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 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague shows a lot of class. We are all working for the welfare of our constituents. I urge him not to stray from that, because the kind of things he is saying are just not right. They are filibustering, and we do not agree, but we are still doing our job.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 2011 / 6 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, our job in this House is not to make sure that the Conservative members of Parliament feel comfortable. Our role in this House is to defend the letter carriers and mail sorters, who are ordinary, middle-class Canadians. Sometimes that is going to make some members uncomfortable. We make no apologies for that. We are here to do a job, and we will continue to debate and stand up for the working people of this country.

The point I am making is that even though we are sitting at 6:05 in the morning, there are about five million Canadians, on any given night, who are working either graveyard shifts or swing shifts. The kind of working hours we have had over the last 48 hours are the normal working hours for five million Canadians. They are the ones who are raising their families, going to school, and working hard all night. By day they are contributing to the country. We pay tribute to them this morning. That is their ordinary working environment. For us to work throughout the evening pays tribute to them as well.

Since this debate began, a number of facts have clearly been established. Some Conservative MPs at the beginning of this debate were saying that it was a strike. We know clearly, and the facts have been established, that this was a lockout by the management of Canada Post. I am happy to say that many Conservative MPs have become better informed, and that is something we welcome. They now understand. Many of them have been speaking about the lockout. That is very important.

We have also established, and this is a very important element, that this sledgehammer the government is imposing on the letter carriers and the mail sorters of Canada is, in real terms, a wage reduction. It is not a wage increase; it is a wage reduction. Members of the Conservative Party are now better informed about that, as well.

One cannot say that it is a wage increase when what the government wants to impose is actually less than the inflation rate. This means that over the course of the next few years, the letter carriers and the mail sorters, those who work to keep the nation's mail going, will be earning less and less because of the sledgehammer imposed by the government.

We have established as well that this is a very real threat to pensions. Working through one's working life and not being provided with an adequate pension, and having to work below the poverty line, is something most Canadians do not accept.

We have also established that this draconian sledgehammer legislation permanently disadvantages the youth of our nation, who want to get involved, want to provide service, and want to work for Canada Post.

We have established a number of facts. What has been fascinating about the evolution of this debate over the last 24 hours is the reaction we are seeing from various parts of the country. We have received far too many letters and e-mails to read into the record. However, I would like to read just a few of the e-mails we are receiving from Conservative ridings. These are Conservative constituents, and Conservatives should be listening to them.

A constituent from Richmond, British Columbia wrote, “I'm a letter carrier in Richmond, B.C. I am writing to you because unfortunately, my member of Parliament has her hands tied. I was appalled and embarrassed by her remarks during her speech yesterday”.

A constituent from Surrey, British Columbia wrote, “I hope many Canadians are following this issue. I do not need to go into details. We both know how unjust this bill is. I am not a union worker. However, I see a bigger issue here. The Conservatives need to be set straight”.

A constituent from Lethbridge wrote, “I watched the debates in Parliament yesterday, last night, and this morning. My family has watched it as well. We are all amazed and grateful that you and the New Democrats will stand for us and not be bullied by Canada Post and the government into an unfair contract. Thanks you for standing up for our rights under the law for free bargaining”.

A constituent from Calgary Centre wrote, “Thank you for your defence of the worker and the Canadian way of labour disputes. I do feel the government gave the employer a sledgehammer to solve this issue. Hidden under the guise of serving the public, the government has made sure of Canada Post's continued revenue input into general coffers and the continued bad management practices of its management staff”.

A constituent from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar wrote, “We want to say thank you and we appreciate your support in our struggle. Keep up the good work”.

A constituent from Saint Boniface wrote, “My sincere and heartfelt gratitude for the support and solidarity you, the New Democrats, are demonstrating for our struggle with the Conservative Party, with the member for Saint Boniface, and with the rest of the government that is arbitrarily interfering with the workers' right to collective bargaining”.

From Winnipeg South a constituent wrote, “I have been watching the debate in the House of Commons with pride and amazement. Surely the House has not heard such a well-informed and eloquent debate on labour issues in many, many years. It is also obvious in many of the fine speeches from opposition MPs that they not only get the issue but have been there themselves and care deeply. Thank you very much”.

A constituent from Peterborough, Ontario, another Conservative riding, wrote, “Thanks for speaking up. I run a small business in Peterborough, Ontario. If we remove the lockout, take the locks off, we get mail delivery and effective bargaining”.

A constituent trom Montreal, Quebec, wrote,

“It is heartwarming to see all of you in the House standing up for principles that are dear to me, like the right to free collective bargaining, the principle of equal pay for equal work, a decent pension plan, and public services for the general public, and fighting against this unfair attack against workers. I am particularly encouraged by the fiery speeches made by all these young New Democrats.”

A constituent from Nepean—Carleton wrote, “I would like to thank you for the great job you are currently doing in the House to stand up for the working class. We back you 100% and sincerely ask that you keep up the fight for us postal workers and all workers”.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Bourassa on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for those who work in this House. My colleague is talking so fast, the interpreters cannot keep up. For my part, I am having a hard time understanding what he is saying. Could he please slow down?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The member will know that from time to time, the speed and the pace of speech can be a difficulty for translation. I would encourage the member to consider that in the course of his speech and to watch, as he is getting close to the end of time.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are so many e-mails, it is difficult to read them all into the record.

I will just finish up. This is from Atlantic Canada, from the riding of the fisheries minister. It says, “I want to thank you all for such truth and solidarity towards workers. It has allowed me to have a new faith in Canadian politics. I will do everything it takes to see this current government hears what real Canadians want. I am a father of two and am finding it very difficult to sleep at night this past week, not knowing what our future holds for me and my children”.

We could read many more into the record. These are the voices of Canadians. These are the voices of those we support. This is why we are having this debate in the House of Commons.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 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, let us get a few things straight here. My hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster started off his presentation by saying that he wanted to recite some of the facts. Let us really talk about the facts in what is happening here today.

As opposed to what all members of the NDP have been saying, their position is not advocating on behalf of ordinary men and women, the workers of Canada. It is far from it. Their position is advocating on behalf of their union bosses: CUPW. It is okay if that is their position, and it clearly is.

Half a dozen or more of the people I see sitting in the House right now come from an organized labour background. That is okay, but what the members of the NDP should be truthful about in this debate is that they are not representing all of the millions of hard-working Canadians who are adversely affected by this work stoppage. More importantly, they are not even advocating on behalf of postal workers.

My friend mentioned a number of e-mails he received from across the country. I also have a number of e-mails, and all of these are from postal workers who are advocating that the union receive and accept the offer from management. They state unequivocally that they are opposed to the union, because the union will not give them the right to vote.

The NDP is only advocating on behalf of one special interest group, and that is the CUPW union leadership, not the rank and file. Let the members at least be honest about that.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the 94% support from mail sorters and letter carriers speaks for itself.

As somebody who has never been a member of a union but has always been on the management side, I have been profoundly disturbed by some of the comments we have been hearing from Conservatives, starting with the Minister of Labour, who made a distinction between Canadians and mail sorters and letter carriers, as if they are not Canadians, as if they have no rights, as if somehow they are separate from the rest of Canada.That is the kind of division the Conservative government promotes.

The reality is there are seven million union households in this country. There are millions of Canadians who have opted to join a union. That is far more than the number of Canadians who voted Conservative in the last election. Those unionized workers are as much Canadian as the member and I are.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wore my green tie today to remind me of the green infrastructure fund in the economic action plan which the NDP voted against. I wanted to make sure I remembered that because this is similar in that there is no common sense in what the NDP is doing.

I do have a message for the member from my constituents. Not only do I represent more union members than anybody else in this House per capita in Canada but probably in North America. I represent more workers, more people who work shifts and more people who are actually contributing more to the economy than anybody else in the House. Some 6% to 7% of the country's GDP moves from my area alone. The message of my constituents is loud and clear. They are telling me that the NDP members do not represent unions. I have belonged to a union. Those NDP members do not represent the views of my constituents at all. That is the message I have been told to bring here loud and clear today, that those people are not representing the rank and file workers of this country. They are representing CUPW and the leadership of the union only. They are self-interested in that. They do not represent Canadians. That is the message my constituents have asked me to bring.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question, so what I will do is talk about my constituents.

I am a long-time member of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, and a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade. The small business owners in my riding understand that when we have a good middle class, when we have real collective bargaining and we build the middle class, there is a stronger economy in the community. That is what we stand for, the community's economy, not shipping jobs overseas, certainly not ripping up collective agreements, and not government imposing wages on workers.

We are the moderates here. We are the ones who are tracing a path to a solution. We certainly would like Conservative members to compromise a bit and listen to the workers not only in their ridings but right across the country.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:15 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the people of Quebec celebrated their national holiday. I would have liked to be with my family and the people of my constituency of Brossard—La Prairie to celebrate the day, which is so important for our Quebec nation. It is unfortunate that the Conservative government did not want to suspend the proceedings of the House to enable us to celebrate our national holiday. But I am proud to be here in Ottawa with my NDP colleagues from the Quebec and Canada caucus to defend the fundamental principles of social justice, more particularly workers’ rights.

When I arrived in Parliament yesterday, I crossed paths with a group of Canada Post employees. Those people are proud workers who want to go back to work, to deliver the mail to everyone waiting for letters and cheques and to enable small businesses to do business. They know that Canada Post belongs to all Canadians and that its mandate is to guarantee postal service to all Canadians. They are in a tough situation, trying to assert their bargaining rights, to support their families, to pay their bills, to work in a safe environment and to retire in dignity.

One of my high school friends, Quentin, chose to become a letter carrier. My friend has two adorable children. He is a good father who has chosen an occupation in which he works very hard, often on schedules not always easy to reconcile with family activities. When I see him, he is very proud to talk about his work.

Today I oppose the government's measures, which I feel are unfair to Canada Post employees, and I am doing that for people like Quentin and the Canada Post people I met yesterday. They are good people who simply want to do their jobs.

I am rising today because I oppose the bill as introduced by the government. The purpose of this bill is to impose an employment contract on Canada Post employees rather than let the union and management negotiate a collective agreement. The parties should have the right to bargain in good faith without the government imposing a unilateral settlement on them. That is a fundamental principle of law.

What I find even more unfair is that the bill includes a wage settlement that is not only less than what the workers were seeking, but, even worse, less than the wage settlement offered by Canada Post management. I still cannot understand this injustice.

The problem with this bill is that, if the government imposes his vision on Canada Post, what will prevent it from doing so in other cases? I believe, and I dare hope, that it is not this government's intention to interfere in all employment contracts.

We hope to improve this bill. We have offered to work with the government to find a solution to the deadlock in which we find ourselves today. As our leader has repeatedly said, we are reaching out to the government to assist in finding a fair and equitable solution. We remain optimistic that the dispute can be resolved, but there has to be good faith. The government must stop interfering. It is important that the fundamental right to bargain with the employer in good faith be respected.

As you know, Tommy Douglas was the first leader of the NDP. He was the father of Canada's health insurance system and, in a CBC competition, was named the “Greatest Canadian of All Time”.

At the NDP's 50th anniversary celebration, I learned to what extent the NDP has always been there to defend the most disadvantaged, the most vulnerable individuals, whether it be those who did not have access to a physician, seniors who had been abandoned or workers who were being exploited in inhuman conditions.

When I decided to go into politics, I did it, among other reasons, because I wanted to advocate social justice. I sensed that I too could help the most vulnerable individuals. Today the government wants to use its power to impose a labour settlement on Canada Post employees, which would prevent the parties from reaching a solution negotiated in good faith. Having decided to act in that manner, the government has clearly indicated its intention to favour the employer, which now finds itself in a distinctly stronger position.

Unlike the government, I believe it is not good to interfere in the business of the bargaining parties, particularly when those parties negotiate fundamentally important issues such as pensions.

Some Canada Post employees have worked all their lives in conditions that were not always easy, making sacrifices that many of us would not be prepared to make, thinking that one day they would be able to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Today they are facing the uncertain thought that they may lose what they have worked for. I consider it normal for workers to use the means afforded them by law to assert their rights.

Allow me to restate the facts, although I believe that, after a number of days and hours of debate, they are already known. On June 3, postal workers began rotating strikes. Seven days later, on June 10, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers offered to end the strike if the corporation agreed to ensure that the current contract remained in effect during the negotiations, but Canada Post refused to do so. Four days later, on June 14, the Minister of Labour announced that it was unnecessary to introduce back-to-work legislation since the labour action consisted solely of rotating strikes. Cheques were being delivered and people were nevertheless receiving their mail. The next day, on June 15, Canada Post decided to lock out all its employees and to shut down mail delivery service. On June 20, barely 5 days later, the Conservative government introduced a bill to impose a contract on Canada Post employees including a wage settlement below the level offered by management. In recent days, the government has been interfering by asserting that legislating Canada Post employees back to work is necessary for the economy.

I agree it is important for all Canadians to receive their mail as soon as possible. Seniors have to receive their pension cheques and small businesses have to send out their invoices. However, the Conservative government is going about this the wrong way. The government is using a heavy hand, legislating unilaterally and favouring Canada Post, even though postal workers have offered to go back to work during the bargaining process.

It is important to bear in mind that this is not a labour strike, but rather a lockout imposed by Canada Post and supported by the government. The government lacks leadership in conflict resolution and is contributing to a negative climate and confrontation. The workers have a right to bargain in good faith with their employer. That is a fundamental right. Canada Post can continue delivering the mail while bargaining with its workers.

Canada Post is not in trouble. The crown corporation posted a profit of $281 million in 2009. Canada Post has been profitable for the past 15 years and its president and CEO earns more than $600,000 a year, making him the most highly paid president and CEO of all the federal crown corporations.

However, it is not too late to reach an agreement, provided the parties are given the chance. We are lucky to have one of the best postal services in the world. Our duty is to ensure that the rights of the people who operate this essential service are respected. We must work together, stop government interference, comply with the fundamental principles of law and let the parties bargain in good faith. This is a matter of justice for all workers and for the youth of tomorrow.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:25 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what this bill really says is that the arbitrator should be guided by the need for terms and conditions consistent with those in comparable postal industries. I wonder if the member opposite disagrees with that. It says that the arbitrator should be guided by the need for terms and conditions that will ensure the short- and long-term economic viability of Canada Post. I wonder if the member opposite disagrees with that. It says that the arbitrator should be guided by the need to maintain the health and safety of workers. Does he disagree with that? Does he disagree with the need to sustain the pension plan?

What is it about those guiding principles the member opposite disagrees with so vehemently?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:25 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with the principles guiding the new negotiations. However, I do have a problem with the fact that a wage settlement is being imposed because employees are being forced to accept wages lower than those offered by Canada Post management. They say they are going to arbitration, but the solution and the result are already being put forward. Free bargaining is not being permitted. The parties are not being allowed to bargain in good faith.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:25 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his extremely interesting speech.

I know that he has a legal background. I would like to ask him what he thinks of the "orphan" clauses. He is a new MP and a young MP. What does he think of the legality of these "orphan" clauses included in the minister's proposal?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 6:25 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, who was re-elected. I am very pleased to be working with her.

These clauses are illegal. They do not respect the fundamental right to negotiate, which must be respected and which is enshrined in the charter. There is a problem here, and the government needs to know it.