House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

The federal code.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. member for Louis-Hébert is very close to my chair and still I cannot hear him very well. So order, please. That will be better for the hon. member.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude with this. I find it most ironic that the Bloc Québécois is introducing a bill to force all of Canada to vote in favour of anti-strikebreaker legislation.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we debate in the House Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, it is important that we recognize that at its core this debate is about protecting workers in this country. It is for this reason that I intend to support this legislation.

Even the most basic economic theory recognizes that within any economic system the role of labour is an essential component. People within the workforce are basically asked to provide their labour in return for income.

Therefore, with this most basic economic concept in mind, we need to recognize that for workers the security of their job during a labour dispute is not only an important consideration but an inalienable right.

It was not long ago that workers in this country, and in many similar nations, were required to work in conditions that today would seem unimaginable. For their labour they were compensated, but not at an acceptable level. Nor were they reasonably protected within the workplace. In terms of job security, quite frankly, there was none.

Today much has changed. There is much that still needs to be done. Workers across Canada and in many nations around the world are protected by minimum standards outlined in statutes and further enhanced by union representation.

In my home province of Ontario the basic rights of working people is contained within the Employment Standards Act which outlines standards and reasonable levels of protection workers can expect in this province.

The law enshrines only the most basic rights and there are many who would argue that statutes such as these do not go anywhere near the level of protection that workers really need. Many workers are further protected by the efforts of their union representatives who represent them in collective bargaining agreements.

These unions are also of great service to young people by way of training programs and the like. They also advocate on a variety of labour issues and, like union leaders before them, they fight for workers' rights to protect the hard won advancements workers now enjoy.

In fact, I have been pleased over the years to work with various union leaders such as Ucal Powell, Carlos Pimentel and Mike Yorke of the Carpenters and Allied Workers Union. These people, like so many others in the labour movement, are committed to serving their members.

As a former city councillor, I was instrumental in implementing the city's fair wage policy. The policy set a standard that continues to resonate throughout the public and private sectors and in particular those who choose to do business with the city of Toronto. These are important steps forward for working people in our cities, provinces and the country as a whole.

With respect to Bill C-257, it is important to recognize that in this country the provinces retain the constitutional power to legislate labour regulations and standards for most workers within their jurisdictions. However, the unique nature of our Confederation means that there are many employees in this country who are not covered under federal law.

Those who fall into this category look to the Canada Labour Code for the security other workers may find in their corresponding provincial statutes. Only two provinces in this country, Quebec and British Columbia, have in place statutes that protect the jobs of workers who are participating in a legal labour dispute.

As noted, the fundamental negotiating tool available to workers is their labour. Their work is the commodity they offer in return for their compensation.

There are many international conventions that recognize and encourage this right. For example, the 1981 collective bargaining convention of the United Nations reaffirms that the international labour organization has a solemn obligation to further among nations of the world programs which will achieve the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. This statement speaks of the right of workers to secure effective collective bargaining, including the right to strike that should not be undermined.

It is really quite inconceivable that workers who are involved in a legal work stoppage would have to stand by and watch as their jobs are filled, even if only temporarily, by other people hired by their employers. Without the ability to withdraw their labour, then what do these workers have to negotiate with during periods of collective bargaining?

If employers can simply replace their employees with alternates, then clearly the motivation for an expeditious settlement is removed from the management side of the negotiating equation.

I would note and believe this may have already been pointed out by other members that in the provinces where legislation does prevent replacement workers, there are generally less intense labour-management disputes. What I mean is that the average number of days that employees are on strike in provinces that prevent replacement workers is significantly less than those where they are permitted.

In the provinces that prevent replacement workers, it is clear that there is a greater incentive on the part of employers to negotiate in good faith with employees. The statistics clearly back this assertion.

Similarly, when one looks back at the most contentious and bitter periods of labour unrest, it is quite clear that these periods included attempts by employers to use replacement workers, either permanently or temporarily. This is another major incentive for the House to pass into law Bill C-257.

It can be reasonably argued that the inability of employers to hire replacement workers helps to reduce the intensity of labour disputes in the same way that it clearly reduces the length of work stoppages. There are those who have argued that implementation of the bill would have dire consequences for the nation's economy and for labour-management relations. This is simply not supported by the facts.

Indeed, as noted above, there are two provinces within Canada that have already implemented this kind of legislation and there have not been any of the major problems that some have warned would occur.

The bill before the House deals with the Canada Labour Code. It is a piece of legislation that would apply to all federally regulated workers in Canada. It would not have the force of law within provincial jurisdictions that have not yet adopted this kind of labour protection.

As stated in this debate, only Quebec and British Columbia have laws of this kind. However, by proceeding to pass Bill C-257 we would as a federal government be setting an example for those other provinces. Like the Canadian Labour Congress or the Canadian Auto Workers, I support Bill C-257 because it sets a standard of protection for federally regulated workers across the country.

I encourage all members of the House to join with me in supporting Bill C-257 in order to extend to workers in this country the job security they need and deserve.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today with my NDP--

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni on a point of order.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might engage my colleagues tonight. We are all enjoying this discussion so much. I have a blockbuster speech on this subject. I would ask for unanimous consent from my colleagues to extend our hours by 10 minutes so I can deliver my speech.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

There does not seem to be unanimous consent.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise tonight with my NDP colleagues to speak in favour of this important bill.

I want to begin by recalling a person I know by the name of Don Milner. Don Milner is a young man with a wife and small children. He nearly lost his life on a picket line in Chatham, Ontario in 2002 during a very bitter six week strike at a company called International Truck. The company decided it was going to prolong the strike. It turned nasty and the company brought in strikebreakers. Don Milner and two others were run over by a van driven by young people hired by the company as security forces. They were there to ensure that strikebreakers were brought into the plant.

Don almost lost his life that day. He was run over by the wheels of the van. His life has changed forever. He has had numerous operations and has not been able to return to work and we do not know if he ever will. This has totally turned his life upside down. At least he is lucky and is alive; others have not been so lucky.

We know that the vast majority of collective bargaining sessions are settled without a strike. In fact, more than 97% of negotiations are settled without a strike. Anyone who has had to stand up for their rights in collective bargaining knows what it means to have scabs brought into their workplace. A minority of employers resort to this, those who decide they prefer confrontation instead of negotiation.

For those employers that decide to take this route, what does this mean? This means longer strikes. We know this from the history in every province where anti-scab legislation has been brought in. We know it means more violence. We know there have been deaths and all kinds of incidents on picket lines as a result of scabs. We know bad labour relations result, both during negotiations and after a strike or lockout is settled. It can affect the workplace for months and years to come.

Scabs take the food right out of the mouths of strikers and their families. We just need to ask workers in federal jurisdictions, people who would be covered by this new law who work at places like Giant Mine, Telus, Vidéotron, SECUR and CBC. They all know firsthand what it means to have strikebreakers and scabs in their workplaces. Imagine what that would feel like if we decided to stand up for our rights and others were brought in at a fraction of the wage in order to do our jobs. Surely, we would want to stand up and defend our rights.

We know from the experience in Quebec and British Columbia that anti-scab legislation is successful. Surely, we support the fundamental rights of working people not only here in Canada but around the world as well. If we support the right of working people to freedom of association, freedom to join a union, and freedom to free collective bargaining, then we must support their right to free collective bargaining and their right to not have scabs in their workplace. I urge all members to stand in support of this bill.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers) is intended as a humanistic reflection of our society. That is why we ask all members of the 39th Parliament to vote in favour of this bill in principle.

Its aim is to encourage civilized negotiations during labour disputes—during strikes or lockouts—and to reduce picket line violence and the social and psychological problems caused by the stress of labour disputes. It would diminish the resentment that employees feel upon returning to work and foster a just balance and greater transparency in the negotiations between employers and employees.

This bill will ensure that the management and union parties negotiate under the same constraints in order to facilitate a quick and fairer solution.

The bill has several objectives: reduce the number of legal proceedings resulting from strikes and lockouts, shorten the duration of these strikes and lockouts, and reduce the lost income of workers and lost profits of employers.

Here are few figures on this point that are worth considering. Quebec workers whose employer is under federal jurisdiction almost always have a higher number of lost work days.

So although they make up less than 8% of the labour force in Quebec, they accounted for 18% of lost person-days in 2004 and 22.6% of lost person-days in 2003.

This reached a peak in 2002, when 7.3% of Quebec workers were employed in organizations under federal jurisdiction. They were responsible for 48% of the work days lost because of labour disputes.

The number of work days lost because of labour disputes drops when there is anti-strikebreaker legislation. Here are a few figures: the average number of work days in 1976, before the anti-strikebreaker law in Quebec, was 39.4; afterward, it fell to 32.8 in 1979 and 27.4 in 2001.

In British Columbia, which enacted an anti-strikebreaker law in 1993, the ratio of lost time fell by 50% from 1992 to 1993.

Workers who are subject to the Quebec Labour Code averaged 15.9 lost work days from 1992 to 2002. Workers who were subject to the Canada Labour Code averaged 31.1. For every 1,000 employees subject to the Quebec Labour Code there were 121 lost work days from 1992 to 2002; for workers subject to the Canada Labour Code there were 266.3.

The 10-month dispute at Vidéotron alone resulted in a loss of 355 work days in Quebec in 2002. This was more than a third of all work days lost because of a strike or lockout in Quebec in 2002.

The year 2002 was a record one in terms of person-days lost. It is important to note that this unfortunate record is largely attributable to strikes in organizations under federal jurisdiction. Those strikes last much longer.

If a majority of the House of Commons votes for this bill, this will be an opportunity for parliamentarians and every actor in civil society to take a position on this kind of legislation to amend the Canada Labour Code in the course of a debate on its merits.

Witnesses from every background will be able to express their views to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities of Canada, right here in this institution.

By voting for this bill, members of the House of Commons will ensure, for the first time in the 10 attempts that have been made since the early 1990s to have this bill enacted, that a debate that can only be beneficial to labour relations makes it onto the agenda.

In so doing, we will together be engaged in the worthy cause of recognizing the exceptional contribution made by everyone who goes out to work every day to build our societies.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 7:29 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.