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, 7:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we have said repeatedly during the night, the workers are ready to go back to work. It is that simple. They are ready to negotiate an agreement peacefully, as equals.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:05 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, my colleague from Compton—Stanstead has experience in labour law. That is what I believe I understood in my chats with him since this session began.

When he took a look at the bill, he saw that the government was imposing salaries on postal workers that were in fact less generous than the previous Canada Post Corporation offers had been. By imposing such a salary reduction—another measure in the bill that is unfair to workers—will the government not create a conflict when people go back to work and create an absolutely poisonous job atmosphere until the expiry of the collective agreement?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for his question.

All this is going to do is poison working conditions and relations. Moreover, the imposition of an “orphan clause” will make things even worse by creating two salary scales. This provision was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in a judgment involving the Sherbrooke municipal police force and the City of Sherbrooke, which had created a second salary scale. This is no way to settle the conflict and bring about labour peace.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member indicates that the parties should get back to the negotiating table, but they have been at the negotiating table since October of 2010.

Conciliators and others have helped the mediators, but at some point there needs to be a solution, as was suggested in one of the faxes I received. It said: “Personally, I believe in the right of union members to negotiate and strike under unfair labour practices. However, when negotiations drag on to the point they threaten the livelihood of Canadians or the good health of Canadians, then we need a government that will legislate and provide a solution.”

What about Canadians? He is looking at one party or the other, but there are more parties involved than just the two at the table. If they cannot resolve their differences, there must be a means by which that can happen. This is that means and he should get behind it and support it.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, people have to start by showing goodwill at the negotiating table. That is the essential principle on which any good negotiation rests. It may take 6, 8 or 18 months. The letter carriers guaranteed that they would provide services during negotiations in good faith between the two parties.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:10 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, before beginning my remarks, I have to say that I have been sitting in this House for more than five years and that I am extremely proud of my new colleagues. I congratulate them.

I have kept abreast of the Canada Post situation for a long time. I have learned a lot by speaking to workers, to the union and to representatives of management. This is what I have learned. Under its mandate, Canada Post must make a profit each year. We have learned that, in 2009 I believe, the profit was $281 million. But that is not all. The corporation must also give part of that income to the federal government. In other words, Canada Post is a way for the government to make money, to get a guaranteed income. To make this profit possible, management wants the crown corporation to become more efficient. And to do so, it must make cuts.

I have noticed this in my communities. We forget this when we are talking in this debate today, but draconian measures were instituted by the former CEO of Canada Post, Moya Greene.

In my letter to her on February 9, 2010, I outlined how the restructuring of, for example, the Trail and Castlegar post offices was creating staffing problems, with such things as part-time employees with years of seniority receiving fewer hours than casual term employees, and two fully-trained wicket clerks being transferred to a night shift position in another community. Our Castlegar post office is now one wicket clerk short, which means more lineups, and one nighttime position has been eliminated.

All of this of course decreases the service to the community.

I also understood, in talking with representatives of CUPW and others, that prior to her coming to Canada Post, there were relatively good labour relations and the work climate was better. So I believe the background to this conflict is a climate that has been fostered by this crown corporation and that is not conducive to good labour relations.

My constituency assistant, Laurel Walton, yesterday spoke to a member of CUPW on the picket line. This person was wondering if this legislation included benefits that were ripped away on June 2, such as sick leave and medical and extended health care.

I know that the employer arbitrarily reduced hours for full-time clerks and letter carriers without consultation with the union. They are asking if their regular hours are going to be restored, if the minimums in the collective agreement are going to be restored, and if five-day delivery will be restored. These are questions that are being asked by CUPW workers on the picket lines.

I am proud to report that my local retired teachers association in Grand Forks is rallying at the picket line to support postal workers. In fact, now more than ever, it is time to get support for all those who value fairness and justice. It is simply unacceptable for the federal government to legislate workers back to work, to offer less in wages than the employer, and in fact to lock out the workers.

Canadians must understand that this is just a start. As part of its cutting and slashing, Canada Post has cut back hours and positions in my province in approximately 72 rural British Columbia communities. One time, a postal worker contacted me almost in tears. She was working seven part-time hours a week and this was cut back to three hours. She was just making ends meet and working to support her disabled husband in the process. This kind of policy is hurting rural communities especially.

Prior to writing my letter to the CEO of Canada Post, I consulted with the president of CUPW in Trail. He mentioned to me that he and his colleagues were willing, before the discussions started in regard to this lockout, to sit down with Canada Post to work out a solution. They had some creative ideas about how the corporation could sell to new customers and increase revenue at the local level. In fact, I was told that relations deteriorated when the new CEO took over.

Subsequent to my letter to the CEO, I communicated with her successor. I mentioned to him in my letter of December 17 that certain staffing positions are not being filled upon retirement. This has placed additional stress on those workers, as well the public they serve.

The pattern is there. It is clear. Canada Post is embarking on a streamlining of its operations by going as far as it can go on the backs of the workers.

After the Canadian Union of Postal Workers started a series of rotating strikes, it offered to end them if Canada Post would agree to keep the previous agreement in effect while negotiations continued. But the corporation refused.

We are being asked a number of questions about what is happening and what is being done. My answer is that Canada Post imposed the lockout. The workers wanted to keep working during the negotiations. So this is not a strike by the workers, it is a lockout imposed by management. The government is now imposing a contract that is not a fair collective agreement. It is not appropriate for the government to intervene and to impose a contract on the workers.

We still remain optimistic that the dispute can be settled, but goodwill has to be shown on both sides. The government must stop interfering in the process. The management of Canada Post and the government have discussed nothing. They imposed a lockout right away and introduced a bill. It is wrong to say that the government did not make the decision. They both did.

In a communiqué by Dennis Lemelin, the president of CUPW, he said that the government’s heavy-handed intervention will damage labour relations for years to come. As I said earlier on, there had been good relations until we started these kinds of draconian measures.

The last time the federal government imposed back to work legislation, in 1997, it included a provision to ensure that the mediator/arbitrator consider the importance of good labour-management relations. The current legislation contains no such provision.

I would like to quote from my response to constituents who are concerned about this lockout. What we are seeing in this current lockout is a snapshot of things to come. There is a concentrated effort by the current federal government and others to take away the rights and benefits that Canadian workers have fought for over the years. This will eventually affect all of us, especially in our rural communities. Fewer jobs with less pay means that less money will trickle down to our small businesses. I believe, as former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said so well, that a strong economy needs a strong middle class.

If our postal workers are subjected to these cuts, loss of wages, benefits and pensions in other sectors will surely follow. There are no two ways about it. Local economies depend on well-paid jobs. Fewer jobs and less pay will mean that less money will trickle down to our small businesses.

Let us support our postal workers. Let us ensure that the government tells Canada Post to take the lockout away so they can continue negotiating and come to a reasonable solution for all.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all of our viewers who are tuning in. This may seem a little unique to people who are tuning in, but at the House of Commons this is still actually Thursday, even though in the rest of the world it is Friday, which will explain to some of the viewers why many of the patriotic members, all members around here, are not yet wearing red. It is “wear red for the troops” Friday, and I know that many hon. members will be putting on red ties and so forth later on--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay is rising on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded that on the fête nationale the member would say we should be wearing red for the troops on Friday. We all respect our troops, but he does not even take a moment to recognize that this is the fête nationale and for the Quebec--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. This is a point of debate. I would remind hon. members that these points of order do indeed take time away from legitimate questions and comments that members may have for the previous speaker.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do wish everyone a happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. I was just putting in a small, friendly preamble to give my colleague a moment to catch his breath.

My understanding of the legislation, while I'll admit that I may not have read it in the detail that my hon. colleague has, is that it fundamentally comes down to a few basic things. What has been agreed to by the various parties will be part of the agreement. There are very small, modest changes in the wages they have agreed to, which, frankly, after a week's worth of a strike would not be much different, and then there is final settlement arbitration, which can go in favour of either management or the union.

Does not my hon. colleague think and understand that with final offer arbitration being put on the table there is a potential for both the union and management to lose their best positions and thus a certain degree of incentive for them to get to a reasonable compromise?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

I would like to thank my colleague for his preamble to let me get my thoughts in order.

I would like to quote from the CUPW bulletin of June 5. In it they say that what management is not saying is that they are demanding an end to sick leave for all employees and the imposition of a short-term disability plan that provides inadequate coverage for short-term illnesses and that threatens medical privacy. It says that they have been attempting to reduce service in rural areas and that they have not responded to the union's proposal to extend door-to-door delivery service to seniors and persons with mobility restrictions. They have rejected proposals to follow the example of other postal administrations and diversify into financial and banking services, and they are demanding a starting wage that is 22% less than the current starting rate.

These are not conditions, so how can they be accepted when in negotiations?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2011 / 7:20 a.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am noticing something about the government opposite.

In negotiations—I do not know whether the hon. member can comment on this—my union experience always leads me to say that negotiations go on year in, year out. That is what we call communicating with the employer to make sure that possibilities always exist. And it costs absolutely nothing. This government seems to be saying that it had to impose a lockout because of the lengthy negotiations.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 7:20 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

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

The odd thing is that negotiations were under way and they were supposed to continue. The union was saying that it would continue to deliver the mail during negotiations. But then, all of a sudden, a lockout was imposed. In my view, that does not reflect a willingness to try to solve the problem. Both sides must be willing to do so.