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 25th, 6:55 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your ruling.

On the point my friend has raised, I recall the speech from the Minister of Labour where three times she said what we are in right now is a strike. I do not know how the member interprets telling the truth from not telling the truth, but if what we are in is a lockout, which is completely different from a strike, it is simply for him to determine what the Minister of Labour was trying to accomplish by saying what she said. She characterized this as something that it is not. She then later admitted that it was not strike but in fact a lockout.

The Conservatives can argue all sorts of points that they would like, but the point they cannot argue is the fact that the mail is not moving right now because the doors are locked at Canada Post. There is no other reason.

We have had public declarations from the organized members of that union who were saying they have binding agreements and they are ready to go back to work and move that mail, but the lockout must end. They cannot move mail that is behind locked doors. That is the fact.

We are simply trying to encourage this government in every forceful way we can to allow the parties to negotiate. That is what the Supreme Court of Canada said is their right to do.

If the government cannot see its way to doing that, it is its choice, but it cannot turn back on New Democrats and say that somehow we created the problem. In fact, it was the government's piece of legislation and its tactic that has led us to this moment. It should take ownership for what it is doing.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:55 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, to further underscore some of the points I made in my first intervention, I will continue along that vein.

The NDP members are not representing the views of ordinary Canadian men and women. They are not representing the views of Canadians workers. They are representing the views of the very narrow interests of the union bosses at CUPW. They are not even representing the views of postal workers.

To illustrate my point I will read excerpts from three emails we have received from postal workers.

The first one says: “I am a postal worker and we didn't get the right to vote on the final offer. Why? The union knew we would have accepted the offer. We are being held hostage by the union”.

The second says: “I'm a postal clerk, and our union has not allowed us to vote on any revised offers that Canada Post Corporation has made. Most of us think the revised final offer is fair and we wanted to vote but we were not allowed to by the union”.

The third one says: “I'm also a postal worker and no one in our station voted in favour of striking in the first place. We were very happy with the offer management presented”.

All I am trying to illustrate here, which I think most Canadians know intuitively, is that the NDP is representing the very narrow views of CUPW and the union bosses and not ordinary working men and women across Canada.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the question from my friend, who I have some respect for.

It seems ironic coming from a government that interprets a 39.6% vote from Canadians as a full endorsement of all the things the Conservatives want to do, but the 94% strike mandate from the 45,000 CUPW members, some of whom he just quoted, is somehow not an endorsement of the leadership, who were elected into their positions of the union, and what they are seeking to do.

The government thinks that the only way to solve this is to bring in the sledge hammer of forcing these folks back to work. This is how the government's view of democracy works. Perverse is one way to describe it.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the debate we have heard how successful Canada Post is. In fact, it has been incredibly profitable over the last 15 years. It has invested these profits back into the Canadian public treasury. Canadians get a very good bargain for their postal service, having one of the lowest postal rates in the industrialized world.

Since Canada Post is clearly such a success story, my question to the hon. member is: Why does he think Canada Post, with the support of the government, is wanting to roll back the clock on the wages and working conditions of postal workers?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 2011 / 7 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I thank my colleague from Toronto for the question.

It is ironic. I suppose Canada Post and its workers feel some small graciousness from this Parliament as there have been so many who have applauded their work and proficiency. That is known throughout the world because other postal services come here to study the efficiency and the modern advancements this network has made.

If one talks to good CEOs or good managers who are running a good company and asks what the secret to their success is, the smart ones and the good ones will say it is the people. It is the intelligence and hard work of the people who come in every day to work and make this company successful. To turn around and expect that after this kind of action they are going to get the same productivity and zest and all the energy that Canada Post workers put in every day, this government is absolutely undermining the very stature Canada Post has achieved over many hard working years. Members should know that the unions and the workers have made many concessions in the last four or five rounds of bargaining on wages and pensions. However, there has to be a line somewhere, where one says enough is enough; there should be fair treatment, fair wages and fair pensions for the generation coming. That is exactly what this dispute is going to settle.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is pretty much the end of the night shift, and we will all be glad of that. Certainly I will be, that is for sure, but I hope I am able to make as coherent an intervention as my colleague just did.

I want to talk about three things over the ten minutes I have. Hopefully I can do that. I will talk a bit about democracy, as it relates to Bill C-6. I want to talk about the next generation. And if I get to it, and hopefully I will, I want to talk a little bit about postal worker wages and pensions and corporate profits and the salaries of CEOs.

I will start by telling all members of the House how thrilled I am to be here, how thrilled I am to be part of this caucus, part of the official opposition and able to participate in such an important debate, in such an important attack on workers' rights. I am so grateful to the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who supported me in the recent election and sent me here and gave me, frankly, this wonderful opportunity to work and to speak at some length on an issue that is so important.

I have a bit of experience in parliamentary procedure and in the legislature. I was in the Nova Scotia Legislature for 12 years. I was there as a member of a two-person caucus, of a three-person caucus and of the official opposition, and here we are as the official opposition, but I want members to understand how I have approached each and every single day as an elected official. I approached it with the sense of responsibility to speak up on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of those people who too often go without a voice in places like this.

Again, whether it was in a two-person caucus or whether it was in the official opposition, I took every single opportunity I had to make sure I raised any concerns I had or any concerns my constituents might have had or any concerns I had about people being affected by the actions of any particular government.

I did not worry, and I still do not worry, that I am somehow inconveniencing the government, that I am somehow inconveniencing any other party within the chamber I am in at any given time, because I have a responsibility as an elected official, in this case as an MP, to be as articulate as I possibly can be, to work hard to point out the flaws, the weaknesses and the things that can be done to make a piece of legislation better. That is why I was elected. I take that very seriously, and I thank the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for giving me this opportunity.

Also, I want it to be known that I come here with not only the experience I gained but also the experience of having been raised by a man and woman who were big Conservatives. I should say that out front because somebody from Nova Scotia is going to tell us. I grew up in a big Conservative family, but the most important thing about these people, I want it to be known, is that they were small business people.

My dad was a World War II ace. He fought in North Africa. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar. My mum worked in the insurance business. She was also active in meals on wheels before she died and, in fact, provided hospice services for the first self-identified AIDS patient in Nova Scotia.

I am very proud of my parents and what they did and the values they left with me. The values they left with me are about fairness, about justice, about speaking up when we see things are wrong, about making sure we do not take no for an answer, that we stand up against tyranny and injustice.

My father did that in the war and that is what many of our veterans did, those who came back from and those who died in the second world war. That is why it is very important that I take every opportunity in this place when I see a piece of legislation come to the floor that has the kinds of implications as this one does on working people in this country. I commit to members opposite and the third party that I will do that with every breath in my body.

The second thing I want to talk about is the next generation. My daughter Jessie is 23 years of age. Hopefully she will be out of university some day and will be looking for a job, other than the one she has as a lifeguard, which does not pay very well. She will be out in the workforce, as are many other young people today, and I feel I have a responsibility to ensure that she can find jobs that pay a decent wage, that have good benefits and a pension, that she can work in a safe and healthy workplace and not suffer from discrimination or other human rights violations in the workplace. That is the responsibility I have.

With my history as a trade unionist, I know why we have public pensions, employment insurance, universal medicare and why we have all the rights and benefits we do. It is because of my father and mother, and the pioneers in the trade union movement, in the small business community, in legislatures and in this country. It is because of what they have been able to do to ensure that people in the workplace are able to enjoy those kinds of benefits.

While I have had the opportunity to enjoy the hard work they have done, my responsibility is to ensure that I protect the benefits and working conditions that they were able to fight for to ensure people are safe and healthy. My responsibility is to make them better and stronger and to ensure that my daughter and her generation are able to work and contribute to their families and communities. That is my responsibility and, I would suggest, the responsibility of every member of the House.

There have been some suggestions and comments by members opposite that the people who work for Canada Post have it good, that they make all kinds of money, have a pension and they should be happy and go away. I will share some numbers with members. An entry-level CUPW worker makes about $23 an hour. An average pension enjoyed by a CUPW worker, who has worked his or her entire life with Canada Post and contributed actively to his or her pension plan, is about $24,000 a year.

Let us compare that with some of the CEOs of Canada's big banks who have realized salary increases of well over 10% in 2009. The Bank of Nova Scotia's CEO makes $7.45 million, the president of the Bank of Montreal made $9.7 million in 2009, the CEO of TD Bank made $15.2 million, the CEO of the Royal Bank made $12.1 million and the CEO of CIBC made $6.2 million. The oil companies made $16 billion in profits last year and yet they are receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks.

My point is simple. Why is it that the government wants to hand over billions of dollars to profitable corporations at the same time as it wants to put the boots to hard-working women and men who toil at Canada Post?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:10 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I am assuming the member's constituents probably knew his father who was a small businessperson who worked really hard. I wonder if they actually thought that he would represent small business in this chamber when he came to Ottawa and not represent the union bosses. I want to know what the member's dad would say now.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague mentioning my dad. He has been dead about five years now. He was a Conservative all of his life but, ever since I got into politics in 1991, I know he supported me and the New Democratic Party because he understood what fairness and working for ordinary people was all about. My constituents also understand because I have a history of 12 years in the provincial legislature and 25 years in the trade union movement, which I did not hide. I spoke proudly of that to my constituents. They know all about the person they voted for and I appreciate their support.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:15 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague to the House of Commons.

I would like to get his comments on the following. As I observe what is going on today, it appears to me that the lockout is a symptom. It is a symptom of this disease that I see has permeated Canada Post and other organizations. I say that because I have talked with workers with Canada Post and the two unions that represent Canada Post. It appears that since their former CEO came into power, who has now been unleashed to destroy the system in the United Kingdom I understand, that labour relations have deteriorated in Canada Post. We had a period of time that it was okay.

Could this not be a golden opportunity for the government to work with Canada Post and the union to iron out some of those difficulties, to get a just contract and lay the groundwork for future good labour relations not only for Canada Post but for other crown corporations and government departments?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:15 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that this is an opportunity. The union has made a clear commitment to the government and to Canada Post that if the government were to pull this legislation back and tell Canada Post to rip those padlocks off the doors, they would go back to work and deliver the mail and then work toward rebuilding labour relations that, frankly, have been damaged already by this situation.

I want to go back to the point made about the troubling sign about this attack on public services and the public sector. It confuses me to some considerable degree that a government that says it is so focused on the economy would want to get rid of all the middle-class jobs, secure pensions and benefits for people who are spending their money in our communities and making our economy strong. I do not understand what that is all about.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:15 a.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the statement by the member opposite and I must say that I am quite concerned. This Conservative government is committed to passing Bill C-6, the restoring mail delivery for Canadians act to ensure that mail delivery resumes.

I have heard from many of my constituents, including workers from Canada Post, who are outraged that the opposition continues to stop passage of this very important piece of legislation. By stalling passage of this bill, the opposition is saying no to seniors who are asking for their pension cheques, no to parents asking for their child tax credit benefits, no to disabled Canadians asking for their disability cheques, and no to small businesses who want to pay their bills and mail cheques to employees.

I stand in this House today listening to the member opposite who spoke about fairness in his speech. Will my NDP colleague join the members on this side of the House by passing this bill quickly and saying yes to the many Canadians who are pleading for mail service to continue.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:15 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will allow me at least the same amount of time that the question took.

What I am hearing from my constituents is a concern that this attack at this point on postal workers is just the beginning, and that that whole list of groups that the member indicated may be next. People who represent the disabled community are concerned that the disabled community will be next, that their rights will be next.

People are worried that it will be other groups in the community, such as women, foreign sector workers or any number of groups that the government does not like and that their rights will then be attacked by the government.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, this labour dispute, and I have heard it called various things, is something with which I have some familiarity as I was a union leader for many years. One of the things taught to me was that we never ever start something we cannot finish. We do not let workers go out unless we know how to get them back.

Canada Post apparently knew how to get them back. It locked them out because it knew full well that it had allies on the other side of the House who would legislate them back to work immediately. Mere hours after the labour dispute, the lockout, got started, the minister notified this august body that she would be legislating them back to work, and that is unfair.

We in Canada have developed a labour relations system that is the envy of the world, because we have predictable, regular, understandable timeframes for labour disputes. In other parts of the world, the labour disputes can start whenever the union wants them to start, but here in Canada, we know there is a clock. When that clock comes around, we know it is when we are collectively bargaining that we are in a legal labour dispute position, and we in Canada have set up mechanisms that force the parties to talk to one another, that force the parties to sit down and negotiate. That is not happening here. Why is it not happening here? Because some signals apparently were sent from the other side of this legislature to the mandarins at Canada Post that they did not have to worry about a labour dispute, because they would find legislation in their favour as soon as a labour dispute got going in earnest, as soon as they locked people out.

We need to figure out how to resolve it ourselves. That is why we are having this conversation, because the parties are unable to do it. The parties are unable to do it, because one side knows full well it does not have to do so. It does not have to have that conversation, because that conversation will be shortened by the government.

The other side in this dispute, the company side, does not have to actually bargain in good faith. It does not have to sit down and actually talk about what it needs and what the employees need and see if it can find a way to make those needs meet. All it has to do is sit with its hands crossed and say no, and here we are.

We have a number of examples in Canada of protracted labour disputes. I do not think there has ever been a protracted labour dispute at Canada Post, but I have been involved in some. I had a 17-month strike at one of my employers over pay equity, over women being paid the same as men. Women were being paid $8.99 each hour for their work, and they had to go on strike for 17 months. In that case, really nobody won.

I have been involved in a four-month strike. It was a Crown corporation, and it took that long for the employer to get its instructions from the government about what it was supposed to do. I have been involved in a two-week lockout that the employer kept calling a strike, publicly. Eventually the Canada Industrial Relations Board had to rule that in fact it was a lockout, that the thing the employer was calling a strike was a lockout because it had locked the doors.

How do we get out of this? One way to get out of it is to let the labour dispute take place and wait for one side or the other to say that enough is enough and we have to settle this thing. Let us get to the table and talk about it. That will not happen here, quite clearly, since Canada Post has been told it does not have to actually sit down and bargain.

Another way we could do it is with a declaration. There are two kinds of declarations, one in the Public Service Staff Relations Act and one in the Canada Industrial Relations Board, that this is an essential service, that this service is something that cannot have a strike or lockout.

That seems to be what the current government is arguing, that there cannot be a postal disruption in Canada, even for a day. It was on the day the lockout started that the government announced Canada Post workers would be legislated back to work.

The definition of an “essential service” in the Canada Labour Code is that the employer or the trade union and the employees in the bargaining unit must,

continue the supply of services, operation of facilities or production of goods to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

Since the members opposite have not argued this, I guess this is not an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public. It is an inconvenience, and it means Canada Post is losing money. We agree that it certainly causes some very serious consequences not for everybody but for certain individuals, for pensioners and people in receipt of other government cheques. The postal workers' union has agreed to deliver those things. They will deliver the things they deem essential and that people in this House seem to agree are essential.

Somebody locked the doors. It was not the NDP and it was not the postal workers. It was the government and its Crown corporation that decided to lock the doors and prevent the delivery of what might be argued is essential stuff, though it has not yet been. We have agreed that it is stuff that it is pretty darned important to have delivered to people. Pension cheques, social security, and family allowances are the kinds of things that need to be delivered. We argue that they should be delivered, and Canada Post workers are willing to deliver them, but the government is preventing them from doing so.

There appears to be no way to stop this from dragging on, so what is another option? The only option that has been presented to us is the sledgehammer option in which, mere hours after a labour dispute starts, the government indicates it will not let that happen and forces workers back to work with less than was offered before. The government will force workers back to work with a bad faith position.

I say “bad faith position” because in my many years of bargaining if any employer brought an offer to the table and then reduced it for no good reason, not because there had been a sudden change in the economic conditions of the employer or there was legislation, in order to provoke the other side, that was considered to be bad-faith bargaining. That is not what the NDP is about here. We are about good faith. We are about fairness and we are about trying to get things done. We are about trying to get people back to work. That is really what we want to do.

The sledgehammer approach was brought about after the Minister of Labour claimed to have used everything in her power to bring these parties to an agreement. She talked at length about the number of months they had met. Of course if one side is just sitting there with their arms folded, the meeting does not really mean anything. The minister talked at length about the number of months that were involved in conciliation.

She did not appoint a conciliation commissioner. The difference, for those who do not know labour relations parlance in this country, is that a conciliation officer meets in private with the parties and never publishes a report, except to the Minister of Labour. The minister gets to know, but the conciliation officer's deliberations and decisions and ideas and proposals are all private.

However, a conciliation commissioner is public and that person actually reports to the public on what he or she thinks the outcome should be on a resolution to the dispute. That was not allowed to happen here. That was not allowed to take place, so we are faced with a situation that just got worse.

With regard to one other small piece, one of the members opposite keeps referring to the fact that they should let them vote. In fact, that is another thing the minister did not do. She has the power to force a vote, and she did not exercise it. I suspect we all know why.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:30 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I take a bit of issue with the member's comment about this not being a serious and essential need for Canadians. This is a serious and essential need for Canadians. Canadians need their mail delivered and mail delivery must be restored.

Small businesses in this country make up 1.5 million of the 10.6 million people who are employed. Therefore, I would like to ask the member why he and the NDP will not stop their filibuster and allow mail delivery to be restored so those small businesses that rely so much on cheques coming through the mail to employ people do not have to start laying people off because they cannot meet their expenses.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 7:30 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

We absolutely agree that this should end and do so in a way that is fair to everybody. However, it is not this piece of legislation that is fair. The Canada Post workers have offered to go back to work if Canada Post will just cut the locks off the doors and let them go back.

The member opposite suggested that I was not agreeing that this was essential. I did not say that. I said the government and Canada Post have the opportunity to declare this an essential service. If they do that and they believe that an immediate and serious danger to the safety or the health of the public is at risk, then they can declare it an essential service and the Canada Industrial Relations Board will decide how to arbitrate a collective agreement in a fair and impartial way. The Canada Industrial Relations Board will not actually legislate one side or the other to win.