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, 3:35 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, a number of comments have been made about the member deviating from the issue at hand, and that is because what we are seeing here is just a good old-fashioned filibuster.

The opposition party is not acting in the interests of Canadians. If they were serious about helping Canadians, serious about helping postal workers, serious about ensuring that Canada Post can function in the future, they would pass the bill as it now stands.

There has been eight months of negotiations. The government has watched the two parties. They have not been able to come to an agreement. The legislation provides an opportunity to bring the parties together so Canadians can get their mail.

Will the opposition stop this filibuster and allow Canadians to receive their mail immediately? Pass this legislation.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the government were serious about getting the mail moving, they would unlock the doors.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers had offered to remain at work while negotiations continued. Instead, Canada Post chose to lock them out, halting mail delivery from coast to coast to coast.

If the member is serious, his government would support the hoist motion put forward by the leader of the official opposition, take six months, unlock the doors, allow the workers to go back to work and get the mail moving.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honourable colleague for her great speech.

Although hon. members on the other side of the House do not always see the link between the importance of the work that the unions have been doing over the last few decades, even a century, many of the benefits that we get now right across the country are thanks to unions. I want to thank the member for bringing that up.

The important thing to understand right now is that we are seeing unfair legislation. The government is trying to legislate lower wages. They need to take that out of the legislation. I would like to hear my honourable colleague's comments.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Sudbury for that question. Of course the member's community is no stranger to what happens when workers are locked out or workers need to go on strike because of the conditions they work under.

I appreciate my colleague raising the question about the relevance in this day and age of what working conditions are like for some workers in this country and why we need to continue to support the rights of workers to collectively bargain fairly and not have government interfere in that process.

What we have In this back-to-work legislation is an effort by the government to impose wages on workers outside of the collective bargaining process. How is that a fair collective bargaining process?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my honourable friend from Nanaimo—Cowichan if she is aware that just recently, in the last hour, there was a news release from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations announcing their conclusion that this piece of legislation, Bill C-6, would do permanent damage to collective bargaining across Canada.

I would like to ask the hon. member if she has heard of this development and if she has any thoughts.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing that to my attention.

There are others who have written about how this kind of back-to-work legislation undermines the collective bargaining process in this country. Again, collective bargaining is part of our democratic process. It is part of the process where workers and employers get together and negotiate. This is not negotiation. This is imposition.

I would again urge all members to vote against Bill C-6.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

To begin with, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleagues from Quebec, who have taken a principled position against this terrible bill. I would like to thank them for defending the rights of workers on Quebec's national holiday.

They are here today in Ottawa—rather than in their ridings to celebrate the Quebec holiday—to represent Quebeckers. They are here to protect the workers of Quebec and Canada. In other words, they are here to do their work. I can assure the constituents who elected them on May 2 that they made a very good choice.

I am pleased to rise today to bring a northern Ontario perspective on this government's horrible piece of legislation. This legislation is truly scary, because it is an attack on the rights of workers in Canada. This Conservative government has always had a fundamental dislike for workers' rights because they have always placed corporate profits ahead of decent wages.

Bill C-6 is designed to cut short the collective bargaining process at Canada Post and offer postal workers less than they are currently being offered by the postal company.

Northern Ontario has a unique perspective on the issue of workers' rights. My generation has made their living as miners. They have been proud members of the United Steelworkers of America and the Canadian Auto Workers union. I am a proud member of USW local 6500, having worked at Inco for 34 years. I proudly held many positions in my union. Whether it was as a shop steward or a picket captain, I took my job and my responsibilities seriously. Health and safety were foremost in our thoughts because our work was so dangerous.

These standards came about because our workers organized and pushed the government to end reduced health and safety standards. The recent deaths of two miners at the Stobie Mine only serves to underscore why we must remain vigilant at all times. With respect to strikes, we have never taken a strike lightly or without a vote.

In 1978 and 1979 my union spent nine months on the picket line. I was married with two young children, and the strain on our family was severe, but at no point did my wife complain. At no point did I waiver in my determination to fight for our rights. And at no point did my brothers and sisters at local 6500 complain. Why? It was because management was unwilling to bargain in good faith. That's why. This is exactly where we are today.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers decided to put in place rotating strikes in part to reduce the impact of a total strike. They undertook these rotating strikes while continuing to negotiate. What happened next amounts to negotiating in bad faith and a concerted attack on workers' rights by this government. Canada Post locked out workers just as the Conservative government was bringing in legislation with lower wages than the postal company was offering. This legislation is contrary to the International Labour Organization conventions and contravenes the fundamental rights of all workers to organize and bargain collectively.

New Democrats believe that this legislation is a clear signal of where the Conservatives intend to take labour relations in this country. Denis Lemelin, national president of CUPW said, and I quote:

We never got a chance in this round of bargaining. Canada Post spent months just saying no and misleading the public about our proposals. Now, as we call for a meeting with Canada Post's President, the Harper government is going to rescue him from a responsibility to negotiate realistically with the workers.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been trying to bring postal proposals to the bargaining table that address health and safety issues around Canada Post's new sorting machines and delivery methods. Contrary to the myth being perpetrated by members of the Conservative government, CUPW has also offered proposals for innovations and expansion of the public postal service.

Canada Post's focus on concessions has made it impossible to negotiate. CUPW members are fighting to keep their collective agreement from being eroded and are also resisting wage rollbacks for new hires. The union has called on the government to require Canada Post to immediately lift its lockout of members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and reinstate the recently expired urban operations collective agreement. Once this is done, CUPW members have committed to returning to work. It is required that Canada Post give their negotiators a new mandate to arrive at a new collective agreement with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers that enshrines the principles of respect, dignity, and the sharing of benefits of new technology.

These are responsible demands, Mr. Speaker. Back-to-work legislation is unjust and unnecessary.

In his letter to the labour minister, Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress wrote:

Minister, the proper role for the government in this instance is to tell its own Crown Corporation to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement. It is not to aid the Corporation to achieve, through back to work legislation, its collective bargaining objectives. There is no incentive here Minister, with your actions, for the employer to return to the bargaining table and negotiate.

Your role, as Minister, is to foster the process of collective bargaining and not get directly involved in any dispute. For collective bargaining to work, the parties themselves must willingly negotiate. Your actions have removed the employer's obligation to negotiate which will only serve to further poison already acrimonious labour relations.

I agree with Mr. Georgetti. It seems that the government lacks a true understanding of the impact of wage rollbacks on the economy as a whole. After all, these workers are not sending their wages and pension benefits to banks in the Bahamas or secret Swiss accounts. They are spending that money at businesses in their communities. Decent wages help the housing sector, the retail sector, the transportation sector and help create jobs and spur the economy. They also lead to increased tax revenues for the government. It is basic economics.

Recently, northern Ontarians experienced the longest strike in our history when members of the United Steelworkers were on strike for almost a year. They were fighting to protect their wages and pensions, as well as the pensions of future workers.

Pensions are under attack today and the government is signalling that it will support those attacks on pensions. How short-sighted. Why did the members of United Steelworkers have to go on strike for almost a year? It was because the Conservative government supported the foreign take-over of a successful Canadian company and then refused to defend the rights of workers when the new company laid them off by hundreds, in violation of their condition of purchase of Inco.

Northern Ontarians understand the value of good wages. They understand the value of defined benefit pensions. They understand because they experienced first-hand how good wages and good pensions benefit their communities.

Northern Ontario is essentially a collection of small communities dotted along the highway. Workers spend their wages in these very communities. They get married and have children. They buy their homes and even buy their cottages in northern Ontario. When the government attacks the workers' rights by bringing in legislation that lowers the wages of workers and circumvents the collective bargaining process, I can say that, as a northern Ontarian, I see this action as an attack on our way of life.

This legislation is a classic example of ideology trumping economics. Conservative members have used as an excuse the lack of progress in negotiation as a reason for this legislation. I ask the House why Canada Post would negotiate in good faith if it knows the government will bring in back to work legislation.

The government has actively undermined the collective bargaining process. This intervention will not be forgotten by workers across the country. It will not be forgotten by workers in my community. New Democrats will continue to fight to protect workers' rights in the face of such a concerted attack by the government.

I am proud of the efforts by my leader and his great New Democratic caucus in their determination to protect the rights of workers.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening with great interest to comments continually coming from NDP members regarding the need to protect all workers and yet their actions today show me very much to the contrary that they have any desire to protect all the workers of Canada.

I give, for an example, the 58,000 workers employed in the print industry that, at the very beginning, was drastically affected through the rotating strikes. Companies were afraid to send out anything via direct mail in advertising forms, things that were date sensitive and time sensitive. It is having an impact on the printing companies already, which is affecting those workers. We have 58,000 workers across Canada affected, a large portion of whom are also union workers.

Are NDP members only here to defend CUPW or are they truly here to defend all the workers of Canada?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, we are here to protect workers, all workers, unionized and non-unionized workers. All Canadian workers can depend on us to protect them. What Canadian workers cannot depend on is the government to unlock the doors so they can go back to work and protect the very people the member was talking about.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

One of the most troubling aspects of this legislation is the fact that the government is trying to impose lower wages than had been proposed.

Can my colleague tell us anything about the possibility of deleting this part of the bill?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I would like to thank my colleague for having asked it.

Yes, the government is in the process of offering Canada Post employees lower wages. Having two salary scales for employees who do the same work is truly shameful. If the government were serious, it would eliminate this portion of the legislation.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:55 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I read a number of letters that demonstrate that the NDP is not standing up for workers. In fact, it is beholden to a small group of union boss thugs.

I will read a letter from a local postal worker. The letter reads, “I'm a postal worker. As you know, we didn't get the right to vote on the final offer. Why? The union knew we would have taken the offer. We're being held hostage by them. Plus, the strike vote was unfair and unjust.”

This worker is on sick leave and has lost all benefits and coverage because the union will not allow local members to vote. I want to stand up for my local postal workers and demand that CUPW hold a free vote for its membership. Why are members of the NDP standing in the way of that? Why will they not allow CUPW members to vote? How can they possibly contend that they are standing up for workers in this House?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister would use such a word as “thugs”. He is well aware that in the bargaining process for the collective agreement the membership voted for a negotiating committee and gave the committee all the powers to negotiate for them.

When Canada Post comes up with a reasonable offer, the committee will take that offer back to the membership for a vote. However, until that happens, the committee is not obligated to let the members vote because the committee has been given the power to make the proper decision.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would seek the unanimous consent of the House to table a document written by a local postal worker in which he says, “This is for the real workers at Canada Post, not union thugs”. A Canada Post worker used the term.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have unanimous support?