House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.

Topics

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party has expressed a great deal of concern about the way in which the government is trying to bring things through, in what we would argue is an inappropriate fashion, to draw this matter to a close.

Through this resolution, the government is suggesting that the bill, whenever we see it, would ultimately pass second reading and then the House would go into committee of the whole. Going into committee of the whole would not allow representation from management or union reps, for them to be able to come to Ottawa to share and express their concerns with the government first-hand, given the government's determination to get directly involved by bringing this legislation forward.

Does the member support our not going into committee of the whole but rather taking this matter outside committee of the whole, so individuals other than members of Parliament could make presentations and answer questions pertaining to this important issue?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for that very relevant question.

Indeed, we in the official opposition, in the NDP, share this concern. We have a bulldozer government. It is bulldozing again with this special legislation. As a result, it will be up to us here in this House to sort this out. We will be unable to invite people and hear what people from the general public, civil society, businesses, unions, and universities might have to say on the impact of such legislation. Everything is staying in the House. The government is rushing it all through in three and a half hours and does not want to hear a thing from anyone.

My colleague's question is quite simple: could we, once in awhile, take the time to do things properly?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

May 28th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his speech. I very much liked the image he used, at the start of his speech, of the government as a repeat offender. It seems to me that that is quite apt. As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I have noticed that the government members talk quite a bit about repeat offenders. They always wonder how best to deal with recidivism.

My colleague was very eloquent and stated the facts very clearly. In short, this government is completely abandoning the people of this country. I know what I am talking about, because my riding went through the brutal closure of a plant that is due to reopen soon. However, the workers still do not know under what conditions the plant will reopen. I am talking about the Stadacona plant of White Birch Papers, which is owned by foreign investors.

Something else that has not been considered is the fact that many companies have unfortunately come under foreign control. Workers then lose many benefits, and much of the company's profits goes out of the country.

Could my colleague elaborate on this? This is another truly distressing aspect of what the government is doing, and it may raise the review threshold under the Investment Canada Act to $1 billion.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, under the pretext of wanting to stimulate investment, the government is handing our raw materials, our natural resources and much of our industrial sector over to foreign investors.

I share my colleague's concern. We are losing control of our own economy. We have a government that is deaf and blind when it comes to maintaining an important manufacturing structure in Canada. It is letting jobs go to other countries. When plants close, the government is sympathetic, but sympathy is not enough. We want jobs and a real job creation plan for Canada.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not supporting the government's back-to-work legislation, and he is doing that on some blind ideology. I have a couple of things about which I would like him to think and comment.

A few thousand rail workers are holding captive thousands of farmers who need fertilizer right now to finish putting their crops in the ground. This is an urgent thing. Much of this fertilizer is shipped by rail. These same farmers have to sell their crops, which are shipped by rail, and they truly are captive shippers. They have no choice. In most cases they do not even have the choice of CN Rail because the rail tracks run across western Canada in particular, a CN track, a CP track, CN-CP tracks, so there really is no competition when it comes to rail movement. These are bulk goods that require rail movement to be moved in an economically viable fashion.

I would normally agree with the member that workers and management should work out a deal, but in this case, where many captive shippers whose income and livelihoods are damaged so much by this stoppage, why is he only focused on those few workers? Why is he not focused on the several thousand farmers and others who are hurt badly by this work stoppage?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

So few workers, Mr. Speaker? Five thousand workers? Five thousand families in this country are hit by this company, and the government is taking sides with the company. Come on.

I imagine that the farmers he is talking about are those who were in favour of maintaining the Canadian Wheat Board. The government should not listen to them, only when it suits.

It is really practical from our side, from the NDP side, to let the parties freely negotiate. Of course there is some pressure. That is the name of the game. However, the government is going to scrap all the bargaining balance we have built in this country. It is so sad.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to put a few words on the record about what we believe are very important issues that all Canadians no doubt are concerned about.

I appreciate the question that the member opposite posed, but only in the sense that we within the Liberal Party have always advocated how important it is for us to look at the larger picture. In fact, members will recall that the leader of the Liberal Party, last fall, talked abut the importance of jobs and how we need to put more focus on creating jobs. We talked about the importance of our railway lines just last week. I had the opportunity to talk about railway safety and the important role railways play across our country from coast to coast to coast in providing good quality jobs and the leadership that is required from management and so forth to ensure not only that those jobs are going to be there but that the company as a whole is going to be able to survive, to build and to ultimately provide opportunities for all Canadians.

When we talk about our railway system, we look at the benefits, whether it is the potash, the wheat, the coal, the imports or the exports of manufacturing products all over our country from international to national. We all recognize and appreciate the critical and vital role our railway workers play, and have played, in building us to the nation we are today. There is no doubt that a vast number of Canadians are watching with interest, in terms of what is happening with this potential strike situation and how the government is dealing with the issue at hand. Having said that, the workers themselves have a great number of concerns, as does the management group.

What I would like to talk about is this particular government's and this Minister of Labour's approach in dealing with labour issues. This is not the first time the government has brought in labour legislation, in essence forcing people to go back to work, and it has been at a great cost.

A number of years ago, I used to be a critic for labour in the province of Manitoba. One of the things I recognized is that there has to be a balance between labour and management and the dialogue that occurs there. I would argue that a minister of labour not only has a responsibility to talk about at least a free balanced collective bargaining process but also an obligation to ensure, as much as possible, that it is in fact being adhered to.

In one of her statements, she made reference to the fact that she believes she is providing balance. I take great exception to that. Many members of this chamber take great exception to the minister saying she believes in a balanced, fair collective bargaining process because, as I pointed out in my question, the government, especially since it has achieved its majority, has made it very clear that it does not support balance when it comes to a collective bargaining process. That has been more to the detriment of the worker than the corporations.

What I would like to do is to highlight a couple of those issues that clearly demonstrate that the government does have a very strong bias that is anti-worker.

Members will recall that not too long ago, we actually had back-to-work legislation for Canada Post workers. Members will recall that they actually had negotiated some salary increases—and that would have been in January 2011, I believe—where some consensus and concessions were given in which there were going to be some increases to salaries.

Well, the Conservatives brought in back-to-work legislation a few months later that actually rolled back those salaries to which union and management had agreed. The government was more than eager to support and show its bias toward Canada Post in bringing in that back-to-work legislation.

The government has brought in back-to-work legislation twice in relation to Air Canada. I have stood up on numerous occasions in this House to tell the government that it needed to hold Air Canada to account for being in violation of the Air Canada Public Participation Act. Thousands of jobs were lost and the government allowed Air Canada to just walk away from it. There was no accountability for those jobs being cut and lost. The Conservatives said it was third party because it was Aveos.

Let us look at what the legislation that was passed inside this House said. Those jobs were supposed to be there in Winnipeg, and I represent a good portion of that city, Mississauga and Montreal. What did the government do? It sided with Air Canada Corporation and chose not to apply any pressure on that company when it came to making it fulfill a legal requirement that was passed in the House of Commons years ago.

What did the government do when there was a threat of a strike not once but twice? Even before the moves toward getting into a strike situation, the government threatened back-to-work legislation. True to form, it brought in back-to-work legislation. This is why I believe that the government has no real credibility.

The minister can stand inside this chamber and say she believes in a fair bargaining process, but I would suggest that actions speak louder than words. In this case, we will find the government does not support fair and balanced labour negotiations between unions and management.

People need to be concerned about that because we are talking about going forward with future negotiations that might be taking place in other sectors as well. We have a minister who is very biased, who works against unions and has not demonstrated an interest in hearing what unions have to say.

On Friday and Saturday this past week, I was walking with some CP Rail workers along some lines on McPhillips, Jarvis and two different spots on Keewatin. I had the opportunity to meet with workers who have made a career out of being engineers and conductors and others. These are individuals who are very proud to be working for CP Rail. Yes, they have some general concerns regarding the ownership issue in terms of Canadian content on boards and how that might be shifting over to other jurisdictions, particularly to individuals coming in from the U.S. to take control, or management issues. There are some very serious concerns regarding that.

While we were walking the line, the types of issues they were talking about were best said in a document they provided to me. I indicated that I would likely get the opportunity to address the House. I figure it is good for me to raise these issues because I feel very comfortable in knowing that the government and this particular Minister of Labour are definitely listening to what CP Rail is saying. However, I am not convinced that she is listening to what the workers have to say. Again, I believe there needs to be balance.

As much as I am very interested in hearing, and my door is always open to what CP management would have to say, I would like to share with the minister some very specific comments that I believe individuals who have been walking the line want this minister and the Prime Minister to be aware of. These are the types of concerns they are talking about at the table. I am going to go through about six points.

The first point is that CP wants to reduce future pension income for active employees. The amounts vary by income but are they up to 40%. Without a doubt, at all three locations where I walked, that was the biggest concern raised. The workers are very much concerned about their future when it comes to retirement. They want to know that they will have a good, viable pension after they have had the opportunity to put in their 30-plus years, or whatever number of years it might be. That is not so different from what many other Canadians want to have, pensions. The union has been asking for that.

The next point is that CP wants to devalue past pensionable service of unionized employees.

The next point is that CP wants to reduce retirement health care benefits and eliminate benefits at age 65, a reduction of over $20,000 per member.

The next point is that CP refuses to address the fatigue management proposals, or adequate time off to recover from the effects of fatigue or problems related to earned days off.

Another point is that CP refuses to address pooled regulation language affecting earning ability and stability.

Another point is that CP refuses to address its own sharp practice regarding seniority freeze to temporary managers and insists its own DB pension benefits must continue to escalate and they must receive more.

Those were some of the points that had been provided to me as I walked along the line.

There is one point that I will quickly make reference to, but I understand there has been some significant leeway on this. The CP demands represent excessive concessions to work rules, such as 12 hours without rest, working double subdivisions, raising the 3,800 monthly mileage maximum, extending road switcher limits to 50 miles and no wage increases for 2012.

I believe much of the last point has been in good healthy discussions, and we hope that will in fact continue.

Those are the types of concerns of which we believe the Minister of Labour needs to be made aware. She has not really demonstrated that she has listened to what the workers have had to say. We know, and feel comfortable in saying, that the minister is prepared to advocate on behalf of CP Rail.

We are concerned with regard to the whole issue of balance. That is the reason why I thought it might be appropriate to read into the record some of the concerns individuals who walk the line have and suggest that the government be more sensitive to those needs.

I want to highlight a couple of other things before I go onto the whole process issue. One is in regard to how very important the role that CP Rail, along with CN, plays in our economy. We recognize that and acknowledge it.

Being a prairie member of Parliament, I know full well, whether it is Saskatchewan and potash, or the three Prairie provinces and wheat, or coal or other mineral distribution, how critically important the role of CP Rail is in getting that distribution out throughout the world. We recognize that.

I made reference to the fact earlier that we had many imports that came into our country, through Vancouver and other ports. They are very dependent on having CP Rail there for them to transport those goods. We acknowledge that. We recognize the important role that CP plays in our economy. However, that does not give the government the right to walk all over union workers.

The minister made reference to the previous Liberal government. If the members look into it, they will find that there was much greater leniency in what the Jean Chrétien government did back then. Let us not try to kid anyone. I believe political parties of all stripes, whether at the provincial or federal level, have seen the merit of having to bring in some form of legislation to ensure people go back to work or companies are re-established so the broader interests of the community are served. I do not believe the government has provided that opportunity to CP Rail and the CP union. Both knew full well that the government would bring in this type of legislation, even though we have not seen the legislation.

The government is so predictable on that point. The government has not provided that balance of fairness, which takes away from the free bargaining process. I encourage the government to revisit its commitment to that process because it is definitely lacking, and that is putting it as politely as I can.

As I pointed out, we do not actually have the legislation before us, but we have a resolution about how that legislation will be dealt with. I mentioned this in the form of a question earlier. One of the biggest concerns the Liberal Party has is that the minister has suggested that after it has completed second reading, it go into a committee of the whole and that there be a one-hour time limit put on that committee. We do not know how many clauses will be in the bill. We do not know what the actual content of the bill will be. All we know is that it will have something to do with back to work for the CP workers. We do not know anything more than that. The point is that the Conservatives are saying that the legislation, once brought in sometime this week and then forced through second reading, will go into a committee of the whole.

The problem with committee of the whole is we will have a very limited ability to garner experts outside of other members of Parliament to contribute to a very important debate. If this bill were to go to any other committee outside of committee of the whole, where we could call upon witnesses to come before the committee, we believe that would be far healthier for the system. Even though the legislation is somewhat premature at best, at least having it go into a committee, we could have CP management and union representation present to express the concerns they have with regard to the legislation and to maybe talk about the importance of having fair, balanced labour relations in our country. This would be of great benefit to all Canadians.

The government says that this is about every Canadian. I suggest that going into a committee outside of committee of the whole would ensure that those Canadians, whom the government says it wants to protect, would have more direct input as to what would take place with the legislation.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member opposite and there are two points I want to quickly bring out.

First, he and the NDP colleague who spoke before him both talked about the importance of having witnesses from labour and management appear at a committee. I have heard from union members and I have heard from farmers who have been affected by the rail stoppage already. Many farmers are concerned about the damage that will be done, damage that will never be recovered from and losses that will never be regained. I have heard from people on both sides of the issue. I do not know what the MPs opposite are doing and why they are not meeting with people from labour and management and getting that information. Why are they not prepared to bring this to the House? That is part of our job as MPs.

Second, the member opposite acknowledged the impact on farmers and all the other industries that depended on CP Rail to move bulk shipments, but then said that this was between labour and management. It is not. There are individuals who are affected directly by this, but they have no place at all at the table. That is why our government is giving them a voice in this process.

Would he comment on those issues?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's government, his Minister of Agriculture, brought in legislation just last year which in essence would kill the Canadian Wheat Board. That was in opposition to over 20,000 plus farmers who wanted to retain the Canadian Wheat Board. Any potential strike CP could have had would have had nowhere near as much impact on the grain farmers in the Prairies as killing the Canadian Wheat Board.

Looking at it from the point of view of whether it is potash or the Wheat Board, we recognize the important role that CP plays in the distribution of those commodities. We do not question that. What we do question is the Minister of Labour's ability to ensure that there is some sense of fairness when it comes to the whole issue of negotiations at the labour table. She has demonstrated a bias that is anti-union. That is very hurtful for the industry as a whole, whether it is the railway industry, the airline industry or our postal system.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and ask him a very simple question.

This government keeps interfering in the free bargaining process that exists in this country, and attacking workers' right to organize and to bargain. Canada has established labour relations, 99% of which are peaceful in this country, and yet we have a government that systematically hammers workers' rights and always sides with employers.

Is my colleague concerned about the context in which Canada's workers will be allowed to exercise their rights? Are we currently witnessing the breakdown of free bargaining in this country?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, let us look at the government's track record since it achieved a majority government. We can talk about Air Canada that has had back-to-work legislation imposed on it twice. We can talk about Canada Post and its back-to-work legislation. Now we anticipate back-to-work legislation for CP Rail. Canadians should be concerned. I know we are concerned with regard to the manner in which the government has chosen to directly get involved in a way that gives the clear impression, and I would ultimately argue the reality, of taking a bias in favour of the business over the unions. I do not believe that is healthy for our country in the long term.

The Department of Labour and the Minister of Labour should be attempting to foster and improve labour relations at all the different levels, while at the same time looking at what is in Canada's best interest.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are debating time allocation on a bill we have not yet seen. We have a sense of déjà vu. We also debated time allocation on a bill we had not seen with regard to the Air Canada pilots strike. In this light, I noted the hon. member called the current approach of the Minister of Labour predictable. My concern is that it is predictable to management as well as to those of us on the opposition benches. As it is predictable to management, it decreases the likelihood of collective bargaining rights being respected and collective bargaining working.

Does the hon. member for Winnipeg North share my concern?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt it is an attitude issue. In good part, the government has brought in legislation that would have a very serious and severe impact on thousands of workers. This talks volumes about the government's ability or desire to have a fair process. The government's track record has demonstrated that it is not prepared to ensure that the system is fair. The legislation being brought in and the manner in which it is being brought in does not surprise me. This is a government that has moved some form of time allocation some 20-plus times since it achieved its majority government in just over a year, which is unprecedented. People of all political stripes in the House should be concerned.

It is time Conservative backbenchers start reining in the Prime Minister and their cabinet. Collectively, they could have a voice if they chose to use It.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:40 p.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 want to take issue with what my colleague stated about the minister listening. Unlike opposition members, who listen only to their union bosses, the minister has met with all the parties. The minister has spoken with Canadians. She and our government are taking action now to protect Canadian businesses, to make sure Canadian farmers have an opportunity to move forward with their farms, to make sure the auto workers in my riding at Honda have an opportunity to ship parts into the plant and ship their products out.

Unlike opposition members, who refuse to move away from the cozy relationship with their union bosses, which, do not get me wrong, my constituents have an issue with, I wonder why they will not stand up for Canadians and protect the $500 million a week that this strike may cause to be lost, taking away jobs from Canadians and causing damage to the Canadian economy. Why will they not protect Canadian jobs?

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

First off, Mr. Speaker, I would say that my door is always open if members of CP want to chat with me about their concerns. I suspect the minister has talked with CP officials. I am not convinced that she has listened at all to what the workers have been saying.

I take exception when the member talks about this caring attitude. I would like to make it very clear that the CP workers she is referring to also take a great deal of pride in where they work. They take a great deal of pride in the work they do for our Canadian farmers and the transportation of products. Yes, it would be nice to see the parties resolve this on their own in a very quick fashion. Unfortunately, the government has sent a very clear message that they do not have to negotiate an agreement because it is going to bring in legislative measures that would prevent any strike from continuing. There are no good faith negotiations when a government says it does not matter whether there is an agreement, because it is going to be legislating workers back to work. It is an issue of fairness, something that escapes the government.