Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). This bill was introduced by my colleague, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. I thank him for his excellent presentation on this subject.
Once again, the Bloc Québécois is fighting to provide workers governed by the Canada Labour Code with the same protection afforded their colleagues governed by the Quebec Labour Code when it comes to the use of replacement workers. With this bill we are again calling on parliamentarians to eliminate a double standard that penalizes several thousand workers in Quebec. We invite them to examine their conscience and seize this new opportunity to show the necessary leadership to rally their troops and to provide overwhelming support for our bill.
The Bloc Québécois has never given up defending Quebec priorities and values. In fact, Bloc Québécois members have introduced 11 bills to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts. Five of these bills have gone to a vote.
In 1990, Bill C-201 was defeated by a vote of 90 to 72. The majority of Conservatives voted against it. The member for Jonquière—Alma supported it. The Liberals voted for it, but some were not in the House. The NDP voted for it but, there again, some were not present.
In 1995, in the case of Bill C-317, the Liberals voted for the bill, which was defeated 114 to 104.
In 2003, Bill C-328 was defeated by a vote of 104 to 86.
On April 13, 2005, the Conservatives and the Liberals joined forces to deny workers under federal jurisdiction a true right to strike, defeating Bill C-263 by 143 votes to 131.
On October 25, 2006, Bill C-257 was finally passed at second reading, with the support of a number of Liberal and NDP members, by a vote of 167 to 101. The Prime Minister stated that he was against the bill and it was defeated on March 21, 2007, at report stage when the Liberals changed their minds.
The struggle for anti-scab legislation has had the support of the major Quebec unions over the years and has been a clear demand from Quebec for more than 30 years, or since Quebec adopted its own legislation to prohibit replacement workers.
We need to remember that Quebec and British Columbia have laws that prohibit the use of strikebreakers. A number of other provinces are considering such legislation.
In Quebec, anti-scab legislation was enacted in 1977 and brought into force in 1978 under the René Lévesque government. Everyone agrees that it was an impressive leap forward in terms of workers’ rights. It came about at the end of a particularly stormy strike, as we may recall, at the United Aircraft plant in Longueuil, now called Pratt & Whitney. The legislation seriously restricted employers’ abilities to limit the rights of unionized workers and placed Quebec in the vanguard in this respect in North America.
For 30 years in Quebec, an employer has not been permitted to hire people to replace employees who are on strike or locked out. The ban, which is incorporated in Quebec’s Labour Code, prevents an employer, after the bargaining phase begins, from hiring managers and senior staff to perform the duties of employees on strike or locked out, and also prohibits the use of personnel from another employer in the establishment that is on strike. There is also a ban on employers using the services of employees from its other establishments in workplaces affected by the strike or lockout.
In fact, in an effort to genuinely respect employees’ right to strike, only managers from the establishment that is on strike and employees who are part of the bargaining unit that is on strike may continue to work during a strike or lockout.
In addition, only managers may perform the duties of striking employees.
It is these provisions that the Bloc Québécois wants to see in the Canada Labour Code. As my Liberal Party colleague pointed out, the Canada Labour Code already contains some provisions requiring both the employer and unionized employees to continue activities, to continue providing operational, installation or production services, where it is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to the health or safety of the public. Those provisions exist, but the Conservative government seems to be completely unaware of them.
There have been lengthy strikes at the federal level. The strikes at Vidéotron and Sécur also lasted for months. There were incidents on the picket lines, when strikebreakers were hired. Those strikes hurt Quebec families and people found themselves in difficult financial situations.
In Quebec, since the anti-scab legislation was enacted, labour relations and strikes have become more civilized. We no longer hear about fights on picket lines or damage done to this or that. Now there is symbolic picketing, because production stops at a plant that has been struck.
Now that things are more civilized, there are fewer and fewer strikes in Quebec. According to the statistics, federal workers account for 7.3% of the Quebec workforce. In 2002, though, 48% of all the work days lost were due to labour disputes on the federal level. Federal strikes in Quebec tend to increase the number of days lost.
In Quebec, this legislation has been beneficial. That is what employers say now. When people return to work, relations are not as bad as they were back in the days when strikebreakers were used. Just imagine the tension that arises when returning employees have to work alongside strikebreakers hired by the employer. That is not a very profitable climate for employers.
Thus, this legislation is beneficial from an economic standpoint. We have known that for a long time in Quebec and British Columbia. They use the economic argument to claim that this bill will have harmful consequences. In Quebec, though, we have not had any.
The Quebec legislation also provides for essential services to be maintained. Even in anti-replacement worker legislation, allowance can be made for places where prevention is necessary, whether in factories or other sectors.
This bill is important to us. My Liberal colleague said she was prepared to study it very carefully. People have started to realize some things since we began talking about anti-scab legislation in the House. The votes are always close and we have succeeded in making progress and raising people’s awareness.
We have now arrived at the stage where we should take the time to study a bill like this and see what effects it could have on the economy. It would be very easy to draw comparisons with Quebec and British Columbia. I am sure that if we manage to agree, Canada would benefit.
In conclusion, various business leaders have made important statements. They have said that the efforts they made to civilize labour relations have borne fruit.