An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Richard Nadeau  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 21, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The purpose of this enactment is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

The enactment also provides for the imposition of a fine for an offence.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
March 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-257, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 3 to 10 on page 3 with the following: “employer from using the services of an employee referred to in paragraph (2.1)( c) to avoid the destruction of the employer’s property or serious damage to that property. (2.4) The services referred to in subsection (2.3) shall exclusively be conservation services and not services to allow the continuation of the production of goods or services, which is otherwise prohibited by subsection (2.1).”
March 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-257, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 4 on page 2 with the following: “( c) use, in the”
Oct. 25, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-574Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order regarding Bill C-574, An Act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system.

Bill C-574 proposes to create a new bill of rights for a retirement income system that would promote the goals of adequacy, transparency, affordability, equity, flexibility, security and accessibility for all Canadians.

Clause 13 of the bill would require the Minister of Justice to examine every bill and regulation to ascertain whether any of the provisions violate, among other things, an individual's right to accumulate sufficient pension income to provide for a lifestyle in retirement that the individual considers adequate, an individual's right to determine how and when to accumulate pension income, and an individual's entitlement to receive investment advice from an advisor free of conflict of interest.

Section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act provides that the Minister of Justice must examine every bill and regulation in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 3 of the Canadian Bill of Rights states that the Minister of Justice shall examine every bill and regulation to ascertain whether any provisions thereof are inconsistent with this act.

Bill C-574 would impose an additional obligation on the Minister of Justice that is not currently authorized by statute. In particular, the new functions envisioned in clause 13 of the bill would require actuarial, financial and economic expertise well beyond the current mandate and activities of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice.

Precedents indicate that imposing new obligations not provided for in statute requires a new royal recommendation. On page 834 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered.

On October 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled, in the case of Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act, that Bill C-286:

...extends the application of the program...that does not currently exist under the witness protection program. In doing so, the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function. .... New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On June 13, 2005, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, that:

...clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose....

On September 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, that:

...the provisions in Bill C-257 which relate to the designation of investigators by the minister do not constitute an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose. The functions which are already being performed by inspectors would appear to be reasonably similar to the functions envisaged by Bill C-257.

I submit that this last precedent does not apply to Bill C-574 as the functions set out in clause 13 of the bill would significantly alter the functions of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice. That is because the new functions in Bill C-574 would require actuarial, financial and economic expertise well beyond the mandate and current activities of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice.

In conclusion, the additional functions for the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice proposed in clause 13 of Bill C-574 are not currently authorized in statute. The bill, therefore, should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

October 19th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to once again defend Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). I hope that it will be passed. I would like to read the summary:

The purpose of this enactment is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. It extends the obligation to maintain essential services. The enactment also provides for the imposition of a fine for an offence.

There are two opposing philosophies here in the House. There is the philosophy of the young parties, like the Bloc Québécois, which turned 20 this year, and the NDP, which is older than the Bloc Québécois, but younger than the older parties—the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. Today's speeches by the Conservatives and the Liberals reflect the old, preconceived ideas about labour relations that they inherited from the past.

It is important for the Conservatives to listen to me. They mentioned recent disputes at Air Canada and Canadian National. I was the transport critic during the Air Canada crisis, and I was directly affected by it. The Conservatives spoke of the mediation process, but it was short-lived. The minister had already prepared back-to-work legislation. For the first time, I received phone calls from union representatives and from Air Canada representatives, who told me that this legislation should not be introduced because it would be terrible for labour relations. Both the employees and the employers were asking me to do whatever I could to ensure that the minister did not introduce the back-to-work legislation, because, once again, the mediation had not been enough. All that because the government is living in the past when it comes to labour relations.

Things have changed. There is a shortage of airplane pilots. We can do whatever we want, but there will not be enough replacement workers, because we need more airplane pilots.

Let us figure out how these disputes can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. One way of doing so would be to pass a bill like this one, which would be a step forward. Federally regulated employees work in sectors such as transport, banking and communications, as well as in the public service, where it is easy to find replacement workers.

This is clear in the labour dispute that has been going on for over 20 months at the Journal de Montréal. Last weekend's edition of the Journal de Montréal explained how the employer wants to solve the dispute. It wants to get rid of over half of the staff, but more importantly, it wants the new publication created by the locked-out employees, ruefrontenac.com, to be shut down. The dispute has gone on so long that the employees have created their own information network, ruefrontenac.com. This is affecting the Journal de Montréal so much that, in its negotiations, it is asking the employees to shut down ruefrontenac.com.

Things are evolving. Once again, the Conservatives do not understand, and the Liberals, even less. In 2007, when Bill C-257 was introduced in the House, the Liberals voted in favour of it at second reading, but decided to vote against it at third reading because it did not cover essential services.

I prepared Bill C-386 very carefully along with the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and the hon. member for Gatineau, who both have close ties to union organizations, as I once did, and we included the issue of essential services. Now the Liberals are saying that they do not like the definition of essential services.

The problem is that the Liberal Party opposes this bill, and so does the Conservative Party. Whether the two old parties like it or not, this affects labour relations across Canada.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

moved that Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). I would like to summarize it. Parliamentarians in this House are familiar with this bill as this is not the first time it has been introduced. We continue to hope that the Liberal and Conservative members will understand its importance.

On the one hand, the bill would prohibit employers governed by the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to carry out the duties of striking or locked out employees; on the other hand, it would require employers to maintain essential services. It also sets out fines for violations.

The best way to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of those who are building today's society is to truly respect their rights, starting with eliminating the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout.

Therefore, it is imperative that workers governed by federal legislation have the same rights as those governed by Quebec's labour laws, including the true right to strike. By employees under federal jurisdiction we mean those working in telecommunications, the media, the Internet, banking, ports, marine transportation, bridges, and air and rail transportation.

The Canada Labour Code must be amended and brought into line with the Quebec Labour Code. Anti-scab legislation would ensure that workers governed by federal legislation enjoy balanced bargaining power. That is the objective of Bill C-386.

Unlike in Quebec, which has prohibited replacement workers since 1977, there is currently nothing in the Canada Labour Code that clearly and specifically prohibits the use of replacement workers.

Subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code contains a prohibition relating to replacement workers, but only where an employer uses replacement workers for the purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity.

However, a firm prohibition is essential for civilized bargaining to take place during a labour dispute and to promote industrial peace, and is also the cornerstone for establishing an equitable balance of power between employers and employees.

I will give some examples. Quebec workers in industries that are governed by the Canada Labour Code make up about 8% of the Quebec labour force.

According to Quebec's labour department, Quebec workers whose employer is federally regulated are almost always overrepresented in the number of days of work lost because of disputes.

While they account for just under 8% of Quebec's labour force, they experienced 18% of the person-days lost in 2004 and 22.6% of the person-days lost in 2003. In fact, a peak was reached in 2002. While 7.3% of Quebec workers were employed in federally regulated organizations, they accounted for 48% of days of work lost because of labour disputes.

In a nutshell, there were, on average, two and a half times more person-days lost in the last decade in labour disputes in Quebec involving workers governed by the Canada Labour Code than those workers represent in demographic weight.

This means that the disputes last longer and are therefore more violent. Such disputes are happening right now in Quebec, just as they have occurred over the past ten years. Consider the dispute at Sécur, or the Vidéotron dispute that lasted over six months and involved acts of sabotage. There was also the dispute at the Cargill grain elevator in Baie-Comeau that ended in 2003 after a three-year lockout imposed by the employer.

Let us not forget Radio Nord and the television networks: TVA, TQS in Abitibi and CBC. We saw this with the Journal de Québec and we are seeing it now with the Journal de Montréal.

From the beginning, the Conservative government has indicated its opposition by hiding behind doom and gloom scenarios because it lacks any real arguments, when the situation is clear in the details I just provided. In the statistics on days of work lost to labour disputes alone, we see that workers under the Canada Labour Code are without work two and a half times longer than workers governed by Quebec labour laws, which prohibit the use of replacement workers.

This is not the first time this type of bill has come before the House. The last time, we introduced Bill C-257, which passed at second reading. At report stage, the Liberals decided to reverse course, saying that the bill did not include measures on essential services. That is why the bill before us today includes the protection of essential services. We are prepared to do our part.

I will try to explain something. We are at a turning point in employer-employee relations. A number of major companies are located in my riding: Bell Helicopter, Bombardier, and Pratt & Whitney to name a few.

I am interested in labour relations. I recently attended a seminar on the sociology of work. The Conservatives, and even the Liberals, are not aware of the change taking place in our society. The new generations do not look at work the same way we do. I am part of the baby boom generation. Those who came before me are part of what sociologists call the veteran generation. After me come generations X and Y. Baby boomers like me, and the veterans who came before me—my father—have lived to work, while generations X and Y work to live. It is completely different. Who is right? Did we take our work too seriously? Perhaps we were afraid to lose our jobs because there were so many of us. Now, the young generations no longer have this mindset about work. They think more about their family. They think more and more about balancing work and family. I would add that employers who do not understand that will simply not survive. In other words, they will not be able to find employees to work for them.

I realize that the Conservatives and Liberals will always be regressive when it comes to replacement worker legislation. However, it is not helpful if we allow employers to use scabs or replacement workers to avoid resolving a conflict. We will see more and more businesses under federal jurisdiction having a hard time finding employees. We already see that in the interprovincial ground transportation sector. Employers have a very hard time recruiting employees, and the average age is very high. It is not very well known, but there is currently a shortage of airplane pilots. The new generation does not like the schedules and working conditions in the airline industry. That is a reality we will have to face. Banks are also having a hard time recruiting employees. You need only visit a branch to see how many retirees have been brought back on contract, because the banks could not fill their positions. The new generations want work environments that encourage personal development.

If we allow a business to use replacement workers during a conflict, and if there are lockouts, and jobs are lost in an economic sector for two, three or four years—that is not uncommon—there will be no new employees coming into businesses of that kind.

That is what is in store for companies under federal jurisdiction. It would be nice to keep managing as though people were all still veterans and baby boomers, but companies need to be careful because generations X and Y see work in a whole new way.

Here in the House of Commons, we have to be visionaries. It is time to make companies, particularly those in sectors under federal jurisdiction, understand that they cannot use replacement workers to avoid conflict resolution. The time has also come to add essential services. Businesses in certain sectors provide services to all communities. Those services should therefore be considered essential and even mandatory in some cases.

The Bloc Québécois has always been against forcing people to stay on the job and always will be, but it is important to negotiate essential services and maintain certain services. When disputes arise, it is important for employees to have the right to strike so they can make the employer understand that things are not working. That is the best way to move labour relations forward.

Over the past few months and the past year, a forestry company in my riding, the Fraser company in Thurso, placed itself under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act because it did not have a recovery plan and had decided to sell the company.

I have been a member of the House since 2000. In my own way, I advised the president of the company union, who is a childhood friend. Every time he negotiated an agreement—there have been four since 2000—he asked me what I thought of the situation. I always advised him to the extent of my knowledge, but I am not clairvoyant.

I looked at what was happening at the Conference Board and at Statistics Canada in terms of employers' offers. I talked to him about it, and it was all very nice. Often, after the negotiations, I found that much of the advice I had given him had found its way into the final agreements.

This past year was a terrible one for the employees. Just prior to June of last year, they found out that their company was closing.

My friend called me again to tell me that it seemed to be over and to ask what I thought. I told him that “it ain't over 'til it's over.” Good old Piton Ruel of the Montreal Canadiens used to say that. The same can be said of an exercise that decides the fate of an industry.

The only advice I gave him was to approach the employer about renegotiating working conditions, in case the company were to start up again.

It is not easy for employees and an employer to talk together. It is easier when you know you will keep your job, but when you have already lost your job and no one knows if the company will survive, that makes it hard.

Believe it or not, they negotiated new terms for working conditions in the three or four months following the closure, even though the company was not in production mode. It was difficult. Salaries were reduced by 20% and retirement eligibility was moved from age 55 to 65, but it meant that the company was able to start up again. The company's buyer had no say in the working conditions that had been negotiated by the employer's representatives and the employees while the company was closed. That meant that the company could start up again.

If this company had been under federal jurisdiction and a lock-out had been imposed, these employees would have been laid off for three or four years and the union and employer would never have been able to start negotiations. The tension would have been so bad that they would have wanted the company to close because of the lay-offs.

Once again, I am asking my colleagues to vote in favour of this bill, which is a new way of looking at labour relations.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3Points of OrderOral Questions

April 29th, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to the admissibility of two amendments made in committee to Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs).

Without commenting on the merits of those amendments, I submit that they are beyond the scope of the bill and should be ruled out of order.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, states at page 766:

An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.

Citation 698(1) of the sixth edition of Beauchesne states that an amendment is out of order if it is irrelevant to the bill or beyond its scope. This issue has arisen on many occasions.

In a ruling on April 28, 1992, Speaker Fraser elaborated on the admissibility of amendments to bills referred to in committees after second reading:

When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is only empowered to adopt, amend or negative the clauses found in that piece of legislation and to report the bill to the House with or without amendments. The committee is restricted in its examination in a number of ways. It cannot infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown, it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be.

The Speaker does not get involved in committee issues except in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority, such as an amendment that is beyond the scope of a bill. In such cases, the Speaker is responsible for ruling on the admissibility of such amendments after the bill has been reported to the House. This is because the motion to refer the bill to committee after second reading establishes the principle and the scope of the bill. As a result, a committee report that is not consistent with that motion must be corrected.

On March 11, 2010, Bill C-3 was introduced. The bill's long title is an Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs). The court ruled that two 1985 amendments to the Indian Act failed to eliminate gender discrimination in the second and subsequent generations. Those amendments provided a way for Indian women who had lost status through marriage to regain it and made it possible for the children of those women to be registered.

On March 29, 2010, the House of Commons unanimously adopted Bill C-3 at second reading and referred it to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

On April 23, 2010, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan gave notice of a motion of instruction to the committee, which stated that it has the power to expand the scope of Bill C-3 so that a grandchild born before 1985 with a female grandparent would receive the same entitlement to status as a grandchild of a male grandparent born in the same period. This motion clearly indicates that the opposition was aware that changing the provisions of the bill with respect to a grandchild born before 1985 would be beyond the scope of the bill.

On April 27, 2010, the member for Labrador moved the following amendment in committee, which stated:

That Bill C-3, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 1 the following:

(a.1) that person was born prior to April 17, 1985 and is a direct descendant of the person referred to in paragraph (a) or of a person referred to in paragraph 11(1)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e) or (f) as they read immediately prior to April 17, 1985;

Government counsel indicated in committee that:

...this amendment would take a radically different approach than the approach that is taken in Bill C-3. [Bill C-3] would amend 6(1)(a) of the Indian Act, which basically was the provision allowing the registration after 1985 of all the individuals who were previously entitled to registration. The [proposed] amendment would allow any person born before April 17, 1985 to be registered under section 6(1)(a) of the Indian Act if that person was able to identify an ancestor that was at the time of his or her death entitled to be registered, which obviously increases significantly the number of persons entitled to registration under the Indian Act.

The chair agreed with the advice of government counsel and ruled that the amendment was beyond the scope of Bill C-3 and was therefore inadmissible. The chair asked the committee procedural clerk to provide the committee with further detail on the ruling. The procedural clerk stated that the amendment exceeded the scope of the bill as it was approved in the House.

The member for Labrador acknowledged in committee that the amendment exceeded the scope of the court's decision by adding a new entitlement to registration by stating:

[The amendment is] not as reflective, maybe, as what was in the B.C. Court of Appeal's ruling, which was much narrower...It just expands the category of eligibility--

Notwithstanding the advice of government counsel, House staff and the acknowledgement of the member for Labrador, the opposition members of the committee voted to overturn the chair's ruling and adopted the amendment. The committee also made a change to the short title of the bill. The bill as introduced had a short title which stated: “This Act may be cited as the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act”. The opposition members of the committee voted to change the short title of the bill to read: “This act may be cited as the act amending certain definitions and registration provisions of the Indian Act”.

The chair ruled that this change was admissible because of the first amendment that I described. However, the chair emphasized that if the opposition members of the committee had not overturned his ruling that the first amendment I described was inadmissible, the amendment to clause 1 would also have been inadmissible. In this regard, page 770 and 771 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

The title may be amended only if the bill has been so altered as to necessitate such an amendment.

The change to the title of the bill is a further recognition that the first amendment is beyond the scope of the bill. Precedents clearly support the inadmissibility of these changes.

On February 27, 2007, in the case of Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), the Speaker ruled:

Given the very narrow scope of Bill C-257, any amendment to the bill must stay within the very limited parameters set by the provisions of the Canada Labour Code that are amended by the bill...Therefore, on strictly procedural grounds, the Chair must conclude that the ruling of the chair of the committee was correct: these last two amendments do go beyond the scope of the bill as adopted at second reading and are therefore inadmissible.

Bill C-257 and Bill C-3 both have a particularly narrow scope that responds to narrow policy circumstances. As a result, the ruling on Bill C-257 would equally apply to Bill C-3.

I also cite a January 29, 2008, ruling with respect to an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In that case, the committee decided not to adopt an amendment that would have been beyond the scope of the bill.

In responding to a letter from a member, the Speaker agreed with the committee decision and stated that the amendment would have been beyond the scope of the bill and therefore would have been inadmissible. The Speaker stated:

The amendment was ruled inadmissible by the committee chair on the grounds that it was beyond the scope of the bill...because it simply expanded the appeal provision already contained in the bill...in my opinion, the amendment was indeed inadmissible--

The April 23, 2010 motion proposing an instruction to the committee to expand the scope of the bill as well as the testimony of government counsel, House staff, the member for Labrador, and the committee chair's ruling all indicate that the amendment to Bill C-3 is beyond the scope of the bill and therefore should be ruled out of order.

Mr. Speaker, if you find this to be so, I submit that the amendment to the short title would also need to be ruled out of order since it would no longer correspond to the provisions of the bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

moved that Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to introduce, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). I am also pleased to be seconded by the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who worked very hard in the previous Parliament to have a similar bill passed. I would like to quickly read the summary of Bill C-386.

The purpose of this enactment is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. It extends the obligation to maintain essential services.

The enactment also provides for the imposition of a fine for an offence.

The bill would ensure that all workers who are fortunate enough to work in Quebec are subject to the same legislation, since replacement workers are prohibited in Quebec. I would like to provide a quick background on anti-scab legislation.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the best way to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of all those who contribute to Quebec society on a daily basis is to show true respect for their rights, by preventing the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout. Therefore, it is imperative that workers governed by federal labour legislation have the same rights as those governed by Quebec legislation, including a true right to strike.

The Canada Labour Code should be amended and brought into line with the Quebec labour code, so as to ban the use of replacement workers, or scabs, once and for all. Anti-scab legislation would ensure that workers governed by federal legislation enjoy balanced bargaining power, and would keep tension on the picket lines to a minimum. That is the objective of Bill C-386, which would prohibit the hiring of replacement workers.

Unlike in Quebec, which has prohibited replacement workers since 1977, there is currently nothing in the Canada Labour Code that clearly and specifically prohibits the use of replacement workers.

Subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code contains a prohibition relating to replacement workers, but only where an employer uses replacement workers for the purpose of undermining a trade union’s representational capacity. That prohibition is very weak, because to be entitled to use replacement workers, an employer need only continue to recognize the union in place and continue bargaining to demonstrate its good faith. As we see, it is very easy for employers to have access to replacement workers.

A firm prohibition, which is what Bill C-386 proposes, is essential, however, for civilized bargaining to take place during a labour dispute and to promote industrial peace, and is also the cornerstone for establishing an equitable balance of power between employers and employees.

Workers in industries that are governed by the Canada Labour Code, such as telecommunications—workers in Internet businesses, cable companies and cell phone companies—and banks, ports, bridges, airports or Canada Post, who make up about 8% of the Quebec labour force, are therefore at a disadvantage when they have to bargain with their employer, and as a result they get dragged into longer strikes.

According to figures from the Quebec Ministère du Travail, for instance, Quebec workers whose employer is federally regulated are practically always overrepresented in the number of days of work lost. While they account for just under 8% of Quebec’s labour force, they experienced 18% of the person-days lost in 2004 and 22.6% of the person-days lost in 2003. In fact, a peak was reached in 2002. While 7.3% of Quebec workers were employed in federally regulated organizations, they accounted for 48% of days of work lost because of labour disputes.

In a nutshell, there were, on average, two and a half times more person-days lost in the last decade in labour disputes in Quebec involving workers governed by the Canada Labour Code than those workers represent in demographic weight. Obviously, this translates into longer and more violent disputes when the employer is able to hire strikebreakers.

Remember the three-month dispute at Sécur, the Vidéotron dispute that lasted over 10 months and involved acts of sabotage, and the dispute at the Cargill grain elevator in Baie-Comeau that ended in 2003 after a three-year lockout. And let us not forget the unionized workers at Radio-Nord Communications, employees of the three Abitibi television stations, TVA, TQS and Radio-Canada, and the two radio stations in northwestern Quebec, who were on strike for over 20 months.

The Conservative government stated its opposition at the outset, and having no genuine arguments, retreated behind apocalyptic scenarios that have nothing to do with reality. Quebec has had legislation prohibiting replacement workers for 30 years, and there have been no catastrophes.

In spite of Conservative opposition, the Bloc Québécois was able to have Bill C-257 passed on second reading, and got it as far as the report stage. That was the first time an anti-strikebreaker bill had made it that far. The Liberals, who had supported the bill in principle on second reading, ultimately did an about-face and said the bill would not have guaranteed that essential services would be maintained.

The Canada Labour Code already includes provisions that require both the employer and unionized employees to 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. The Conservative government, and now the Liberal Party, have done their best to ignore these provisions.

In the March 21, 2007, vote on Bill C-257, during the last Parliament, the Conservatives and the Liberals, with the exception of some Liberal members from Quebec, joined forces to defeat the bill by a vote of 177 to 122. It is important to remember that this Minister of Labour, the same one who fiercely condemned the Bloc Québécois bill and made all kinds of irrational arguments, supported a bill to prohibit replacement workers in 1990. The Liberals tried to avoid completely losing face by introducing a bill similar to the one drafted by the Bloc Québécois. There was not enough time to vote on that bill before the election was called.

I want everyone to understand that we are making a direct connection between the Conservatives' opposition to anti-scab legislation and special bills because the right to negotiate is a basic right. However, Quebeckers also believe that the right to balanced bargaining power is a basic right.

I am pleased to be discussing Bill C-386 here in the House. The Speaker recently received a letter dated December 1 from the Federally Regulated Employers - Transportation and Communications. This association, Federally Regulated Employers - Transportation and Communications, wrote to the Speaker. It is worth hearing what they had to say. The association wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons to recommend that he vote against Bill C-386. This is a group of employers under federal jurisdiction. Apparently, it is an organization that strongly opposes the rights currently in force in Quebec. I will list some of the members: Air Canada, WestJet, VIA Rail, Canada Post, Fedex, Iron Ore, NAV CANADA, Purolator, Telus, Canadian Pacific, the Airports Association and Bell Canada.

The association does not include banks, which have employees under federal jurisdiction, but they have their own association. It is very interesting to read what the association wrote to the Speaker of the House to convince him to vote against the bill. I will read it in English.

They believe it is bad public policy because it would shift the balance of power in collective bargaining overwhelmingly in favour of the unions.

That is like saying that it is the employers who hold the power right now, and if this bill were ever introduced, it would shift the power to unions. This is despite the fact that the bill has evolved. Essential services have been added. Despite the fact that this works very well in Quebec, there is always this direct opposition from employers. This is important.

They thought it would be good to form an association, the Federally Regulated Employers - Transportation and Communications, to address this. Their letter indicates that 14 anti-scab bills have been introduced since 2000, and they are quite proud that none of those bills has passed.

In the end, they always win. It is clear in their correspondence, and in 1977 Quebec passed anti-scab legislation to ensure some degree of balance.

So employers form an association and send letters to say that if this ever changes, the unions will have all the power. This means that right now, it is the employers that have all the power. But anti-scab legislation, legislation that would prohibit replacement workers and ensure that essential services would be maintained, is a form of balance. This has definitely been proven in Quebec. Once again, it is a difficult situation. When 92% of unionized employees in a nation like Quebec are covered by anti-scab legislation, and the other 8% fall under the Canada Labour Code and do not have the same ability to negotiate or enjoy the same labour relations, this creates a clear imbalance.

Earlier I gave some examples of labour disputes that have occurred, of delays in negotiations, and the use of scabs to allow the work to continue and allow the business to operate as it did before without having to use the employees. Of course, this only fuels the debates.

This often provokes nasty situations. Indeed, people are very unhappy when no progress is being made in negotiations. The employer continues to count on replacement workers to carry on its operations. At this time, in any civilized employer-employee relationship, anti-scab legislation with the maintenance of essential services is necessary. This is what we are proposing in the bill I am introducing here today in my name and on behalf of the Bloc.

We are not engaging in these debates and making these proposals without support. There is a real consensus in the union movement to support this anti-scab bill. This legislation is supported by the Canadian Labour Congress; the Fédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses du Québec; the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN); the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); the Public Service Alliance of Canada; the Brotherhoods of Locomotive Engineers of Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Alberta; the Syndicat des employé-e-s de techniques professionnelles et de bureau d'Hydro-Québec; the Ontario Teachers' Federation; the Congress of Union Retirees Canada; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; the Manitoba Federation of Labour; and the Graphic Communications International Union.

We have support to offset the Federally Regulated Employers—Transportation and Communications, this association of federally regulated employers that has formed and is sending letters to the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is only natural that there should be a balance. As the letter I read earlier said, things are currently weighted in favour of the employers. It is only natural that unionized workers should want a better balance. That is why Bill C-386 is the answer. It prohibits replacement workers and maintains essential services.

I call on all the members of this House to support Bill C-386.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

April 23rd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to this motion.

Today the House is debating a motion tabled by my hon. colleague, proposing to make significant changes to key sections of the Canada Labour Code. This motion, if passed, will ban the right of federal employers to use replacement workers during a labour stoppage.

These proposed measures should not be treated lightly. This motion is the most recent of a series of attempts by some members of the House to try to bring wholesale changes to federal labour law in Canada without consultation or compromise.

Let me be clear. We remain firmly opposed to the motion, just as we have been opposed to similar legislation or legislative efforts introduced previously in the House. Our position is clear. We do not support the proposed amendments in Motion No. 294, and there are four compelling reasons why.

First, our modernized Canada Labour Code works well. It provides adequate protection to employees involved in a legal work stoppage.

Second, the motion, if passed, will disrupt the balance that was achieved when the Canada Labour Code was modernized back in 1999. It will leave federal employers unable to operate at minimal levels during a strike or lockout. This in turn could result in productivity losses to our national economy at a time when Canadians can least afford it.

Third, it would make labour relations more adversarial in the country. Energies and resources should be focused on solving labour relation issues in a peaceful manner. This is a situation that no one can afford to have happen during times of economic uncertainty both in Canada and around the world.

Fourth, we do not see any compelling evidence to support the argument that a ban on the use of replacement workers would reduce the number or duration of work stoppages and benefit workers in a federal jurisdiction.

As I mentioned earlier, the motion is the latest in a series of similar legislative efforts. It is worth taking a moment to take note of that fact, because they share some of the common characteristics and deficiencies of previous legislative efforts over the last number of years.

Over the past two decades, the House had debated numerous private members' bills on the matter of replacement workers in the federal domain.

First, there was Bill C-201, tabled in April of 1989. Next, there was Bill C-317, tabled in June of 1995. There were two more attempts between 2002 and 2005 in the form of Bill C-328 and Bill C-263, the latter of which was defeated after second reading. Next, there was Bill C-257, tabled in May of 2006. It was also defeated on third reading. Finally, there was the predecessor to the motion before us today, which was Bill C-415. It died on the order paper at the dissolution of Parliament in September of 2008.

All these bills were defeated because a majority of members of the House recognized that what each bill proposed would be ineffective and would have negative effects on labour relations and on the economic health of Canada.

A common characteristic shared by some of the more recent legislative efforts is that they do not fully consider just how vital it is that a middle ground be maintained between unions and employers on the matter of replacement workers. They overlook what was accomplished when the Canada Labour Code was modernized in 1999. The existing replacement worker provision in section 94(2.1) of the Labour Code was the product of much consultation with stakeholders. It also provided an ever important characteristic, one that is the backbone of this country, and that is compromise.

Existing provisions do permit employers to at least try to carry on basic operations during work stoppages. However, it also protects the union's right to strike and its bargaining authority. The balance would have been lost if any of these private member's bills had been passed by the House to eventually become law.

Motion No. 294 before this House today is no different in terms of the disruption that it would pose to labour relations and the economic health of our nation. As with the private member's bills that have preceded it, this motion stands in complete opposition to the well-established facts about replacement worker legislation.

I will review these key facts in the House right now.

First, legislation of that nature is rare in Canada. Only two provinces have legislation that restricts the right of employers to use the services of replacement workers during work stoppages. Quebec implemented its legislation in 1977. In 1993, British Columbia passed its own regulations. Ontario had enacted similar provisions in 1993 but they were repealed in 1995.

That leads me to my second point of fact. After nearly two decades of experience with this kind of legislation in Quebec and in British Columbia, the results are not encouraging for Canadian workers. Statistical data analysis provided by the labour program suggests both of these provinces continue to experience work stoppages of long duration and the length of their work stoppages is not that much different from other jurisdictions in Canada that do not have the replacement worker legislation.

For instance, in the period from 2005 to 2007, the average duration of a work stoppage in Quebec was 43.8 days compared to 43.6 days in Ontario and 41 days in the federal jurisdiction. This data supports independent findings which maintain that statutory prohibitions on the use of replacement workers are not necessarily effective in reducing the duration of a work stoppage.

That takes me to the third key fact that I want to share with the House this evening. Since the 1980s, over 90% of disputes in federal jurisdiction have been settled without a work stoppage, and that is often with the assistance of federal mediators and officers. In the majority of cases, employers do not employ external replacement workers to keep their operations functioning. Instead, they reassign management and other non-bargaining unit personnel.

What does Motion No. 294 seek to accomplish? In light of the facts that I have shared with the House, it is unclear what the drafters of Motion No. 294 are seeking to accomplish with this latest in a series of legislative attempts to drastically revise the Canada Labour Code, the outcome of which would essentially outlaw any use of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction. It cannot be to bring about balance and fairness to labour relations in Canada. The proposed amendments would undo what has been achieved over the past decade. It cannot be a solution to help reduce the number of work stoppages. The experiences in the two provinces with anti-replacement worker legislation show us that they continue to struggle with lengthy work stoppages. It cannot be a solution that would help boost Canada's ability in today's competitive environment.

The proposed amendments call for changes that would bring instability and uncertainty to Canadian labour relations and would do so in the midst of significant global economic difficulties.

The facts and the risks posed by anti-replacement worker legislation are just as clear today as they were in the past. As with each previous legislative attempt introduced in this House, this motion calls for amendments that would ultimately harm workers and undermine the labour peace that both sides have enjoyed for years.

For those reasons, I remain firmly opposed to this motion.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

April 23rd, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour and pleasure to talk about Motion No. 294 to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers, thus relegating them to a chapter in history, and a dark one at that.

On 11 separate occasions, the Bloc Québécois has introduced bills to harmonize the Canada Labour Code with the Quebec Labour Code. On 11 separate occasions, the Liberals and the Conservatives have worked together to defeat those bills. We came closest to passing a bill on the subject at hand during the last government. Unfortunately, when it reached report stage, the Liberals listened to their leader, the one who replaced Paul Martin, because they were so worried about Bay Street.

The day after they realized that our bill would not make it past second reading to third reading and then to the Senate before being passed into law, the Liberals introduced a very similar bill in which they changed just two words to try to save face. However, when the time came to place it on the orders of the day for debate in the House of Commons, it was delayed for so long that the sponsor, the labour critic, was replaced by another member who was strongly opposed to the bill. They saved face and remained true to form. Dark blue or red, they are cut from the same cloth and they all have it in for workers.

It is also important to remember that the first time the Bloc Québécois introduced this bill, the NDP voted against it because the nasty separatists were introducing a bill. Fortunately, they saw the light, which I hope the Liberals and Conservatives will do one day, and they supported us the other 10 times. We want people to know that. We must avoid repeating the ignominy of violating the rights of striking or locked-out workers who are out picketing while people are taking their jobs so that the employer keeps turning a profit while the workers are forced to live on the meagre strike pay they get, if they get any at all. When this happens, the two sides are not negotiating on a level playing field.

We must also remember that when the previous government was in power, 19 Conservatives voted to refer the bill to committee. But when the time came to take a formal stand, only one stood up and the other 18 toed the party line and voted against workers.

In Quebec, 7% of workers are likely to fall victim to strikebreakers, because they are governed by the Canada Labour Code. In 1977, during the first term of the PQ government of René Lévesque, a sovereigntist government that cared about Quebec and its workers, the National Assembly passed an anti-scab law, which is still in effect today. It is still in effect, and it has shortened strikes. During negotiations, it has become imperative to find a way to avoid a strike. But in sectors under federal jurisdiction, strikes took place after 1977, and they were often extremely violent. People crossed the picket lines and took food out of the mouths of the strikers' children. The strikers negotiated in good faith while these people took away their livelihood.

And all under the eyes of the federal government. That is completely unacceptable. Harmony is needed and the Bloc Québécois is the party of Quebeckers. Since 1993 we have held a majority of the seats in the House of Commons because the people of Quebec trust the Bloc Québécois, because we fight so that Quebeckers will have better living conditions and to make sure that the money sent to the federal government, as long as we are in this federation, comes back to us so that it respects the consensus in the National Assembly of Quebec.

Anti-scab legislation is essential if we are to have civilized bargaining when disputes occur. In fact, there is no real, full recognition of the right to strike unless the use of scabs, the people who take away workers’ jobs during a strike, is prohibited.

In October 2003, the Bloc Québécois introduced a petition with 46,000 signatures supporting the position of workers and calling on the government to enact anti-scab legislation.

Under the last Conservative government—you were there, Mr. Speaker—we will recall what the Minister of Labour at the time, the member for Jonquière—Alma, had to say. In 1990 he supported an anti-scab bill, when he was an MP in the Mulroney government. He voted in favour of that legislation. And then, when he became a minister, he turned his back on workers.

I was the sponsor of Bill C-257, to introduce anti-scab legislation. In the Human Resources Committee I heard apocalyptic tales, things that simply could not be believed. My stars, it was worthy of a B-grade horror movie. He said that if the baggage handlers at an airport went on strike, Canada’s economy would be paralyzed. Any more and he would have said that the earth would stop rotating on its axis. There was a provision for maintaining essential services.

For a minister to say things like that amounts to saying just anything at all. He said that if telephone operators went on strike, 911 would cease to function. Any more and he would have had the crime rate quintupling or more, because that falls under telecommunications, and that is under federal jurisdiction.

He did go farther. He spoke directly to the Liberals in committee and told them that when they returned to power—and that indicates just how much confidence he has in his government—recess would be over because of the separatists in the Bloc and the New Democrats and they would have labour relations problems, and that is completely false.

British Columbia has also had anti-scab legislation since 1993, and Quebec has had it since 1977. I hope that Quebeckers who fly the red or dark blue colours today remember that this bill has brought about a much healthier labour relations climate in Quebec and much less violence in labour relations situations under Quebec’s jurisdiction. It covers 93% of workers in Quebec.

I hope that members will have their hearts in the right place and will allow the other 7% of workers in Quebec to enjoy the benefits of anti-scab legislation. At the same time, and as fallout from that, I am proud to say that Canadians throughout Canada will benefit from it as well.

Committee Amendments to Bill C-21Points of OrderOral Questions

February 14th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to seek a ruling on whether two amendments to Bill C-21, adopted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, are in order. I submit that these two amendments are actually out of order because they are beyond the scope of Bill C-21 that was set at second reading.

Bill C-21 was referred to committee after second reading, as we all know, and page 654 of Marleau and Montpetit states:

An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.

I would like to emphasize that the bill was adopted at second reading and had a very narrow scope. Namely, it contained just three specific items: first, it repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; second, it provided for a parliamentary review of the repeal of section 67 within five years; and third, it included a transitional provision concerning the implementation of the repeal of section 67.

Page 661 of Marleau and Montpetit states:

Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled by the Chairman to be out of order. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then considered by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.

This passage flows from a Speaker's ruling from 1993 when the members of a committee rejected the decision of their chair, who had ruled three proposed amendments to a bill to be out of order. The amendments were then adopted by the committee and included in the report to the House.

Following a point of order raised in the House in respect of this matter, the Speaker upheld the ruling of the chair and ordered that the three amendments be struck from the bill.

Marleau and Montpetit, on page 662, also cites a 1992 ruling by Speaker Fraser. It reads in part:

“When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is...restricted in its examination in a number of ways...it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be”.

The first amendment to which I wish to bring to the Speaker's attention is an interpretive clause, which was added as a new clause, clause 1.2, to the bill. This amendment was ruled inadmissible by the chair because it is beyond the scope of Bill C-21.

During the committee's consideration of this amendment, the member for Nunavut stated:

I don't believe we are asking for too much beyond the scope...I want to take it into the House of Commons for further consideration and see how the ruling would be on that in the House of Commons.

Notwithstanding the acknowledged uncertainty of the member for Nunavut with respect to the admissibility of this amendment, the chair's decision was overruled by the committee, which then adopted this amendment.

The second amendment to which I wish to draw to the Speaker's attention is a non-derogation clause, which was also added as a new clause, clause 1.1, to this bill. While the chair did not raise admissibility concerns with the amendment, this new clause clearly adds a new purpose to the bill and is therefore beyond the scope of Bill C-21.

As I have noted, the purpose of this bill is to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Since the bill is silent on how the Canadian Human Rights Act should be interpreted and applied to first nations, I submit that the amendment to add an interpretive clause and the amendment to add a non-derogation clause exceeds the scope of this bill.

Both of these amendments are beyond the scope of the bill by attempting to prescribe how the Canadian Human Rights Act should be interpreted and applied to first nations people on reserve. Since the purpose of the bill is to bring first nations people the basic human rights that every other Canadian enjoys, I question why the opposition would want to water them down.

What is more disturbing is that the opposition was willing to achieve this goal by overriding a fundamental principle of parliamentary legislative practice. It overruled the chair, who rightly ruled an amendment out of order because it went beyond the scope of this bill. These amendments attempt to bring back much of the intent of section 67, which, of course, the bill proposed to repeal.

I believe this view has been supported by the Speaker in his ruling of February 27, 2007 on Bill C-257, which states:

Given the very narrow scope of Bill C-257, any amendment to the bill must stay within the very limited parameters set by the provisions of the Canada Labour Code that are amended by the bill...They argue that these amendments are admissible for they only make clearer the bill's provisions...However, I fear that their views are precisely what Mr. Speaker Fraser meant in the 1992 ruling...when he warned members against being led into the temptation of amendments not contemplated in the original bill.

On Tuesday, January 29, 2008 in a decision on the admissibility of an amendment that was beyond the scope of Bill C-3, the Speaker ruled:

The amendment was ruled inadmissible by the committee chair on the grounds that it was beyond the scope of the bill. It was contended that on the contrary his amendment was within the scope of the bill because it simply expanded the appeal provision already contained in the bill.

Admittedly, the hon. member’s amendment deals with this same principle, namely the right to appeal, but where it goes beyond the scope of the bill is in relation to the conditions under which the appeal may be made...Consequently, even if the principle remains the same, its scope is clearly expanded.

Any attempt to establish how the Canadian Human Rights Act is interpreted and applied to first nations people should be seen as an expansion of the scope of this bill since this clearly introduces new issues which were not part of Bill C-21 as originally introduced.

I would like to conclude by stating that these two amendments, particularly the nature of the interpretive provision, would undermine the universality of human rights principles embodied in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the very purpose of Bill C-21, which was simply to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Clearly, these two are beyond the very narrow scope of the original bill.

Mr. Speaker, if you agree that these amendments are out of order, I would suggest that they be removed from the bill, as you did in your previous ruling on February 27, 2007.

December 11th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm amazed at the overwhelming sense of fairness and consistency the NDP picked in this particular issue. Depending on what committee it's at--I know that certainly for HR it's always been the case that we deal with the business of government or private members' bills; that takes precedence all the time. When Bill C-257 came forward, even though we were working on studies, it didn't matter; it was very quick, and easy to push aside what we were doing. Certainly, in the name of fairness and consistency across all committees, most committees handle it this way already.

I would also take into consideration my colleague's remarks. Obviously if we're working on a report there should be some type of mechanism whereby we talk about what priorities to take, but certainly, as is the case in every other committee, bills always take precedence.

Once again, this is a routine motion that happens in every committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / noon
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the House is debating the contents of Bill C-415, legislation that would bar the ability of employers governed by federal regulation to use replacement workers during a labour stoppage.

Earlier this year we debated a similar legislative effort, Bill C-257, which sought to achieve the same goal. I cannot help but think of Yogi Berra's famous line, “It's déjà vu all over again”.

With Bill C-257, I think there have been 11 previous attempts, and this would be the 12th attempt, to try to move the yardstick in this labour negotiation effort. The previous 11 attempts have all been defeated in Parliament.

There are some serious shortcomings to Bill C-415. It is really no different from its predecessor, both in substance and in the threat it poses to the good health of Canada's economy and to labour relations. Both the current and previous bills call for an amendment to the Canada Labour Code. They contain identical summary paragraphs. Despite assurances by supporters of the bill, I see nothing in what has been proposed that could be considered an improvement on what we debated earlier this year, a bill which we opposed vigorously and which was defeated in Parliament.

Drafters of this bill have added a provision that would have us believe the issue of essential services has been resolved. However, it is a very complicated issue when we deal with essential services. We are talking about services in the transportation sector, particularly, interprovincial transportation, communications, banking and emergency services that are federally regulated.

However, would Bill C-415 define what is meant by “essential workers”? My answer is it would not.

Bill C-415 would not create a new category of essential services. Nor would it designate a group of workers to perform the essential work. There would be no material change at all to the existing requirements in the Canada Labour Code to maintain services or activities that are necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or the health of the public. In other words, the bill would not make any new services essential.

Under the current provision on essential services, questions have to be answered by the Canada Industrial Relations Board when the parties cannot agree on what services have to be maintained. The board is then required to make a determination on what is essential to ensure the health and safety of the public.

I will wrap up with this statement. It took the board seven years to make that determination with respect to a case involving NAV CANADA and its unions.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the issue that Bill C-415 addresses is a very complex and difficult one. As we have heard across the House today, it is fraught with different viewpoints and challenges.

I think all of us here would say that we are very supportive of the collective bargaining process. We want to make sure workers' rights are protected. We want to make sure that people have freedom of association. We clearly want to make sure that workers are not abused in the manner as happened in British Columbia in some cases, and about which my colleague spoke. On the other hand we have a responsibility as legislators to make sure that things are not done that would harm society in general, and I include the workers who would be affected by the bill.

At the heart of this issue is a balance one wants to strike. On the one hand there are the rights of the workers to ensure that their concerns are dealt with effectively, that an employer cannot use the situation to be abusive against the workers. On the other hand we have to ensure that essential services are protected in our society. If they are not, if those services fall apart, it could damage everybody. Those services form the spine of our country.

This bill affects federally regulated services, such as transportation, banking, air transportation and telecommunications. Imagine if any of those services were affected. For example, if baggage handlers were to go on strike, it would grind the whole air transportation system across the country to a halt. It happened in trucking. Imagine if it happened in telecommunications. Imagine what would happen with respect to hospital services and access to emergency services. Those would all fall apart.

It is interesting that there are two definitions. Emergency services have been defined as the operation of facilities or production of goods to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety and health of the public. That is how essential services were termed in the previous bill to this one, Bill C-257. It is a definition that the NDP likes very well.

I would submit that definition is far too narrow and would not deal with true essential services. They ought to be defined in the following way, and I will take a leaf out of the Quebec labour code, section 111.17. The Quebec labour code very clearly states that essential services are “a service to which the public is entitled”.

The distinction may seem subtle, but it is very important. Imagine that someone was working in a union dealing with a very difficult labour negotiation with an employer involved in banking, telecommunications, trucking or air transportation. If the service ground to a halt, what would happen to those federally regulated employees who could not receive their cheques? What would happen if there was a family emergency and they could not travel? What would happen if the company could not move the goods and services that are required for our country to continue to be effective economically?

All workers would be affected negatively, including the ones who this pieces of legislation is supposed to address. That is the conundrum we have in the House. How do we ensure that we protect workers while ensuring that those same workers are protected in terms of their health, welfare, safety and economy? If people cannot bank, travel or use telecommunications, it means that everybody in our country is hurt, including the people who are directly affected by the so-called labour strike.

It is important for the workers who are listening to this debate to understand the distinction. Nobody in the House is against them. All of us want to ensure that we are able to serve them and to make sure that workers' concerns and rights are addressed effectively and in a timely fashion and that no employer can use the power of a legal structure against the workers.

I remember in my province when the hospital employee unions were on strike. I was on the picket line. I was working with the people on the picket line and their union representatives to liaise with our provincial government, to come up with solutions that would work well for the workers who were on strike, workers who were working in the hospitals treating patients so that the situation would be resolved quickly and effectively.

Maybe one of the solutions is binding final offer arbitration. That could be incorporated.

Another group that needs to be spoken for is the RCMP. The RCMP, understandably, cannot form a union, but its members also do not have the power as a group to articulate concerns for their collective. RCMP members work day in and day out in the service of our country, as all police forces do across the country. They give their lives sometimes for us and they do it with courage and distinction across our nation. They have concerns also, but the men and women in the RCMP who serve us cannot articulate those concerns in a way that is productive.

In looking at this bill, maybe we could look at all workers, including RCMP officers and federally regulated employers, who form part of the spine of our nation. We should come up with solutions that will enable all workers to have their concerns addressed in a timely and effective fashion.

With respect to the Telus workers, clearly what some of them were subjected to was dead wrong and should never be allowed in our country. I am talking of the use of workers from the United States and the types of abuses that took place against workers on the picket lines. That should not ever happen.

The concerns of the workers need to be addressed in a timely fashion and in a way that does not affect the industry itself, because if it affects the industry, it affects the spine of our nation and if it affects the spine of our nation, it can be catastrophic to every single person in our country, including people who are working for an affected employer and are supposedly going on strike.

The NDP should stop hiding behind its rhetoric and start talking about workers instead of unions. That is, in effect, what it is doing. That party's rhetoric belies its true colours. Oftentimes it talks about supporting union leadership instead of about supporting workers. Maybe the NDP should talk about workers having the right to a ballot vote as opposed to raising their hands and the ability to have right to work legislation.

I looked at this issue a few years ago and it is interesting. Right to work legislation is fascinating. When workers have right to work legislation in their jurisdictions, they are able to earn, on average, $3,500 more per person. They are also able to control their unions a bit better in their best interests. It also enables union leadership to work better for the people it represents.

The government should look into these types of solutions. The NDP should consider championing solutions that work for the betterment of the worker, not necessarily for the political structures that those workers labour under. The NDP ought to listen to some of the concerns of workers' who are in unions about the structures that some of them labour under. Some union leaderships are wonderful and work very effectively for the people they represent, but there are some that do not. There are clearly structures in our country that work well for employees and other structures that do not. I strongly encourage all members of the House to look into that.

On the issue of labour, the government needs to come up with a plan. In short, there is a critical labour shortage as the population ages. Right now, 16% of Canadians are over the age of 65. That will double in the next 25 years. There are critical shortages in medicine, the skills trades and other areas. The government should increase the percentage of people coming in to the skilled trades workforce. It should expand the workforce through enabling those who are older to stay in the workforce. It should work with the provinces in terms of skilled retraining, access to training, and such.

I encourage all members of the House to work together for solutions that will work well for employees from coast to coast.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate on Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

This is legislation that New Democrats believe is long overdue. We have debated it many times, have had many votes on it and it is time we actually passed the legislation.

New Democrats will be supporting the legislation again in the House, as we did when we supported the last attempt to deal with the issue of replacement workers in strikes and lockouts in federal jurisdictions, which was Bill C-257 in the first session of this Parliament, a bill tabled by the member for Gatineau.

Our resolve to see this issue dealt with successfully is very strong. We want the legislation to go through because prohibiting replacement workers during a legal strike or lockout is an essential piece of guaranteeing labour peace and economic stability in Canada. This would be an important piece of legislation.

The fight for workers' rights has been a long one in Canada and the key victories in that have been the freedom of association, free collective bargaining and the ability to withhold services if collective bargaining fails. Those are very essential to our labour movement and to workers in Canada. It is also important to workers in federal jurisdictions.

This legislation, which deals with replacement workers or strikebreakers in a legal strike or lockout, would level the playing and ensure some fairness between employers and workers in that difficult situation when there is a strike or a lockout.

We have had other attempts at this. I mentioned the one by the member for Gatineau. The member for Vancouver Island North, the New Democrat member, also has legislation tabled regarding the issue of replacement workers. If the bill should fail again, we will be on it to ensure that we have another opportunity to debate this important issue and, hopefully, finally get this legislation through Parliament.

The ability to negotiate fair wages, a safe workplace, pay equity, health care and pensions is crucial to many families in Canada. Those who are lucky enough to be represented by a union and have a collective agreement know the importance of that collective agreement to all of those issues and to their lives here in Canada. Therefore, we want to ensure there is a level playing field when it comes to collective bargaining and strikes and lockouts in Canada.

If I were a Liberal, I would be embarrassed to table this kind of legislation. I think the member for Davenport should be embarrassed to table this legislation because if it were not for the Liberals changing their votes the last time this came before the House, the vote on Bill C-257, we may well have been farther down the road and have enacted this kind of legislation.

Unfortunately, when Bill C-257 came to a vote in the first session of this Parliament, 29 Liberals, who had supported it at second reading, switched their vote from yea to nay. That meant that almost 80 Liberals and 20 Conservatives voted in favour of this at second reading but many of them changed their vote so that close to 30 Liberals, including the Leader of the Opposition, followed the government's lead to kill the bill.

That is tragic because we were so close to seeing this important change made in our labour law in Canada. Unfortunately, the Liberals played a major role in seeing that attempt go down the drain.

The Liberals should be embarrassed for tabling this legislation and embarrassed for tabling it the day after the previous legislation went down to defeat. There is just no excuse for that. We will be watching very carefully to see what happens with the Liberals when the bill comes to a vote.

Prohibiting replacement workers in a strike or lockout is very important because two provincial jurisdictions in Canada have long-standing experience with exactly this kind of legislation.

Quebec passed legislation to this effect in 1977. British Columbia passed legislation banning the use of replacement workers in 1993.

It was a New Democratic government that introduced that legislation in 1993 in British Columbia. The interesting thing is that there has been a change of government in British Columbia. Now the B.C. Liberal Party is in power, a coalition of conservative parties in British Columbia. They have made many changes to labour law in British Columbia that have been very controversial and I think detrimental to working people in British Columbia.

One piece of legislation that they did not change is the legislation regarding replacement workers. Even the conservative-liberal B.C. government knows that legislation has improved the labour climate in British Columbia. It has improved the ability of labour and management to come to successful agreements. That has been a good thing for the economy of British Columbia.

I do not think there is any excuse for saying that this kind of legislation will ultimately hurt the economy. We have two excellent examples, British Columbia and Quebec, where it has had exactly the opposite effect and where it is supported soundly by employers and workers because they know it has a positive effect when it comes to settling an agreement.

Replacement workers increase tension in labour disputes. They prolong strikes. They add to instability in the search for a settlement in a strike or a lockout. None of those things do anything to benefit the economy. None of those things do anything to benefit the families of management and workers who are affected by a strike or lockout.

Taking this step to ban replacement workers, to ban strike breaking is a very significant one to ensure that there will be a successful settlement.

This morning as we were listening to other members in this debate, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore pointed out that the use of replacement workers is also a very dangerous practice from the perspective of the health and safety of those workers who are sent in to do jobs that they know very little about. They are often sent in to operate dangerous machinery or to work in difficult situations without the appropriate training for that kind of work.

If for no other reason than the concern about the people who are sent in as replacement workers and for their safety, I would hope that other members of the House might support this legislation. It is a minor issue, but I think it is an important issue to note.

Many Liberals used the excuse that they were voting against Bill C-257 in the first session of this Parliament because it did not deal with the question of essential services. That is in fact not the case. Essential services are dealt with in the Canada Labour Code. Section 87.4 states that unions and employers prior to a dispute should work on the issue of designation of essential services. That is already a provision of the Canada Labour Code and not something that was missing from the legislation.

It is also possible under the existing Canada Labour Code for the Minister of Labour to ask that essential services be designated at the time of a strike or lockout.

The Liberals were hiding behind a false issue at the time because the current Canada Labour Code speaks very clearly about the designation of essential services. There was no doubt that it was already dealt with. To say this new bill was necessary because of that I think is completely erroneous.

Shortly after I was elected in 2004 there was a lockout of Telus telecommunications workers in British Columbia and Alberta. It was a very serious lockout. Replacement workers, outsourcing, contracting out and strikebreakers were all used in that strike. It increased the tension and the length of that strike dramatically. It had a serious effect on the workers involved, on the managers involved and on the morale of that workplace. It also was a significant hardship for the community. I spoke to a number of small businesses that were directly affected because of that lengthy lockout and the tension surrounding it.

In this corner of the House, New Democrats will be strongly supporting legislation that bans the use of replacement workers in strikes or lockouts in the federal jurisdiction.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, during the last session of Parliament, the opposition members repeatedly tried to convince this House to adopt a bill that would make changes to the Canada Labour Code, with a view to prohibiting federal employers from using replacement workers during a work stoppage.

Our government has opposed such measures in the past, and we are opposed now to Bill C-415, which is before this House. This bill may include a new provision, but the wording remains essentially the same as in previous versions introduced in the House. Most importantly, the threat this bill poses to the health of the economy and labour relations in Canada is more real than ever.

The members of this House who support this bill say that it represents a real improvement over the previous version, Bill C-257. However, the facts do not support this assertion. The bill's supporters claim that adding the concept of essential services to Bill C-415 helps make up for the serious deficiencies in the previous bill. They also state that this bill would appropriately meet the need to maintain services essential to public health and safety in the event of a labour dispute, but none of these arguments holds water. In fact, this bill is no different from its predecessor in its goal or its consequences.

Adding the word “essential” to an existing section of the act, which already requires that the employer and the union maintain services deemed necessary to prevent an immediate danger to public health and safety, does not change the essence of this provision. Bill C-415 does not define “essential services”, which could lead to confusion and uncertainty. One has to wonder why the drafters of this bill did not provide a clear definition of the concept, instead of leaving it to Parliament. As legislators, we could have been accountable to Canadians.

Advocates of Bill C-415 do not know how this bill will affect the health of Canada's economy either. In the meantime, our government has very clearly stated why it is opposed to this type of bill.

As we have already said in this House, attempts to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers could have serious consequences for Canadian companies, industries and workers.

The provisions of Bill C-415 state that only managers of a company affected by a labour strike are authorized to replace employees who are on strike or who have been locked out. A few months ago, Canadians saw for themselves the consequences of a work stoppage affecting a federal government service.

In February 2007, when CN workers went on strike, Canadians clearly saw the devastating effects of a work stoppage on a fundamental service in a federally regulated sector. Merchandise was no longer being transported across the country, as it should have been. In just a few days, this is what happened.

Sawmills on the Pacific coast were faced with the possibility of laying off employees or closing their doors. Assembly plants in Ontario ended up with surplus stock. The same thing happened at the port of Vancouver. Producers from the Prairies had to find new ways to send their products to market. Remote communities had to wait for vital supplies to be delivered. The Canadian Wheat Board was paying $300,000 a day to keep ships in port until the grain arrived.

This brings me to my next argument on the shortcomings of Bill C-415. It does not protect services in the sectors regulated by the federal government that are essential to Canada's economy.

I am talking about sectors affecting a wide range of products that are fundamental to businesses, industries and the growth of this country, namely, transportation by rail, air and land, the ports, certain telecommunication and broadcast services, financial services and commuter services in certain regions.

These services are fundamental to our economy, but they have not been considered essential in the general meaning of the word. This bill does nothing to ensure that railway services or telecommunication services are maintained during a work stoppage. Canadians have learned from recent experience with the CN strike the extent to which a labour dispute in a federal sector can quickly harm other sectors of the economy. With a direct ban on hiring replacement workers, a work stoppage in one sector of Canada's transportation network could have serious consequences. What would be the cost? Who would assume responsibility for damages in the event of a work stoppage? Bill C-415 does not provide any answers to these questions.

It is also important to note that the Canada Labour Code is already very specific on the matter of responsibility of federal employers and unions in the event of a strike. It requires the parties to maintain the services necessary to prevent immediate and serious risk to public health or safety. This applies to all employers under federal jurisdiction.

Bill C-415 raises some other concerns for our government. Rather than helping workers, this legislation would be detrimental to healthy federal labour relations in Canada. The current provisions of the Canada Labour Code are working effectively. In 2006, the majority of conflicts governed by the Canada Labour Code—some 97%— were resolved without work stoppages. Consider also the findings of the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Since 1999, of the 18 complaints filed concerning the allegedly inappropriate use of replacement workers, 13 were withdrawn, three cases were heard and dismissed by the board and the other two are still waiting for a ruling.

One thing is clear: the updated Canada Labour Code strikes a crucial balance, which is something that deserves to be protected. Each party has the same interest in maintaining good labour relations, as well as the same power of influence. Just as unions have the power to advise their members to exercise their right to strike, employers have the right to try to maintain their operations, even if in a limited way, during a work stoppage.

To sum up, it seems clear to me that this bill is no different from its predecessor. It could have a serious impact on our economy, our workers and labour relations in this country. Many members of this House have acknowledged this fact, which is why they are joining us in saying no to this kind of legislative measure. All members must appreciate the real consequences of this bill and determine whether Canadians want to see this kind of legislation from their government.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for Davenport.

I noticed in the debate on Bill C-257, the previous attempt to get the issue of replacement workers through the House, including the Canada Labour Code, that many Liberal members hid behind the issue of essential services when in fact the Canada Labour Code now deals with that in section 87.4. It lays out a provision that unions and employers must designate essential services prior to the commencement of a strike or lockout and in fact also gives the minister power to ask the Canada Industrial Relations Board to designate those services in that situation.

Therefore, there is no flaw in the current Canada Labour Code when it comes to essential services and yet that is the problem that Liberals hid behind when some of them voted against this legislation the last time.

I know the member spent considerable time in his speech this morning talking about that exact same issue, pretending that somehow his bill addresses something that did not need to be addressed in the first place, which somehow makes it more acceptable. I am wondering if he can explain why the Liberals continue to hide behind this issue of essential services when it really detracts from the need for legislation to prevent the use of replacement workers in strikes and lockouts in federal jurisdictions.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

moved that Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have this opportunity to present Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers) to this House.

The purpose of this bill is to prohibit federally regulated workplaces from hiring replacement workers during legal strikes or lockouts. The bill would also ensure that essential services are protected during any labour disruptions. Bill C-415 is a fair and equitable balance between the rights of working people in this country and the need to protect essential services upon which Canadians rely from coast to coast to coast.

My colleagues in the House may recall that Bill C-257 was recently before this House and while it proposed a ban on replacement workers, it failed to address the needs to protect essential services. As a result, many concerns were raised by a variety of individuals and groups that during a strike or lockout essential services would not be provided for Canadians.

In fact, I introduced amendments to Bill C-257 which I hoped to see adopted. These amendments would have protected essential services of which I speak while still banning replacement workers. Unfortunately, these amendments were ruled out of order.

As legislators, it is important that we take into account the concerns of all individuals and groups as we consider legislation and changes to current laws. In particular, there was a considerable number of individuals and groups who expressed their belief that it was important to ensure that essential services be protected in the event of a strike or lockout.

I recall there was reference to remote communities, for example, who rely for their survival on federally regulated services like railroads and air travel. In regard to these issues, I can certainly understand their concerns about ensuring that a ban on replacement workers also protected the essential services upon which they rely.

It is for this reason that this new bill addresses these issues and more importantly, it achieves a balance that every reasonable party can certainly accept. One might ask why the need exists to ban replacement workers. The answer is simple. The use of replacement workers for long strikes and lockouts in many cases raises the level of animosity to the point of altercations and sometimes violent altercations.

Working people have struggled over many years for reasonable working conditions, fairness and the right to bargain collectively. The right to withdraw their labour during a legal strike or lockout is fundamental to the balanced relationship between employers and employees.

Replacement workers reduce the bargaining power of unions or workers involved in a legal labour dispute to an extent that undermines fairness in the collective bargaining process. Such practices tend to leave a bitter taste and a sense of injustice in the minds of employees long after a strike or lockout has ended. It is an unfair bargaining tool placed upon the hands of employers. Clearly the employers who elect to utilize replacement workers may do so in order to reduce pressure upon themselves while at the same time increasing pressure for settlement on the part of their striking employees and their labour representatives.

I would also point out that experience has taught us that the vast majority of federally regulated employers do not elect to use replacement workers during the course of a labour dispute.

This is, in part, due to the nature of the work performed by many federally regulated employees. The time that is required to train and certify a replacement worker simply makes such a course of action impractical.

The reality is that the bill is designed to address, for the most part, circumstances where employers have less than honourable records when it comes to dealing with their employees in a fair and equitable manner during the course of a labour dispute.

Some have argued that under the current Labour Code there are provisions to prevent employers from undermining the collective bargaining process. In fact, the ability to prosecute an employer for violations of this kind is so limited that, to my knowledge, there have been but one or two successful prosecutions.

The process by which prosecution takes place with respect to this rather broad legal provision is so cumbersome and practically unenforceable that in practical terms it is, for the most part, ineffectual and may indeed contribute to even more entrenched bad feelings following a labour dispute.

In banning replacement workers, my bill would ensure there is respect for workers, respect that they both deserve and have worked so hard to attain.

Bill C-415 would also address the restrictions that would be placed upon management with respect to the kind of work that would be undertaken during a labour disruption.

In its original form, Bill C-257 placed what I believed were unreasonable restrictions on management activities during a strike or lockout. Bill C-415 would allow managers to perform tasks without such unreasonable restrictions. Once again, there would be a balance between the rights of workers and the rights of employers.

While I am opposed to the use of replacement workers during a strike or a lockout, I believe that our first responsibility is for the protection of Canadians during any labour disruption. Bill C-415 would ensure that essential services are clearly and unequivocally protected during a strike or a lockout.

Once again, balance would be achieved; a balance between essential services Canadians need and deserve, and the rights of working people across the country. It is for this crucial reason that the bill would ensure that essential services are protected.

In some instances, a strike or a lockout could pose an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

While there are provisions in the Canada Labour Code that provide for the protection of essential services, Bill C-415 would clearly and without doubt protect essential services at the same time that it would ban replacement workers.

The current provisions could be difficult and cumbersome in that much of what is determined to be an essential service or who is designated as an essential worker would be determined far in advance of an actual labour dispute and could create difficulties, in practical terms, through a systematic inflexibility in the current law.

Bill C-415 is about balance and fairness. My colleagues and keen observers will know that this bill has been a long time coming.

There have been comparisons between Bill C-415 and Bill C-257. The fact is that Bill C-257, while well-intentioned, encouraged many to argue that it failed to meet the basic test of fairness, balance and the need to protect public interest.

Having engaged in extensive consultations with unions, business workers and policy makers, it is clear that legislatures banning replacement workers must include the protection of essential services.

Some of my colleagues in other parties believe this exemption was unnecessary, but it would have been irresponsible to assume that this could be dealt with by the Canada Industrial Relations Board when legal options made it clear that this was not necessarily the case.

The importance of this point is increased when we ban the use of replacement workers. The principal objective of Bill C-257, the banning of replacement workers, is realized in my Bill C-415. Under the bill replacement workers would not be permitted during strikes and lockouts at federally regulated workplaces. Therefore, in bringing forward Bill C-415, I have worked to achieve balance and fairness.

The bill would ban replacement workers in the event of a strike or lockout. The bill would protect the essential services Canadians need. The bill would ensure that managers can continue to work during a strike or lockout. Bill C-415 brings balance and fairness, and that is beneficial to Canadians, working people, the collective bargaining process and employers.

I encourage all members to recognize the need to protect the most fundamental rights of federally regulated workers to withdraw their labour during a strike or lockout without having to worry about their jobs going to replacement workers. Furthermore, I encourage all members to recognize the need to protect essential services.

I ask all members to support Bill C-415 and in so doing, to support labour fairness and balance in federally regulated workplaces.