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

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Mario Silva  Liberal

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

Status

Not active, as of March 22, 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. It extends the obligation to maintain essential services.

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.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

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

December 5th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

My question is for Mr. Lazar or Mr. Beatty.

Mr. Lazar, I heard your description of the forest industry. In Quebec, my province, there are a lot of forest product companies that come under the federal Labour Code. Transportation, railways, air transport, telephone services and even, in some cases, water transportation such as barges and ships are regulated under the Canadian Labour Code.

You have kept saying this morning that our dollar is too strong, that it rose too fast and that this has caused all sorts or problems.

What do you think of the fact, Mr. Lazar, that the Liberal Party tabled a bill called Bill C-415, An Act amending the Canadian Labour Code (Replacement workers)? If the high dollar causes you a problem, imagine what would happen if you had a strike on your hands and were unable to do anything about it.

I would like to hear your opinion. People talk about partisanship. But you are here representing employers, and these employers obviously have employees. Are we not erecting barriers for businesses? I cannot put this question to Mr. Nantais since his company is entirely unionized. But you may still have some room to move, an opening. But his industry is completely unionized.

So I would like to know your opinion and that of Mr. Beatty on this subject.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / noon
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni. There will be seven minutes left when Bill C-415 returns.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

December 3rd, 2007 / noon
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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.
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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.
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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 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.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 30th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 51st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding Bill C-415.

Pursuant to Standing Order 92(3)(b) the committee hereby reports that it does not concur in the second report of the subcommittee on private members' business and is of the opinion that Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), should remain votable.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2007 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to Standing Order 92, a private member's item may only be considered by the House after a final decision on the votable status of the item has been made.

Although the House was to consider Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), today, no report on the votability of the bill has been submitted or passed, as required before a bill can become the subject of debate.

I am therefore directing the table officers to drop this item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence and accordingly private members' hour is suspended today.

(Bill C-415. On the Order: Private Members' Business:)

March 22, 2007--Second reading of Bill C--415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers)--the hon. member for Davenport.

Fisheries Act, 2007Government Orders

May 29th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, although I do not have a fishery in my riding, it does border on Lake Ontario where there is a fair bit of recreational fishing going on. I listened to the debate this morning and there obviously is some disagreement among the members with regard to the appropriate process which Bill C-45 should undertake. Let me address a couple of the points that have been raised in debate which deserve some comment.

First of all, the issue of a bill going to committee prior to second reading has been the representation of a number of members with regard to this bill. It has to do with the fact that the bill has not been amended in some 36 years. It has to do with the fact that there are numerous stakeholders. Fisheries in Canada are extremely complex and there are many stakeholders as has been pointed out.

We have heard the argument that the bill should be hoisted and go to committee for some consultations. The allegation is there have not been consultations and it would appear that representations made by various stakeholder groups would tend to support that allegation, that consultations should have taken place. I should note that even in the summary of the bill it is stated:

This enactment repeals and replaces the Fisheries Act. It seeks to provide for the sustainable development of Canadian fisheries and fish habitat in collaboration with fishers, the provinces, aboriginal groups and other Canadians.

I do not know how some members define collaboration, but I would suspect that it does constitute to some extent, maybe a great extent, that there has been ample consultation with regard to a draft text or at least the principal issues.

The question with regard to second reading has to do with once the House has passed a bill at second reading, Parliament has given the bill approval in principle. The bill then goes to committee where witnesses are called. There is an opportunity at committee stage to propose amendments from time to time. Sometimes there are an enormous number of amendments made and many of them are ruled out of order. The reason they would be ruled out of order is that they would be contradictory to the decision of Parliament that the bill had received approval in principle. Effectively committee stage amendments are meant only to correct errors or to make certain modifications which are compatible with the fundamental principles of the bill.

Today in debate members have provided a number of examples of changes they would like to see to the bill as it is right now as we debate it at second reading, which in their view and I suspect in the view of the committee clerk, would be out of order because they are beyond the scope of the bill or amend the fundamental principle of the bill which has been approved by Parliament.

It is a very important question. I wanted to comment on this because the fisheries minister himself rose in the House in posing a question in which he dismissed referring the bill to committee prior to second reading. Subject to checking the record, if I could recall his statement, it was basically that it would be an opportunity for a whole bunch of people and virtually everybody would want to come before committee and hijack the process and we would be subjected to listening to all the input from various stakeholders who might be environmentalists, fisher persons, regulators, jurisdictional representatives from the provinces or whatever.

I have two points to make. The first point is that is consultation. That is listening. That is an important part of the process of making good laws and wise decisions. On my second point, I would refer to what the member who is now the Deputy Speaker said in the House, that delay is an essential part of the legislative process. It is part of democracy to filibuster, to debate fully, to raise as many questions as one may have. To some it may be viewed as disruptive to the flow of business, and apparently the minister views it that way.

When members feel strongly enough about an issue related to a bill, they have tools they can use. They have the tools of debate. They have the tools to make motions. They have the tools to call witnesses. Under our Standing Orders, they have the tools to be very thorough and exhaustive in their attention to a piece of legislation.

The minister has made it clear on the record that he does not want to hear from all the stakeholders in any great detail. This bill was tabled in December 2006 and has been languishing around. I do not know why it did not come up sooner, because it is an important bill. There are a number of outstanding issues and it is very important that they be dealt with. The minister clearly did not want to hear from all of the stakeholders who would have all kinds of questions, ideas and concerns. That is what the legislative process is all about.

I dare say that many members in this place will not have had an opportunity to read Bill C-45 in its totality. It is over 100 pages long. This bill replaces the existing act fully. It repeals the old act. If we are going to do the job properly, we have to go through the bill clause by clause to determine what has changed and to determine whether or not there is an understanding of why it may have changed. It is very difficult. Even in the brief 20 minutes that each member is given to speak at second reading, a member would not get into very much in terms of the essence of some of the details.

The first speaker raised some very important points. One had to do with transferring a licence on retirement. Another was the role of the tribunals. Another one that I thought was quite interesting was the delegation of the minister's responsibilities to DFO officials. This is a whole new regime. There was a suggestion that there have been cases in the past of abusing that authority to grant or to refuse licences.

If we think about it, there is a lot on the table for parliamentarians. There is a hoist motion, which basically asks Parliament to cease this process at second reading and to send the bill to committee for consideration. Interesting enough, when the minister made his argument on why we should not do that because he did not want to hear from all the stakeholders, from the various groups, aboriginals or commercial fishermen or jurisdictional individuals, et cetera, he forgot about bills like Bill C-30.

Bill C-30, when it was first tabled in the House, was the government's alternative to Kyoto. It is the environmental plan. It was leaked to environmental groups so that they could have an opportunity to respond. A week before the bill was even tabled in the House, they critiqued it in its totality and it was unanimous that Bill C-30 was a failure and it was never going to get anywhere. The bill was tabled in the House, but we did not have a debate on it. We have never had a debate on that bill because the government decided to send it to committee before second reading.

As we know, Bill C-30, a very bad bill, the clean air act, was totally rewritten by parliamentarians who heard a plethora of witnesses to make sure the bill was going to deliver in terms of our international commitments, and the appropriate processes and targets for our greenhouse gas emission undertakings.

That bill was totally rewritten by the committee. It was based on expert testimony and the best work possible by the members who were selected by each of the parties to be on this special legislative committee.

If consulting with Canadians on the clean air act is appropriate before second reading because it is complicated, there are a lot of diverging views, there are areas in which it is not overtly clear to members why certain steps have been taken, sending it to committee is the place to do it.

The minister makes his argument about it not going to committee before second reading because the Conservatives do not want to hear from these people and yet the government itself referred another bill to committee before second reading. In fact, that is not the only one. One cannot have it both ways. One either recognizes the circumstances a bill is in or one risks losing the bill and having to find another way to do it.

We cannot afford, quite frankly, to lose this new Fisheries Act because there are many changes that have taken place and many new areas that should be dealt with that are currently not in the existing legislation. One that I happened to notice and something that I have spent a fair bit of time on in my involvement with the International Joint Commission has to do with alien invasive species. In part 3 of this bill it actually refers to aquatic invasive species.

Canadians may be familiar, for instance, with zebra mussels, which are an alien invasive species or what is called an aquatic invasive species. I understand there are some 30 of these species in the Great Lakes system and they destroy the fish habitat. In the work that is being done so far, for every one alien invasive species that is treated, dealt with and gotten rid of, another one appears. How does it appear? There is certainly speculation about how they come in but it has to do with ship ballast. They are brought in by ships that come from abroad.

I noted in this area that it is an offence to transport an aquatic invasive species. I wonder what would happen if a ship coming to Canada has a listed aquatic invasive species that it is not aware of but is discovered. I am going to be very interested in seeing the regulations on how to deal with it. I suppose it could even involve a court case in terms of whether the ship owners knew or ought to have known that in the normal practice of managing the ballast of a ship, they would have probably collected certain species that would be classified as an aquatic invasive species.

There is certainly that area. The International Joint Commission is a group made up of representation from Canada and the United States which share common waterways. It is responsible for conducting studies and making observations to determine what the issues are and to suggest and discuss possible solutions.

The only problem with the IJC though is that it has no authority and no power because half of its members represent the U.S. government and the other half represent the Canadian government. It cannot unilaterally take charge of a situation and do something about it, so it takes a lot more work. I would be very interested to see how the responsibilities and the authorities that the minister has in the bill would be able to dovetail with the responsibilities of the IJC.

In part 3 clause 69.(1) states that: “No person shall export, import or transport any member of a prescribed aquatic invasive species”. When I read further, clause 70 states:

The minister may, subject to the regulations--

And regulations will be made at some future date.

--destroy or authorize any person to destroy, in accordance with any conditions imposed by the Minister, any member of

(a) a prescribed aquatic invasive species; or

(b) any other species that the Minister considers to be an aquatic invasive species as defined in the regulations.

I would think that this may be a problem because when the minister now has the authority to designate any other species to be an aquatic invasive species, we are probably making law through regulations and I am not sure that is going to get by the scrutiny of regulations committee but we will have to see on that.

In any event, even the small section which is only about four clauses in part 3 on aquatic invasive species, I could think of numerous questions that I would have of the IJC, that I would have of those who import and export and have ships using the waterways of Canada.

The other area that I want to comment on has to do with what was raised by one hon. member as an example of what can happen during second reading. As the member had indicated, we had Bill C-257 which was a bill related to replacement workers. It was to be amended at committee. There were some amendments. Ultimately, it came back that in the opinion of the Speaker, in consultation with the clerks, that the amendments made at committee were beyond the scope of the bill. Even though they were certainly directly related but what they did was they touched upon another bill which was not mentioned in Bill C-257.

Therefore, there are even good amendments which do not get incorporated into a bill on technical reasons. This is a very good example. In fact, right now a new bill on the same subject matter related to replacement workers, Bill C-415, has been ruled to be non-votable by a subcommittee of procedure and House affairs for the reasons that it is same or similar.

I can understand the argument that the vast majority of Bill C-415 is identical to Bill C-257 which was defeated by the House. Therefore, we could argue that the majority of that bill has already been defeated by the House and to put the question on those provisions again would be redundant and therefore the bill in the subcommittee's view is not votable.

It has now been appealed and it is still under review, but even something as simple as a reference to another piece of legislation may be enough to undermine the acceptability of changes at the committee stage.

I have to say in my experience of almost 14 years now that it is extremely difficult to get changes made at committee which are substantive. I think the members know that. I think the minister knows that. I think the minister also knows that should we have the kind of consultations that members have been asking for, that changes are going to be required here. He should also know that there is a great deal of support for the vast majority of the bill but there are some areas of weakness and members have raised those.

I believe that in a minority situation, this is a prime example of where the parties should be collaborating on the areas in which the bill can be improved. With that, I will conclude my remarks.

May 29th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Can we take from that that the report would then say that the committee supports Bill C-415 being votable?

Thank you.

May 29th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Goodyear

I have no one left on my list. Is the committee ready for the question?

It appears we're ready for the question on the motion. I'll read it to you once again. Colleagues, we're voting on the following: “That the second report of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business be concurred in.” For further clarity, we're voting that Bill C-415 be designated non-votable.

It's always difficult with these double negatives, but it looks as if everybody understands. I'll read it again, and then I'll ask for the vote.

Colleagues, all in favour that the second report of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business be concurred in.

(Motion negatived)

May 29th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Briefly, Chair, in response to what Mr. Godin was saying, I just want to get it on the record that even though I might have inferred this, or perhaps I even misspoke, I don't want to let Monsieur Godin think that I'm suggesting we rubber-stamp any of the subcommittee's decisions. But I do agree with what Mr. Reid was saying. I think it's imperative that this committee as a whole not vote on the subcommittee decision based on whether they like the bill or not. That would be a very dangerous precedent.

The subcommittee made a decision. They examined both bills—Bill C-257 and Bill C-415—extensively and diligently. They came to a conclusion that there was sufficient similarity that Bill C-415 in this session should not be voted upon because of the similarity concerns. So I think it would be highly inappropriate if this committee decided to reverse that decision just based on the fact that they like the bill, that they like a bill dealing with the ban of replacement workers.

That's not what we're here for. We're here just to determine whether or not the subcommittee's decision was an appropriate one, because there's always an opportunity for this same bill to be introduced in the next session. But our job as parliamentarians—and as commented on by Mr. Reid—is to respect the Standing Orders.

With respect to Monsieur Godin's suggestion that the former Alliance Party had said that all bills should be voted upon, what they had said was—and we certainly supported that—that all private members' bills should have the ability to be voted on, but still respecting the Standing Orders, which say except in the case of two bills being so similar that only one can be debated and voted upon per session. We're still consistent with our position on that. We're just saying that this is too similar to Bill C-257. It is too similar to Bill C-257, and that is the decision the subcommittee came up with.

We charged the subcommittee with the responsibility—and I know they took it seriously—of examining those bills that were similar in content to determine whether or not they should be votable or non-votable. That's what I think we need to respect, not whether the content of the bill is something that I approve of or disapprove of.

So with those two points on the record, I'll turn it over to Ms. Redman.