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, 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, we do have very little time remaining.

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would tell my hon. colleague that it is workers like the one who sent me the email who want to get back to work. They carried out rotating strikes so that mail could still be delivered to Canadians who deserve it. It was the decision of the government, who imposed the lockout, to stop the delivery of the newspapers she talked about.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:55 p.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to take a moment to address a short message to my constituents in the riding of Verchères—Les Patriotes. I know that I was expected to attend the festivities on the occasion of our national holiday but, unfortunately, I am not going to be able to be with my fellow citizens.

However, I want to say that I am with them in spirit. I am here today to protect not only the interests of Canada Post workers, but the interests of all Canadians and all workers. I do feel strongly about what is going on, and it is my duty to be in this House with all my colleagues to stand up for Canadian workers and families.

Like many of my colleagues, I keep receiving emails and calls in support of workers and of the NDP stand. Despite the fact that, with this lockout, Canadians are being held hostage by the government, people are still prepared to defend the rights and the benefits for which their parents and grandparents fought.

By targeting workers and families, this government seems not to know that social justice is now an indisputable gain that we will defend to the very end. So, I salute the courage of our 55,000 fellow citizens and I invite them to keep fighting for their universal rights, which the government is trying to trample. The fight of postal workers is also the fight of all Canadians. I wonder what message the Conservative government is trying to send to Canadians with this legislation.

Following the May 2 general election, this government promised to govern for all Canadians. However, it has already deprived Canadians of a service as essential as mail delivery for ideological reasons and to show management that it can be even harsher with the employees.

As Nancy Snow put it: “The government should spend less time promoting itself and distracting the public's attention, and spend more time serving and protecting its fellow citizens”.

It is also important to point out that the government is trying to discredit postal workers by claiming that this is a strike. In fact, what we have here is a plot, a lockout imposed by the employer, despite all the attempts made by the unions to get workers back on the job and to restart negotiations.

The government has to show responsibility and stop intervening in this dispute. It has to acknowledge that workers have the right to negotiate with their employer as equals.

I would also like to share a story about Richard, a 54-year old Canadian who has been providing his employer with good and loyal service for almost 30 years. Richard gets up every morning and delivers letters and packages in good weather and bad. Richard loves his work and over all these years he has developed special ties with all the people in his neighbourhood. He is the one who delivers long awaited cheques, letters that sometimes come from the other side of the world, or even packages. Richard always takes the time to say hello or smile at people, or offer a few words of comfort to those who receive bad news. His work is his life and he puts his heart and soul into it.

Today, Richard is not happy about the current situation and that of his colleagues. Richard has always been a good employee and he is wondering why his employer is trying to trample his rights. Richard is thinking of himself, but mostly of his son who, following in his father's footsteps, has also been delivering letters and packages for four years now. What future is being offered to his son? One in which he will have to wait much longer to retire? One in which he will not have enough pension benefits to allow his family to live in dignity?

He thinks about it and believes that his union has acted very responsibly. It offered to end the strike if Canada Post agreed to maintain the former contract during the negotiations. Canada Post refused and decided to lock out the employees and stop the mail service.

This decision is the only reason why Canadians are no longer receiving their mail. It is important to remember that Canada Post employees have been locked out by their employer and are not on strike. Workers have the right to negotiate in good faith with their employer and that right is currently being denied.

The government interfered and decided to impose an employment contract on the employees of Canada Post. This contract is simply unfair. Not only does it not meet the demands of the employees, but it also provides for wages that are lower than what was offered by the employer. What kind of world are we living in? It is not the role nor the responsibility of government to impose such contracts. What the government is proposing is, quite simply, unilateral and irresponsible legislation. It violates workers' rights. The government's actions do not enable the two parties to properly negotiate an agreement.

The government must not interfere in this dispute or in any other similar dispute. This debate is not just about resolving the issue at Canada Post; it is about the right of workers to negotiate. Canadians fought too long to create a fair and equitable work environment. They fought with all their might for fair wages and suitable benefits to help them meet their families' needs.

These employees are being locked out and are being forced into a contract that would take back the gains they fought hard for. This would set us back years and creates a dangerous precedent.

I would like to remind the members opposite that instead of deceiving Canadians, insulting their intelligence and violating their right to have accurate information by talking about a strike, they should be talking about a lockout.

The government interfered between the union and Canada Post, claiming that the postal employees, by no longer working, were jeopardizing the Canadian economy. But I want to remind the members opposite that the employees of Canada Post want to return to work and serve the public as they have always done.

On June 3, Canada Post workers started a rotating strike. This shows their willingness to continue their job. This strike movement was just a way for them to fight for better job security and fair wages.

They refuse to be the victims of tactics to unfairly take back their money. They refuse to allow their rights, and also the rights of employees of any large employer associated with the government, to be subject to this abuse in the future and have to suffer the consequences.

Today's debate is not only about postal workers' rights, but rather about the interests of all Canadian workers. What will become of their rights? What message is the government sending to the heads of Canada's large corporations? It seems to be saying, “Do not worry, my friends; do as you please; impose whatever conditions you like on your employees; hire other employees for lower wages; do whatever you like and do not worry for a moment about the consequences. The government is here to support you and protect your interests, and not those of your employees. Whatever happens, we will legislate in your favour and we can even cancel your previous agreements and lower your employees' wages”.

Things should not have happened this way. The government had several options to get out of this crisis. I will not bother listing all of them, since my colleagues have already talked about some of them, but I would like to mention one such option: lift the lockout to allow Canada Post employees to return to work, and above all, to resume negotiations.

The postal workers have said this on many occasions: they want to get back to work. By lifting the lockout, Canada Post could give its employees the opportunity to go back on strike, yes, but more importantly, to get back to work and start delivering the mail. Negotiations between the two parties could resume, with the wishes of both sides being respected, and perhaps an agreement could then be reached.

This could all be done without hurting the Canadian economy, without violating the rights of citizens and SMEs, which, let us face it, have suffered from this lockout. Indeed, while they were still able to enjoy Canada Post services during the rotating strikes, that was not the case during the lockout. Whose fault is that?

We are all victims of this lockout. Our seniors are no longer receiving their cheques. Small businesses can no longer send their invoices. And although we are in the digital age and many services can be carried out online, Canada Post nevertheless remains a vital service to all Canadians. Our duty is to stand up for the people who deliver this essential service. The government is imposing restraint measures by directly attacking the rights of citizens to have a decent income and pension plan.

Collective agreements are used to get what workers deserve, to support families and help them pay their bills, work in a safe environment and retire in dignity. That is precisely what we are fighting for today, but the government does not seem to understand that or it is simply turning a deaf ear. The government is supposed to protect workers' rights, not legislate against them.

We are here today, on June 24, on Quebec's national holiday, trying to come up with a solution. The fate of our constituents is in our hands and we will not abandon them. We will fight day and night to defend their rights. As our leader says, we are prepared to work together day and night to restore workers' rights.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:05 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I just want to continue with Terry Jenson, the business person who said:

If there is any indication back to work legislation will be delayed—as the NDP have said it will do—we will act swiftly to move our newspapers to readers via carrier or other means instead of relying on the unionized workers at Canada Post to handle all our distribution. Perhaps the Official Opposition is more interested in our company creating 125 new carrier jobs for high school students instead of paying postal employees to deliver our newspapers.

...our company spends approximately $100,000 with Canada Post and that business is now being put in jeopardy....

This Canada Post strike costs $25 million per day. I would ask the member this. How much more will it cost Canadians if companies like this have to find alternative routes?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:05 p.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question, even though I do not really see a question in what she just said.

I would simply like to reiterate what I said earlier. Workers have the right to strike. A lockout is something that is imposed and that is what is hurting Canada's economy. It was not the strike, since the workers were on a rotating strike that allowed the public to continue to receive mail.

Today, because of the lockout, people can no longer receive their mail.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the government side believes, we are here today to talk about more than just the delivery of the mail. We are here to talk about the value of collective bargaining and fairness. Those are Canadian values.

We have some things to balance here and I am waiting, with good expectations, for the amendments mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech. I am wondering when they might be forthcoming and whether the hon. member has any ideas about what we might discussing in the hours to come.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:05 p.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are working on that and should be able to come back to you on that shortly.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:05 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the constituents of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and wish them a wonderful Fête nationale. I am missing the celebrations today and it is the first time that I have been outside Quebec for Saint-Jean Baptiste Day.

I have a question for the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes. As she knows, the cost of living is very high. A loaf of bread is $3, and gasoline costs $1.30 or more per litre. Small and medium-sized businesses are very important to the NDP. We have even proposed, in our platform, to reduce their tax rate from 11% to 9%. We support employers.

I would like the hon. member to explain to the House how the lockout and the current situation will harm the Canadian economy.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:10 p.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

Indeed, workers at Canada Post were carrying out rotating strikes. As most municipalities continued to received mail, the economy was moving forward. We now have a lockout. Mail is no longer being delivered. Small and medium-sized businesses cannot send bills or receive cheques, which is not right.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member on some of her comments, but she did say a few words, such as “imposing a collective agreement” and “the union has been responsible”.

I received an email from a postal clerk who said that they were excluded from any discussion on the last offer that was made by Canada Post. In fact, they felt that the offer was more than reasonable and more than fair. So, if the union was responsible, does that not suggest that the union has locked out its members from participating in this decision?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:10 p.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

The member is shifting the blame somewhat. The lockout was in fact imposed by Canada Post, and not the union.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I am rising in the House, after asking my first question last week. First, I want to thank my constituents in Berthier—Maskinongé for placing their trust in me. I am honoured to rise in this House to represent them. I will represent their interests every day.

I would also like to highlight the work of Guy André who worked for seven years for the people of Berthier—Maskinongé. Although we have differing opinions on the type of country we want to build, we share the same passion for our community and the same commitment to helping our fellow citizens.

Communities like mine did not simply choose a new member of Parliament. On May 2 they sent a clear message: we want a new way of doing politics; we can change things; we can do better. That is the message sent by 1.5 million Quebeckers. They rallied behind the NDP's vision for a better Canada, a Canada where families are a priority and where no one is left behind, a country Quebeckers can identify with, that reflects their progressive values. I humbly accept the mandate they have given me. That is why we are here today instead of in our ridings. I wish the people of Berthier—Maskinongé a happy national holiday, even if the calendar in the House shows that it is still June 23.

On this Quebec national holiday, I would like to wish my constituents, the people of Berthier—Maskinongé, a very happy holiday, surrounded by family and friends. I had in fact planned to join the people of my riding to take part in activities organized for the national holiday. This morning I was supposed to attend celebrations in Lanoraie for the first time as a member of Parliament. I had hoped to say a few words there during the flag raising. I wanted to thank Dominique Bellemare for all his efforts in organizing the events for the national holiday, even though it is raining cats and dogs there.

I would also like to thank Céline Bastien, the people of Sainte-Ursule who invited me to attend the festivities for the 175th anniversary of the canonization of Sainte-Ursule. I hope to be able to join everyone on Saturday to celebrate the pride that the people of Sainte-Ursule feel towards their municipality. Once again, I thank them for their invitation and I wish them a happy holiday.

Instead of being with them, I am here in the House of Commons to stand up for the rights of Canada Post employees, and we are proud to be here. As we discuss this situation, it is important to understand it and to know why we are here. After the Canadian Union of Postal Workers began a series of rotating strikes, the union offered to put an end to its strike action if the corporation would agree to reinstate the previous contract during negotiations, but Canada Post Corporation refused.

On June 15, Canada Post decided to lock out its employees and shut down services. On June 20, the Prime Minister introduced regressive legislation in order to impose a contract on Canada Post employees that actually includes wages that are lower than what the employer was offering.

This is not a strike, but a lockout.

Let us turn to Bill C-6, the back-to-work legislation introduced by the federal government to penalize postal workers and to reward Canada Post for locking out employees and stopping mail delivery nationwide.

The bill legislates wage increases below what Canada Post had put on the table. The final offer mentioned a 1.9% increase for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and a 2% increase for 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation.

Under the bill, the Conservatives are proposing increases of 1.75% in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014. According to CUPW, Canada Post's focus on concessions make further negotiations impossible.

CUPW members are fighting because they do not want loopholes in their collective agreement, and they are against the wage cutbacks Canada Post wants to impose on future employees

Here is what Denis Lemelin, national president of CUPW, had to say:

We believe in free speech, free association, and free collective bargaining. [It is important.] This legislation hurts the values that our country stands for and is an attack on workers’ rights and standard of living.

New Democrats also believe in these values. That is why we are here, in the House of Commons, standing up for the rights of Canadian workers.

Let me give the House some examples from my riding. When we talk about this situation, it is important to recognize the impact it can have on all Canadians. I have a few examples from my riding of Berthier—Maskinongé.

Jacques Meunier, owner of Chroma Peint in Saint-Alexis-des-Monts, explained to me that his operations were being disrupted by the Canada Post lockout. Since he owns a body shop, most of his business comes from customers who were in a car accident and have made a claim to their insurance company.

Insurance companies cannot mail cheques because of the lockout. Mr. Meunier has to cover the cost of the various parts he orders from his suppliers without knowing when he will be able to collect the insurance payments and receive the fees that are owed to him.

For a small business like his, the situation is quite serious and difficult.

Mr. Meunier also told me that this week, despite the situation at Canada Post, he received a statement from Revenue Canada. That is a double standard.

I have another example from a student from my riding.

To go on a school trip to the United States, a student in my riding asked Quebec's registrar of civil status to issue her a birth certificate.

The person in charge assured her that if the postal services were interrupted, the certificate would be sent by courier. However, the certificate was mailed before the lockout and was never delivered to the student.

Since the birth certificate was mailed, Quebec's registrar of civil status could not do anything about it. The student and her family were very worried, but the mother made several telephone calls to the authorities to ensure that her daughter could go on the trip.

The population of Berthier—Maskinongé is aging and a number of municipalities are seeing an exodus of young people to the large centres. It is hard because seniors do not use the Internet as much as young people do.

Many voters in Berthier—Maskinongé chose to place their confidence in the NDP. We are here to work for people.

We have to work together for all Canadians. We simply want the lockout to end and people to go back to work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:20 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on her first speech in the House of Commons. It is a great moment for every member of Parliament to make that first speech. For all of us who have made one, we hope it is some sort of debate or issue that we will remember into the future.

Mine was on the private member's bill to erect a statue to John Diefenbaker outside. That was a great moment for me. I am sure the hon. member will, as will many other new members, will make speeches in the House of Commons, but she certainly will not forget the subject matter of her first speech. I congratulate her on that.

I was pleased that she talked about some of the challenges that the lockout and strike is presenting to Canadians. I appreciated it when she talked about small businesses. She is probably hearing from individuals as well who still need the mail.

Could she comment further on the fact that we all have to work together to bring this to a quick end for everybody's interests.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:20 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, this affects everybody. It is really important that we work together. We were all elected by Canadians. We are all here for a reason. We have to work for them. Let us just do it. Let us stop the lockout, move these negotiations along and let us get everybody back to work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on her speech, particularly in light of the history of the right to bargain collectively. That is a very important right.

This system is not ideal. When there is a lockout, as there is now, or a strike, the employer and the employees both suffer economically. Since what is proposed in the bill is unfair, does the member believe that there is a possible alternative, for example, arbitration, to find a fair resolution?