House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

Topics

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:25 a.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me also wish all Quebeckers and francophones a happy national holiday. I would especially like to extend my wishes for a happy national holiday to my constituents in Hull—Aylmer.

The current Conservative government is using all available means to restrict and destroy the right to collective bargaining. This government is in support of an employer locking out its employees, and finds it acceptable. This government is basically refusing to recognize the right to collective bargaining, a right that these workers and workers in Canada and even abroad have fought hard for.

Over the past 100 years, workers have demanded rights, such as reasonable working hours, health and safety laws that protect them, maternity and paternity leave, and decent pensions. That was only accomplished through sacrifices and struggles.

Yesterday, the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism tried to teach us an Economics 101 course, but today, I would like to take the opportunity that we trade unionists finally have to talk about the battles that unions have fought and the gains they have won from employers and from successive governments. I think especially of the battles waged by the women in trade unions. The result is that, today, we in the NDP have 42 women members, and I am very proud of that.

In the world of labour, these rights, such as the right to a pension, are very important to us. They are rights that this employer and this government want to scoff at, such as the right to present demands, the right to negotiate, the right to decent wages and the right to work in the language of one's choice.

At this point, I would like to provide some examples of the battles waged by the men, and certainly by the women, who have worked for Canada Post. I will be going back some way, because I believe it is very important for us as trade unionists to do so when we talk about the union movement, about where we came from, and about the way in which we have won those rights that the current government, the government of Canada, and the employer want to treat with contempt.

Let us go back to 1880, when a royal commission recommended hiring women into the public service because they would be happy with low wages. That is a long way from equal pay for work of equal value. In 1884, the postal service had more women as third-class clerks than any other department.

In 1918, the wives of strikers were in the front lines of a major demonstration in the streets of Toronto, a demonstration organized in their support by several other unions.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, many female postal workers were hired. Those women worked part-time or as casuals, once more for a pittance.

In 1955 came the abolition of the ban on married women, who had previously been denied work in the public service.

In 1981, CUPW, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, went on strike for paid maternity leave, and won.

In 1986, the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers was established. Most of its members were women.

In 2000, the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers mobilized to improve conditions for those women workers.

In 2004, finally, rural route and suburban mail carriers won a collective agreement. As a result, finally, a host of women workers obtained access to pensions, employee benefits and other protections.

It is important to talk about this to show all the gains that have been made by women and workers in the federal public service and the postal service. This is what we have won and that is what the government wants to take away from us.

I would also like to talk about another example where workers have fought some battles. Let us remember back to May 15, 1919, in Winnipeg, a day that some people refer to as “Bloody Saturday”.

That day is remembered by those of us who did the honourable thing by taking part in the battle for the rights of wealth producers. It is remembered by the sons and daughters of those participants whose stories they heard at family evening gatherings. But today, family gatherings are no longer what they used to be.

Closer to us, here in Buckingham, there is a monument erected in memory of the workers killed in a labour dispute at the beginning of the 1900s. Those two examples show the courage of the workers who fought for the right to collective bargaining. And the current government and Canada Post are trying to destroy these very fundamental rights. Postal workers have made a significant contribution to the improvement of the living and working conditions of society as a whole. I would like to thank them on behalf of all Canadians.

As a woman who has been active in these movements, I am very proud of having trained in trade unionism and made a career for myself. I am equally proud to be able to share this story with hon. members and to share the pride that they too must feel from fighting together to benefit members of parliament, women and society as a whole. If it had not been for trade unions, we would not be here today, and women would not be as far ahead as they are today. Many women of my generation well remember the time when paid maternity leave did not exist. The term “pay equity” was unheard of.

Let us also not forget the public sector myths that Canada Post is trying to spread. Canada Post is supposed to be a drain on public funds. In fact, the public postal service and its workers cost the public treasury nothing.

In the last 15 years, Canada Post has earned profits of $1.7 billion and has contributed $1.2 billion to the federal government in dividends and taxes. Yet they are now trying to tell us that there are problems, that public services are too much, and that they have to be privatized or destroyed.

They talk about low participation and low productivity in the public service and in Canada Post. On the contrary, Canada Post is very productive. Unlike a great number of companies, it has seen strong growth in productivity in the last two years. It is important to note, for example, that productivity in processing transactional mail has increased by 6.7%.

I would also like to mention something that postal workers once did that has been forgotten over the years. In large cities, postal workers played a very significant role in the community. When delivering mail to the door, they often noticed when elderly people had not picked up their mail for five or six days. They then called the police or people in the community who found out whether those people were all right. This value, this need, this action, which was so important in a community, has been lost. Now we often see elderly people left on their own. We have heard of situations where elderly people have been found in the community after several days.

Once again, I deplore the attitude of the government and the employer that have colluded and agreed to a lockout, refusing the right to collective bargaining that is fair and equitable to all workers. This means that, in the future, these same workers and society as a whole will be losing their rights and losing ground.

I hope they will go back to the negotiating table and the government will listen to reason.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:30 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the media is reporting that 70% of Canadians are in support of the back-to-work legislation because of the difficulties it is causing a lot of Canadians, especially in rural Canada, where there has been a huge impact, even though they are not on strike.

For many people who count of day-to-day mail service, it actually has not been good for quite a while, I must say.

I guess I should backtrack and say that this was an election issue for me in Saskatoon. Briarwood is an area that should be quite well served. It is an urban area. Briarwood residents were only receiving mail three days a week, so they do not really notice the interruption and are not quite as upset about the service that has been suspended.

There have to be two sides to this story. I wonder if the member has had people asking about supporting the legislation the government has put forward.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:35 a.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, like a number of hon. members, I have been hearing that, since 1991, the Conservative government and the Liberal government in office at the time have denied the rights of workers and have overused back-to-work legislation to prevent workers from having the right to fair and equitable collective bargaining.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have been sitting here listening to speeches, I have been struck by this being a metaphor for an ideological warfare. It seems to be two-by-fours at two sword lengths between the warring parties. How else could we explain a government putting forward legislation that it knows will be toxic to the unions, putting forward legislation that is actually less than the employer provided for in the collective process thus far, and simultaneously, a party and a union being unable to come to grips with the reality that the demand for their services has actually declined over time and in fact is looking for a place to continue to exist?

I have heard a lot of rhetoric from both sides. I have not heard a great deal of solution. I anticipate this ideological warfare will go on for quite a number of hours, if not days. I would be interested in the hon. member's solution to how this matter gets back to some bargaining.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:35 a.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments and questions about solutions. We have said it many times and I repeat it: Go back to the table. Let the process of collective bargaining go on. That is what we are asking for.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:35 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct this question to my colleague who just spoke.

Concerning the maternity leave benefits that were put in place by this union in 1981, how has that impacted Canadian society in general, and what is the good that has come from that?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:35 a.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

Yes, the right of women to stay in the labour market, the right to work, had a significant impact. As I mentioned, women in my generation had to leave the workforce when they were pregnant. Today, women finally have the fundamental right to work, to have children and to raise a family. As a result, they receive salaries and benefits, and thereby can also contribute to the economy of their regions and of their communities, which is very important for everyone.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:35 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in opposition to Bill C-6.

I would like to take us back to what we are talking about here in terms of our postal service.

A country with as vast a geographic scale as Canada obviously needs excellent communication. From the very earliest days of our country, we have placed a real priority on our mail service. The first paid mail delivery in Canada was back in 1693, hundreds of years ago. We have had a federal mail service since Confederation, since 1867.

It is logical, with Canada's vast land mass, that we have efficient, punctual and affordable mail service that works for all Canadians. It would be easy to design a mail service that works in the major urban centres and leaves behind the huge number of Canadians who live across this vast geography. What we have with Canada Post is a service that works for Canadians, whether they live in Inuvik, Vancouver Island, St. John's, Toronto or Montreal. That is the principle on which Canada Post was founded. This system, even to this day, works incredibly well.

Every single business day Canada Post handles 40 million pieces of mail. As a Canadian, I can send a letter to anywhere in this vast country for the princely sum of 59¢. That is a pretty good bargain. In countries such as Germany and Austria, which have a much smaller geography and have perhaps privatized their postal service, it costs 77¢ and 88¢ respectively to send a letter across much shorter geographic distances than we have in Canada.

Our postal service is not just something we should sneeze at. It was built into the fabric of this country. It was designed to help Canadians communicate with each other. It was designed to bring our country together across this vast geography. Of course it has a personal and an economic role but it also has a nation-building role.

Our postal service is a success story. We have a modern, efficient postal service, which is making a profit for Canadians. This money gets ploughed back into our coffers to the tune of $281 million a year. It is actually a money-maker for Canadians. It is a system that works quite well for us.

What we are seeing in this latest round of negotiations is a bit of a public relations war. Of course there are Canadians who are upset since Canada Post has locked out and shut the doors on its workforce. I am getting emails from small businesses in my constituency that want the mail service to resume, and I agree with them. We should have our mail service resume. This would be easily achieved if the government and Canada Post took the locks off the doors of our post offices right across this country and allowed postal workers to get back to work and resume sorting and delivering the mail right across Canada. Would that not be a good thing to have happen?

I have had constituents, including small businesses, tell me they are hearing that the bill the government has put forward would actually impose terms and conditions on Canada Post workers that are worse than the terms and conditions Canada Post is negotiating at the bargaining table. It would roll back the clock on their working conditions and on their pay and benefits.

Those same people, not all but some, have said they just want the parties to go back to the table and keep negotiating, not send them back saying they have to accept even worse terms and conditions than Canada Post was willing to pay at the bargaining table. How ridiculous is that?

What is the role of the government in deciding what the terms and conditions are going to be that would undercut even what the employer was willing to pay? I do not think that is what Canadians want to sign up for. That is not about getting the mail going. That is about imposing a labour relations regime in this country and rolling back the basic rights of Canadians, not just at Canada Post.

Let us think about it. That is telling employers across this country that they can get a better deal through the government and that they do not have to bargain with the union. They can get a better deal by going to the government and, rather than the government using the fine tools of labour relations to do the difficult work of negotiating a collective agreement or fostering the negotiation of a collective agreement between employers and employees, the government will take a sledgehammer and impose terms and conditions that will give employers a much better deal than they would ever have to fairly negotiate at the bargaining table.

What would that mean? It would mean that young people would be hired for lower wages than people have been hired in the past, almost 20% less than new hires were getting paid at Canada Post. It would mean lower wage rates, poorer benefits and the loss of the ability to get a pension. I do not think Canadians want this kind of intergenerational betrayal to be imposed by their government on working people in this country. They want a fair, efficient, functional postal service that will serve them, their communities and their businesses. What they do not want is this sledgehammer approach that rolls back the clock and betrays young people and their job opportunities for the future.

What do we say to our children and grandchildren about their job prospects? What do we say when they ask if they are going to have security throughout their working lives and in their retirement years? What kind of betrayal is that? What message is the government sending?

New Democrats do not think the sledgehammer approach is the way to go. We think the difficult work of rolling up sleeves, communicating effectively with both sides and fostering a negotiated settlement is the way to go, but Canadians do not have to wait until that is achieved. The government and Canada Post could take the locks off our postal system today, open the doors, allow postal workers to return to work, get the mail moving and then get back to negotiating a fair collective agreement.

Canadians understand clearly that this is not a strike that we are seeing. This is a lockout by the employer, clearly with the approval of the government. Canadians want it to end but they want it to end fairly. They do not want it to end by betraying young people and future generations or the service that has had such an important nation-building role in our country.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:45 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member provided very thoughtful comments. One of the very positive parts of this debate is the enormous amount of labour history we are learning about, what it is that affects working people in this country and the role unions have played in flighting for better working conditions, hours of work, health and safety and better wages that lifts everybody up in this country. That has been a very interesting part of this debate.

I know the member has many decades of service in the labour movement and has been part of negotiations. One thing that is very interesting for us to hear, which the member for Hull—Aylmer also talked about, is the impact of women and the changes that have taken place, whether it is on pay equity, parental leave or equal pay for work of equal value. These are very important wins by unions and the labour movement.

I wonder if the member could relate that to the situation we are now facing, of these workers being locked out. All they want is to go back to the table and get a fair deal for their members and for the rights of all workers in this country. How does that relate to equality for women in this country?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:50 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is an employer in the federal jurisdiction and a crown corporation. It is an employer where today we will see large numbers of women employed. At Canada Post it is probably around 50-50, if I am not mistaken. We will see provisions around maternity and parental leave that were pioneered at Canada Post.

However, I dare say Canada Post did not just wake up one morning and ask what they could do for working women. It was because the workers got together, through the legitimate voice of their union, to organize and to press for gains like better maternity benefits and better opportunities for women, including pay equity.

Therefore, all Canadian women owe a real debt of gratitude to CUPW and the women who work at Canada Post.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the member, who worked so long with her former union boss, Ken Lewenza, has no faith in the union's ability to win final offer selection.

This is actually a fair situation if we look at it from the workers' perspective. They get a guaranteed pay increase for four years when others do not. They get to go back under the current agreement, which is exactly what they have been asking for anyway. They get an improved pension trajectory, which is mandatory in terms of the final offer. They are going to have to get an improved pension solvency.

All matters that have previously been settled are not going to be reopened. They are settled. In terms of the outstanding issues, what remains is that the union gets to put forward its offer and the company gets to put forward its offer.

Is the member saying that she has no confidence in the union's ability to put forward a competitive bid that will be in the interest of workers and actually win the final offer selection?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:50 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that in the member's previous life as an auto worker it was the union that bargained the excellent wages, benefits, and working conditions that allowed him and his family to prosper in the community of Windsor.

I have enormous faith in the ability of the union to negotiate a fair settlement. Final offer selection is a bit of a sledgehammer approach. It would be much better if there were a mediated arbitration. That would allow both sides to negotiate and tailor a solution instead of the winner-take-all approach that the government is favouring.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:50 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to take this opportunity to correct my colleague on the other side of the House, the Minister of State for Science and Technology. He mentioned that his riding had received good financial assistance from the federal government to help the automotive industry. I am very happy for his constituents. However, he said that through the same package, the government had provided strong support for the forestry industry. I worked in the forestry industry for a very long time and honestly, this government did nothing. During the economic crisis, it provided assistance in the form of $10 billion in loan guarantees to the automotive industry—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:50 a.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of State for Science and Technology, I know exactly what I said. The member was not here, so I can forgive him for misquoting me. I will give the member the opportunity to stand up and apologize for again misleading Canadians. That is not what I said.

I said that this government has helped the automotive sector, as well as the forestry sector, as well as mining, as well as seniors and students. We did that because as the government we are responsible for all Canadians in all sectors and not, unlike the socialist party, just the unions.