of any port dispute is not limited to grain, nor is its economic impact greater than the implication of a port shutdown or the exporters or importers of other commodities including forest products, coal, sulphur, potash and petrochemicals. We firmly believe the inclusion of provisions such as this one that would create an unlevel playing field among various sectors of the economy are unnecessary and not helpful in making Canada an attractive place to invest".
My colleague spoke at length about his thoughts on the need for anti-replacement worker legislation. We are talking about roughly 700,000 employees of Canada when we talk about who the Canadian Labour Code affects.
I would submit for the umpteenth time that if we were to adopt final offer selection arbitration there would be no need to come up with anti-replacement worker legislation.
If the two parties could not agree on the contract or on the items that were up for discussion, they would submit those items to the arbitrator and a solution would be arrived at, knowing full well that if they cannot arrive at a solution one of the parties will ask for an arbitrator to be brought in.
The uniqueness of final offer selection arbitration is that when used to its ultimate it is not used at all. In other words, the parties will arrive at their own solution without any interference from government.
The anti-replacement worker legislation is there, but it is neither fish nor fowl. The government did not declare any services to be essential services and it did not put a ban on replacement workers.
However, this bill gives the power to the Canada industrial relations board to rule whether the use of replacement workers is an infringement upon or undermines the union operation. We all know that the union hierarchy is going to put tremendous pressure on the board to say that any use of replacement workers will be deemed
as undermining the union. Certainly that is going to be the union's position.
The minister has assured us that the appointments to the board are not going to be political, that they based on merit and ability. I very much look forward to that happening. Regardless of the qualifications of the board members, one of the qualifications will have to be strength of purpose because the members will be lobbied long and hard, particularly by the labour movement, to treat this provision as a replacement worker ban.
I do not envy the members of the CIRB their task in any way when it comes to dealing with these provisions. If the government's intention was to have anti-replacement worker legislation, then it should have stepped up to the plate and written it into the legislation.
We have often seen government take this type of approach. It takes an idea from an opposition party and waters it down so badly that the opposition party cannot possibly live with it. Later on government members say "we did our best, we tried to give you what you asked for and you turned it down". That is exactly the position that the Bloc Quebecois will be in when this bill is voted on.
This provision leaves too much control in the hands of the CIRB. Its members will have pressure put on them, particularly by labour and members of the board who come from a labour background. Pressure will be put on the board to view any use of replacement workers as undermining the union.
This does not in any way achieve a balance. The minister has stated that his goal is to achieve a balance. That is a worthwhile goal, but I cannot see how this bill achieves that goal.
Nancy Riche said: "I would go so far as to suggest that anybody who does work of a member of a union undermines the representative capacity of that union. None of the bureaucrats are going to agree with me, but we will have to wait and see. The board will rule".
She is absolutely right about that, the board will rule. On any use of replacement workers, whether it is management or union members who do not agree with the strike and try to cross the picket line, there will be representations to this board and it will have to rule.
Mr. Ed Guest, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, had this to say: "We strongly oppose the proposal contained in the draft legislation to create potential liability for employers who use replacement workers. The proposed legislation injects the Canadian industrial relations board into the dispute and gives only one party the right to take proceedings on the issue, the parties being the union. This, in and of itself, creates a tremendous imbalance in the legislation. A one sided concept preventing an employer from operating by whatever means during a labour dispute removes any notion of a balance in the economic test between parties".
There is that word again, balance. There is another person who suggests that this legislation has not attained the balance that it set out to.
On the subject of off site workers, Bill C-66 gives authority to the CIRB to order an employer to release the names, addresses and other relevant information of off site workers to unions and to those seeking union certification. Having to hand over information on home workers and even give unions access to the company's electronic communication systems raises serious personal privacy and safety issues. Individual rights are being trampled on here by allowing the disclosure of names, addresses and so forth of off site workers.
Many witnesses appearing before the committee expressed concern over the potential for invasion of privacy if unions are given access to employees personal addresses without their approval. That is the key phrase, without their approval. If employees have no concern with having this information given out to union organizations, fine and dandy. It is a contract between the two individuals or the individual and the union. However, if they object they should be allowed to opt out. There is no provision in this legislation for that. We put in an amendment that kind of went the way of all amendments that are put in by the opposition parties in this House. Our amendment had to do with the employer's being given the choice of whether they wanted to have this information shared with the union or not.
On September 3, 1996 the Minister of Labour appointed a $600,000 commission to study the changing workplace, yet another commission. This should be one of the items under consideration that requires consultation and study before implementation. However, the government is intent on having this legislation passed and gone through the other place as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, it would like to get it out of the way this afternoon and get on to other pieces of legislation according to the Order Paper.
However, we believe this does not achieve the balance that the minister seeks. It tips the balance in favour of the union and not the employee or the employer.
Again, I have comments from witnesses. Michael McCabe, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, said: "We believe it is necessary that the union have the ability to contact all employees within the bargaining union. However, we are concerned that nowhere in proposed subsection 109.1(1) does it require that employees' permission to release such personal information be sought and received. If the employer gives the union this information without employee consent, the employer-employee trust and confidentiality relationship will be breached. Further-
more, many employees do not want personal information released for fear of personal safety".
I concur completely. The unions should be allowed to certify and to organize, but it should be done with the complete compliance of the people from whom the information is being sought. It is a very basic question, whether private information about a person should be released by statute or by permission.
Again I would like to quote Mrs. Sharon Glover, senior VP of the Chamber of Commerce: "The provisions dealing with offsite workers, which were not part of the general consultations over the last two years and which appeared in the Simms task force report, should not have been addressed in this legislation".
The Canada Industrial Relations Board, renamed from the Canada Labour Relations Board, has been given vague yet significant powers on replacement workers. It also has to deal with off site workers and successor rights.
The government attempted to rectify the original problem contained in the bill by amending the section dealing with the airline industry. It could not resist, however, adding a provision that would give the cabinet the authority to extend successor rights provisions to any part of the airline sector where the government deemed it appropriate. Once again we have another bill going through the House in which the governor in council has been given sweeping authority and latitude.
We realize that the governor in council must have some latitude. We do not feel it is necessary to deal with every intricacy of every bill. The minister and cabinet should have some latitude. But I believe the airline industry or other sectors gives the minister too much latitude.
In closing, I would like to stress that labour and management must be given the tools to solve their disputes in a fair and equitable manner without the threat of government intervention. As a matter of fact, I often think that if government were to back away from a lot of areas that Canadians would see an improvement in the economy. There is very little incentive to bargain earnestly when back to work legislation is inevitable. It is a fact of life.
I would like to put in another plug for final offer selection arbitration. I know the minister is no fan of final offer selection arbitration, but it could be a solution. Despite what the minister says there is widespread support for it and it would be a great improvement to the labour-management situation.
The purpose of a strike is to force a settlement and final offer selection arbitration is a mechanism which will force a settlement but with the unique attribute that when used to its ultimate, it is not used at all. It encourages parties to reach a solution.
As I have said many times, a solution arrived at by the parties involved is certainly the very best solution for everybody. It puts the onus on both sides, rather than saying: "It really does not matter if we go out on strike or if we are locked out, it will only be for a short duration". I do not think that is productive for anybody.
Final offer selection arbitration does not remove the right to strike. The fact that back to work legislation removes the right to strike should have been taken into consideration here. This legislation should have been rewritten so that it was not necessary to use back to work legislation ever again.
These Canada Labour Code amendments will not be more conducive to business, investment and job creation. Payroll taxes, like labour-management regulations, will raise the cost of doing business and discourage investment. That is a sad thing.
John Bryden Hamilton—Wentworth, ON
I rise on a question of privilege. I feel my rights as a MP have been interfered with as a result of a misinterpretation and misapplication of Standing Order 108(2).
Bill C-46 has come before the House and is currently being debated. This legislation pertains to the production of records in sexual offence cases. I spoken to this bill at second reading and expressed grave reservations about it because I feel it would interfere with the fundamental rights of the accused to defend himself or herself.
The House will carry on consideration of this very bill this afternoon. It still has not finished second reading. Yet as I speak, the justice committee is considering this very legislation under Standing Order 108(2). That makes it very difficult for me because I want not only to hear the debate in the House but I want to put questions to the witnesses who are appearing before the justice committee. I cannot until the debate is concluded in this House.
The justice committee has given itself the mandate to deliberate the subject matter of Bill C-46 pursuant to Standing Order 108(2). When a bill is before the House, the subject matter and the bill are one and the same. If the House is going to consider Bill C-46 right now, it cannot consider it without considering the subject matter. Therefore, if the bill is before the House, the subject matter of Bill C-46 cannot be considered without considering Bill C-46 itself.
Standing Order 108(2) gives the following authorizations to the standing committee to consider the subject matter of a bill or to consider a bill. In fact, when I examine Standing Order 108(2), I do
not find that the standing committee has the right to consider a bill before it has completed second reading.
I draw members' attention very quickly to the points made in Standing Order 108(2). It says:
In general, the committees shall be severally empowered to review and report on:
(a) the statute law relating to the department assigned to them;
I submit that Bill C-46 is not law yet. It is still a bill, therefore the standing committee does not have the power to consider it at this stage. The points go on further and say that the standing committee is able to review:
(b) the program and policy objectives of the department
That does not apply in this case. It can review:
(c) the immediate, medium and long-term expenditure plans
of the department. That does not apply in this case. It can review:
(d) an analysis of the relative success of the department,
et cetera, et cetera. However, that does not apply in this case.
Finally, it says it can review:
(e) other matters, relating to the mandate, management, organization or operation of the department,
I submit that it does not fall within the mandate of the justice committee to deprive a member of Parliament of the opportunity to take part fully in the deliberations of a piece of legislation that is coming before the House.
I wish to hear and to be a part of the full debate of Bill C-46 as it appears in this House so that when the committee does deliberate it, I can go before the committee having all the issues aired so that I can be a part and ask the relevant questions of the witnesses who appear before the committee.
The committee, because of its interpretation of Standing Order 108(2) is denying me the right and privilege of appearing and taking part in the deliberations that are of importance and interest to all Canadians.
The Deputy Speaker
I thank very much the hon. member. The chairman of the justice committee is not in the House at the moment because, as the member has indicated, the committee is sitting.
Could the Chair take note of what the member has said and with the member's permission I will show the blues of what he has said to the chairman of the justice committee. She may be able to come here to give her side of the matter if she wishes at four o'clock. With the member's indulgence I will put the matter over until four o'clock. If he wishes to come back it would be most helpful.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-66, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.
Canada Labour Code
March 11th, 1997 / 11:55 a.m.
George Proud Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this morning to speak again to Bill C-66, an act to amend part I of the Canada Labour Code which was introduced by the Minister of Labour.
I know there will be many more speakers today but I want to congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and the hon. member for Wetaskiwin for putting forward their comments, concerns, suggestions and fears for some of the things that are or are not in this bill. We think this is a very well balanced bill. Although it will not go all the way in doing the things we need to do for the workers and the employers under federal jurisdiction, it will still go a long way.
The legislation has a couple of very important objectives. The first objective is to update the provisions related to the collective bargaining process so it can function more effectively. The second objective is to improve the efficiency with which federal labour law is administered.
I strongly support the bill because I am a firm believer in the collective bargaining process. In my view the bill deserves the enthusiastic support of the House because it is good for workers, it is good for employers and it is good for the Canadian economy.
Members may recall that in November 1994 the federal government issued a document entitled "Building a More Innovative Economy". In this paper the government acknowledged that workplace organization and labour-management co-operation were among the key factors contributing to both employment growth and productivity growth. It states: "Well-trained workers, adaptable work organizations, effective labour-management relations, employment-employee involvement in the enterprise and safe and healthy workplaces all contribute directly to a firm's economic performance and the well-being of individual workers".
In other words, the federal government recognizes that economic betterment and human development depend not only on technological hardware and scientific virtuosity but also on our social relations and our social processes.
The mechanisms set up to deal with political, economic and social conflict are as important to national well-being as the structures built to manufacture robots, produce new software and transport resources. The collective bargaining process has generally worked very well in Canada. Indeed, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has written: "The fact of the matter is that the existing collective bargaining system, imperfect as it might be, has served Canada well in these turbulent times which are dominated by global economic competition and massive restructuring".
In its brief to the Sims task force the Canadian Labour Congress noted that despite complaints and suggestions for improvement, the code's constituents accept the code.
I am sure members have heard many times that the vast majority of collective bargaining settlements are arrived at without a work stoppage. I believe the proportion is over 95 per cent. However, when impasses do occur, the parties have available to them highly skilled, well respected and successful mediators in both the private and public sectors. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has been particularly effective in preventing and in helping to resolve labour-management disputes.
The amendments presented to us by the Minister of Labour are an important investment in the country's social capital. They modernize the federal labour law without altering its basic structure that has the overall support of both labour and management. They will produce a greater efficiency in the administration of law and in so doing will enhance legitimacy of the collective bargaining process.
I will dwell for a few minutes with the code amendments pertaining to bargaining rights. The amendments improve the way employees obtain union representation. An important and timely amendment in this section provides that when an undertaking moves from provincial to federal jurisdiction, say because of a sale, both bargaining rights and the collective agreement will continue.
At the present time the code permits the continuation of bargaining rights in the collective agreement only if the seller and buyer are both in the federal jurisdiction. This change is welcome because of the speed with which capital can move these days.
As the Sims task force report stated "successful businesses rarely remain static". Reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and transfers in leasings in whole or in part of enterprises have become common place. Changes in ownership can occur very quickly and very frequently resulting in changes in jurisdiction.
Members of the task force reported hearing of the use of deliberate steps by some enterprises to change jurisdictions to avoid their bargaining obligations. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It is one thing for a firm's employees to vote not to have a union. It is quite another for a firm to engage in various tricks to evade its bargaining obligations. For this reason I support the amendment.
The second amendment under the general category of bargaining rights has to do with successive contractors. The minister is proposing that an employer succeeding another as provider of preboard security screening services to the air transportation industry be required to pay employees who perform these services the same remuneration the employees of the previous contractor received.
The amendment has been advanced because in the past changes of contractors in this sector have resulted in loss of remuneration and employment at the end of each contract period for workers, many of whom are women and immigrants.
The minister's proposal will deter competition based on who can pay the lowest wage. It will create an even playing field for contractors whose employees are unionized. It will help to reduce turnover rates, an important security consideration in the air transport industry.
The amendment is intended to apply only to security screening the air transportation industry. However on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour the government would be able to extend the application should similar circumstances arise in other federally regulated industries.
Finally, an amendment to the code would allow the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to grant an authorized representative of a trade union a list of the names and addresses of employee that normally work in locations other than the employer's premises.
The board will also be able to authorize a trade union to communicate with those off site employees in whatever is practicable. However, such an access order will have to spell out the necessary conditions under which communications with the employees could take place so that the privacy and the security of the off site workers can be protected.
The amendment is a timely one given the rapid growth of non-standard employment, especially home based employment. It will give workers in the federal jurisdiction a choice. If as a result of the amendment the board grants a labour union access to off site workers, the workers will be able to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented at the collective bargaining table. Right now they are without that choice.
Those are the major legislative proposals regarding workers' bargaining rights. They are fair and reasonable. They deal appropriately with some of the workplace realities of the 1990s. They
will do what they are designed to do, namely to improve the collective bargaining process for all concerned.
I do not think any employer in the federal jurisdiction could in all honesty describe them as onerous. Both workers and employers coming under the Canada Labour Code ought to be pleased with the balance of the amendments brought before the House by the Minister of Labour.
Canada Labour Code
Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC
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.
Canada Labour Code
Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK
Madam Speaker, I rise to add my voice to those who are speaking on Bill C-66.
I want to begin my comments by relating to the House the importance of this issue, in particular as it affects prairie grain producers who are often the victims of labour disruptions in the grain transportation system.
It is easy to become removed from the realities of how this actually affects people. We as members of Parliament have to be careful that we do not lose contact with the realities and the hardships that are imposed on innocent people when something totally beyond their control happens that affects their livelihood.
If it is something like a flood, such as we have seen on our television screens from time to time, the last one being in the United States, where somebody's home is washed away or their property is destroyed, we feel for them. We think that they did not deserve this. This should not have happened to them. They had no control over the weather. Oftentimes there is charity shown to these people and that is the way it should be. We acknowledge those who help others in times of need.
When it is something like a labour disruption which affects the livelihood of others in just as real a way as a flood that sweeps through someone's property and washes away their life's belong-
ings, we do not always have that same emotion. We do not recognize the seriousness of the situation.
There are thousands of farm families across the prairies whose livelihood is dependent on moving their grains to port for export. That is what pays the bills. That is what puts food on the table for many of my constituents in Kindersley-Lloydminster. That is what pays for the little things like buying that new dishwasher, or paying for music lessons, or perhaps buying that new piece of equipment that the farmer has been waiting so long for, for the money to actually make that purchase.
These are real decisions that real people have to make. It is very disheartening when one is trying to pay the bills and trying to get ahead, in particular if commodity prices are on the rebound as they were two or three years ago, and then one sees a labour disruption wipe out any potential for recouping losses of the past. It is pretty hard for a member of Parliament to go home and talk to people and say the House did not really care about the plight of these people. It was more interested in other issues like distinct society for Quebec or in their own MPs' pensions and so on and it was not particularly concerned that these strikes and lockouts keep reoccurring and very little over the past 30 or 40 years has been done to remedy the situation.
People who live in the agricultural community are used to taking risks. They understand that they are in a risky business. Their success is determined by the weather, by international markets. They recognize that they do not have total control over their future. But the problem of unsure markets because of transportation problems and disruptions in our transportation system is one added risk that is not required. That, added to the other risks which are unavoidable, is certainly a real problem.
To outline how serious the situation is, it was highlighted just a few weeks ago when we saw over 40 ships anchored in English Bay in Vancouver costing prairie farmers about $10,000 a day every day that they sat there waiting to take on their cargo of grain.
This problem in the grain handling system was not the result of a labour disruption but more often than not when these things do happen it is because of a labour disruption somewhere in the grain transportation system.
Whether it is a labour disruption, an equipment problem or a weather problem, of course the person who pays for the problem is the producer. In every instance the producer has had absolutely no control over the situation that has been thrust on them.
I want to recall a situation when I was first elected in 1993. It was actually in early 1994 when there was a labour disruption on the west coast. We brought the problem to the attention of the House. The minister at the time, currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: "I think we can get this problem resolved". The minister of labour at the time said: "We think this is not going to be a serious problem. This lockout will pass. We trust that the two parties will come together and resolve their differences".
I do not know why the minister thought that. History tells us that is not the way these labour disruptions, these work stoppages are resolved. In fact, since 1972 six labour disputes related to the west coast ports were settled by federal back to work legislation. Two other labour disputes were settled by federal back to work legislation in 1988 and 1991. That is a total of eight disputes in less than 20 years, each one costing millions of dollars to producers.
We had two bills that we brought to this House, one in 1994 and one in 1995 that legislated workers back to work. I would contest that it is not the primary responsibility of this House to be bringing and introducing into this House back to work legislation on a regular basis.
Certainly we have the power to do that as legislators and we have done that. Members would think when we keep returning to this process time and time again that somebody somewhere would wake up and recognize that we are not solving the problem, that it seems to be getting worse.
It is a bit like raising children. If they do not deal with the difficult situation they are facing it is apt to repeat itself. People need to find some solutions if they are having problems, whether they be problems with a child's attitude or problems with a child's health.
If a problem does not go away, if it keeps repeating, they will go to a doctor or to someone who will offer some advice about how to correct the situation.
Here we have these recurring labour problems on the west coast. It is not necessarily the problem of labour all the time or management all the time. They probably both share equal responsibility for the problem.
Nevertheless, we keep blindly introducing back to work legislation, clean up the little mess and meanwhile there are millions of dollars lost to prairie producers. Then we go on our merry way, hoping that it does not reoccur.
Of course a few months later or the next year the situation does reoccur and we go back to the same debate. They will solve the problem. Government drags its feet. Finally the situation becomes intolerable and the government grudgingly brings in back to work legislation, has another debate, passes the bill and forces the workers or management to restart operations while the problem is resolved.
What happens in this case is that the two parties that disagree have no incentive to resolve their problems. They recognize that Parliament will do it for them. Therefore they are intransigent in
their positions. They fail to maximize the potential of the collective bargaining process.
If we were just talking about a trucking company, if we were just talking about a department store or if we were just talking about some other entity where there is a lot of competition, it would not matter so much if the two disputing parties could not resolve their problem and management locked out the workers or if the workers went on strike. That is fine because if we are talking about a trucking company there are 1,000 other trucking companies we could use. If we are talking about buying an automobile, if it is a major automobile manufacturer which has a work stoppage, there are other companies that we can buy our automobiles from.
The interesting thing on the prairies when there is a labour disruption on the west coast or through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence seaway system is that it stops the flow of the lifeblood income for a major industry in Canada. That is why this situation is so serious. That is why it needs to be addressed with constructive and progressive legislation.
I am speaking about grain today because as the agriculture critic for the Reform Party it is my responsibility to represent the industry and the people who earn their livelihood from it. However, it would be the same for potash or coal. The large mining and forestry industries are affected in the same way. They also have a strong case to make in calling for adequate and uninterrupted service in getting their products to market.
If we take all the sectors together, millions of jobs and livelihoods are dependent on the efficient movement of product for export. Canada, after all, is an exporting country and when we do not export efficiently we suffer immensely on the domestic scene.
I talked about all the labour disruptions and that emergency legislation was brought into the House. Finally, the minister of labour at the time recognized that it was important to end this labour disruption and something had to be done. At that time I was House leader for the Reform Party. We got together and we agreed to speedily pass legislation through the House. The second time we introduced legislation when another labour problem reared its ugly head, there was not as much co-operation in the House. I believe the House had to sit over a weekend, including Sunday, to pass the legislation because not all parties in the House co-operated.
Emergency legislation is required when the government has waited too long to introduce legislation. There are the technicalities of trying to get the legislation through the House quickly, before further damage is done. That does not always happen. Sometimes some parties, the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois, do not co-operate. It could even be the Liberals. When in opposition they flip-flop on these types of issues. Nevertheless, the legislation is not guaranteed an easy ride through the House of Commons.
The disputing parties have no incentive to reach an agreement because they know that if they do not reach an agreement the House of Commons will legislate them back to work, at extra cost to taxpayers. Oftentimes the cost to the parties involved is less through back to work legislation than if they resolve their differences in a more constructive way.
Finally we did pass emergency legislation at a cost to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are the innocent third parties. The prairie economy lost millions of dollars. Basically nothing was resolved because the same situation could occur within months. It certainly will occur within a year or two.
What are we going to do about this? I have identified the problem. I believe my colleagues in the House would agree that it is a recurring problem. However, to identify a problem is not enough.
The government launched an inquiry. It is pretty good at holding inquiries. This inquiry was called the industrial inquiry on west coast ports. That inquiry was given a mandate and it held hearings, primarily in western Canada because its focus was on the west coast ports. The problem is not solely in the west coast port region. There are labour disputes right across the country which affect the movement of our products for export. However, the primary focus was on the west coast ports when the inquiry was commissioned by the new Minister of Labour, who retains that portfolio today.
Hearings were held and Reform was privileged to present a brief to the inquiry. In that brief we identified the costs of the 1994 west coast port labour dispute directly was over $125 million. The indirect costs which included lost future contracts was over $250 million. A figure given by the former minister of labour, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, suggested that threatened grain sales was around $500 million. These were the potential costs of the 1994 west coast ports labour dispute.
The commission heard briefs from various parties, including Reform. Reform's position on the movement of grain since we first addressed the issue even before the 1993 election was that initially we had suggested that the movement of grain should be declared an essential service. We recognized the importance of the industry, the importance of moving the grain in a timely and efficient manner. As we spoke more with people across western Canada and across the entire nation, as we talked to the players in the industry and reviewed the situation, it became apparent there might even be a
better solution to the problem, the implementation of final offer arbitration.
Our member from Lethbridge introduced a private member's bill. It was debated in the House. It called for that resolution mechanism to be put in place to resolve labour management disputes that affect the movement of grain to port position. Unfortunately members opposite did not support that piece of legislation. I want to speak in defence of that concept with regard to Bill C-66 which unfortunately does not support the concept of final arbitration.
Reform believes in the collective bargaining process. It is a process whereby management and labour come together and try to resolve their differences and to agree on a new contract sitting down at the bargaining table. We respect and support the right of management and labour to follow that process.
Anything we have suggested in the way of final offer arbitration would not stifle or hinder the collective bargaining process from doing its thing, from undergoing its usual process. What would happen at the end of collective bargaining if it failed, and sometimes collective bargaining does fail, rather than seeing a lockout or a walkout, the two parties would get together and commit to a final offer arbitration process. Our legislation calls for the two parties to sit down and try to agree on an arbitrator and present that arbitrator as the person who would mediate their dispute. If they could not agree on someone then the powers in the legislation would be given to government to find a neutral arbitrator who would select the person who would be responsible to oversee the process.
Then the two parties would come before the arbitrator and would explain where they had reached an agreement or where they had failed to reach an agreement. In the areas where they had failed to reach an agreement each party would be invited to bring forward their best offer. Both parties, not having seen the other party's best offer, would then wait for a ruling by the arbitrator. The arbitrator would look at the two offers and see which one was the most reasonable based on the positions they both held, where they were able to agree and where they were not in agreement. It would therefore select all of one offer or all of the other.
It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize that this makes unreasonable negotiators become reasonable very quickly. If one side in the dispute were to put forward a very unreasonable position they would be at great risk because the other side may put forward a more reasonable position and they would therefore win the final offer selection arbitration process. They would come out on top in the process.
Instead of being unreasonable the two parties will attempt to be as reasonable as possible and have a slightly better offer than the offer proposed by the other side. That is quite a change in the dispute settlement mechanism. It is a very constructive change, I might add.
I know my time has almost expired. This is not some untested resolution mechanism. It has been used many times. In the government back to work legislation passed in 1994 the legislation implemented the process of final offer selection arbitration. That mechanism was legislated to solve the dispute.
If that is what the government imposed on the two parties, why not put it in Bill C-66 and nip the problem in the bud so that we do not have to keep on reviewing the issue, bringing in emergency legislation and perhaps even implementing final offer selection arbitration anyway?
It makes sense but unfortunately the Liberal government does not seem to be very interested in making sense. It seems to want to complicate everything as much as it can.
I remind the government that while the grain companies, the railroads, the shipping companies and the customers will continue and probably survive for quite some time, it is the farm families and the millions of people who make their livelihood from Canadian exports who will not be able to live up to the standard they should be able to live up to in Canada. Simply because the labour dispute settlement mechanism is antiquated they will not be able to provide their kids with some of the basic pleasures and privileges of life most Canadians enjoy.
I bring the matter to the attention of the House. I ask the government to hear what we are saying and to fix the problem rather than to continue in this makeshift, Mickey Mouse, haywire manner that has been followed for the past number of years.
Canada Labour Code
Ray Speaker Lethbridge
Madam Speaker, I have a brief question with regard to the ongoing discussion. Is there a better solution to the whole question? In terms of the legislation before us, is the new board that is being constructed under the legislation adequate to meet any of the demands of farmers?
Being in the industry myself I recognize that farmers do not have a representative in the process. Is the government putting in place any structure that will pick up the representation required by farmers to protect the industry somewhat and to maintain its viability?
Canada Labour Code
Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Lethbridge for his question. He has very accurately pointed out a problem. As usual farmers have been overlooked in the entire process. The new structure does not put innocent third parties in a position of being involved in creating solutions to the labour disruptions we have seen in the past.
Farmers are the spectators in the whole process. They have always been the spectators. It is a painful sport to watch. They are the ones being hurt. They have no defence mechanisms.
The minister proposed Bill C-66. We are now into third reading stage and it is pretty hard to fix it. The government has missed its opportunity to bring about some constructive solution. It could hear from all the affected parties in the dispute, not just the management and labour sectors. The whole industry may be permanently injured when there is a major disruption in the movement of grain or any other Canadian product to export.
The member is correct in his observation that farmers have been overlooked. It is not unusual for farmers to be overlooked by the Liberal government. It is not for lack of alternatives that have been suggested by the Reform Party.
As I mentioned, the hon. member for Lethbridge put forward a private member's bill that would have resolved the situation. Reform MPs brought forward briefs to the west coast port inquiry that would have brought resolution to the issue. We have also brought constructive amendments to Bill C-66 which would have included farmers' voices as well as those of other innocent third parties. It would give them a role in resolving labour-management disputes. It just has not happened because the Liberals were not prepared to see it happen.