An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act and other Acts


Scott Brison  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of Nov. 28, 2016

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

This enactment amends the Public Service Labour Relations Act to restore the procedures for the choice of process of dispute resolution including those involving essential services, arbitration, conciliation and alternative dispute resolution that existed before December 13, 2013.

It also amends the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act to restore the procedures applicable to arbitration and conciliation that existed before December 13, 2013.

It repeals provisions of the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 that are not in force that amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Public Service Employment Act and it repeals not in force provisions of the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 that amend those provisions.


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.

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-62, an act to amend the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act and other acts. I have heard some good feedback on this.

What struck me this morning were some of the statements made by the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. He is a good friend. I really respect the person, but obviously, we have different ideas. He made statements about union bosses and union leaders and about the Liberals just saying “thank you” because some of the unions were putting money in and campaigning against the Conservatives in the last election. I want to say that I totally disagree with that. The unions were campaigning against the Conservatives, yes, but they were also supporting anyone who could beat the Conservatives, and that was because they have a very bad reputation for taking away gains from labour that people have fought for all their lives, and they wanted to make sure that those people never got back in power until they got their act together and started to respect what labour could do.

We are pleased that the government is finally moving forward to repeal legislation based purely on a backward ideology that forces public servants to go to work sick and that totally undermines the principle of collective bargaining. We have to ask what took the Liberals so long to bring this bill forward. What took them so long to act? Of course, this is a question many Canadians are asking more and more often about the current government. Why are the Liberals not keeping the promises they made during the election, and why are they so slow to act or are not acting at all?

The list of broken promises is far too long to list in the time I have today, but we all know about the Liberals' failure to support electoral reform, their failure to restore door-to-door postal delivery, and the failure to keep the promise to make government more transparent. We also know about their failure to support pay equity legislation, anti-scab legislation, and measures to increase retirement security. One of their most shameful failures is the unwillingness to protect workers' pensions.

We have heard over and over again expressions of sympathy from the Prime Minister and his Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development for Canadian workers, like those at Sears Canada who have lost severance and termination pay and health care and life insurance benefits. They now face reduced pension benefits.

Canadians need and expect more than their sympathy and their shallow talking points. They need action. They need the government to change Canada's inadequate bankruptcy and solvency laws. We have shown the Liberals how this can be achieved, but still the government fails to act or move to protect millions of vulnerable Canadians. As my friend from Timmins—James Bay is fond of asking, when is the government going to put the protection of Canadian pensions ahead of Bay Street profits? It is a very good question and a question millions of Canadians would like to know the answer to.

Let me come back to Bill C-62. New Democrats want to undo Harper's anti-labour legacy and build a fair framework for collective bargaining. We welcome the introduction of Bill C-62, which would formally put an end to measures introduced by the former government. We know that the government Bill C-5 and Bill C-34, both introduced last year, have been languishing on the Order Paper since their introduction. We hope that their being amalgamated into Bill C-62 means that the government is finally ready to move forward.

Bill C-62 would reverse the attacks by the former Conservative government on the collective bargaining rights of federal public service employees, and it should be passed without delay. This bill would repeal the power given to the government to remove sick leave from federal public service collective agreements so that it could be changed unilaterally, outside of the bargaining process. The bill would also restore some of the changes to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act affecting collective bargaining, which the Conservatives had included in one of their budget implementation bills in 2013, such as those affecting the designation of essential services. New Democrats rallied against the Conservatives' agenda to curtail public service workers' right to strike. The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act was amended in December 2013 to remove the choice of dispute resolution being available to essential services.

In our 2015 platform, we promised Canadians we would stand up for public sector workers in light of the lost decade of Harper's union abuse. Supporting this bill makes good on that promise. A respectful relationship with the public service starts with safeguards to free and fair collective bargaining, not stacking the deck in favour of the employer.

Bill C-62 is aimed at repealing two blatantly anti-labour pieces of legislation introduced by the former Harper government: division 20 of Bill C-59 and Bill C-4. The first of these sought to unilaterally impose an inferior disability and sick leave management system on public servants, which was an unwarranted and significant attack on the rights of public service workers.

Bill C-4 would have drastically changed the rules for collective bargaining within the public service, giving the government full control over union rights, such as the right to strike and the right to arbitration. The government would have also determined what positions would be considered essential.

A key provision in the collective agreements of public service workers is sick leave, which allows full-time workers 15 days per year of leave for use in case of illness or injury. The previous Conservative government was determined to unilaterally change this provision by reducing the number of sick days from 15 to 6, eliminating banked sick days, and imposing a short-term disability plan for federal public servants.

The previous government claimed this change would have saved $900 million, despite evidence to the contrary. According to the 2014 parliamentary budget officer's report, “the incremental cost of paid sick leave was not fiscally material and did not represent material costs for departments in the core public administration.” That means most employees who call in sick are not replaced, resulting in no incremental costs to departments.

Under the Conservative legislation, workers would have been forced to choose between going to work sick or losing pay for basic necessities. Its legislation would eliminate all accumulated sick leave for public servants, reduce the amount of annual sick leave to 37.5 hours per year, subject to the absolute discretion of the employer, and institute a seven-day waiting period without pay before people could access short-term disability benefits.

I want to comment that, because I come from a union background. I served the union for 36 years. We had that seven-day waiting period also, and we made great gains. We proved to the company that having a waiting period of seven days would bring in workers who were sick, causing other workers to be sick, which actually caused a downturn in production because there were not have enough workers on the job to produce the machinery. Therefore, doing that was a step backward.

Both the NDP and the Liberals committed to reversing the changes during the last election. Bill C-62 would repeal the offending legislation, thus restoring sick leave provisions to public servants for the time being.

Bill C-62 would also revoke some of the more offensive Conservative legislation, including: giving government, as the employer, the right to unilaterally define essential services instead of negotiating an essential services agreement with the bargaining agent; undermining the right to strike by making it illegal to strike if at least 80% of the positions in a bargaining unit provide essential services, as defined by the employer; removing the bargaining agent's right to choose arbitration as a means of resolving collective bargaining disputes, making conciliation the default process, and undermining the workers in cases where the employer consents to arbitration by requiring arbitrators to give priority to Canada's fiscal circumstances relative to its stated budgetary policies. It also removed discrimination-based complaints by public servants from the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. That to me is a shame.

While we fully support Bill C-62, we also know there is more to be done to dismantle the Harper government's legacy of anti-labour legislation. Some of those measures include restoring the Canada Labour Code provisions pertaining to the rights of Canadians to refuse dangerous work. That was gutted by the Harper government, a right that everybody wants when they go into a workplace. Too many deaths have happened, and it should not be determined by the employer. The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act should be reinstated, bringing forward pay equity legislation, as well as the federal minimum wage, bringing Bill C-7 back to the House of Commons, and respecting the right of RCMP members to associate and bargain collectively.

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I know that my colleague is quite fond of constitutional questions. I have one for him.

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Saskatchewan's essential services law as unconstitutional. That law contains provisions that are similar to those in Bill C-34 and Bill C-62.

Does my colleague agree that it is important to have essential services legislation that respects the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada and, accordingly, that we should update the measures of the previous Conservative government?

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this occasion to rise in support of Bill C-62.

I wish to note I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

The bill would repeal collective bargaining changes for the public service passed in 2013.

It would also repeal legislation that would have allowed a government to override the collective bargaining process and unilaterally impose a short-term disability plan. Bill C-62 does this by combining Bills C-5 and C-34.

It is important to note that combining these two bills would make no substantive changes compared to the earlier bills. It would simply incorporate the adjustments necessary to combine proposals regarding sick leave, collective bargaining, and essential services for the federal public service into one piece of legislation moving forward.

I will begin with the contentious changes made in 2013.

Previously, bargaining agents had a say in determining which services were declared essential. However, the 2013 legislation took this away and put the right to determine essential services exclusively in the hands of the employer.

In addition, bargaining agents were no longer given the chance to determine which dispute resolution process they wished to use should the parties reach an impasse in bargaining. Instead, conciliation or strike was established as a default dispute resolution mechanism.

Moreover, arbitration boards and other labour bodies were required to give more weight to some factors over others when setting or recommending appropriate levels of compensation for public servants. These and other changes were made without consultation with our public sector partners.

The government does not support such an approach. We believe that the right of collective bargaining is vital to protecting the rights of Canadian workers, and we believe that effective collective bargaining involves discussion, negotiation, and compromise.

We must not roll back the fundamental labour rights that unions have worked so hard to secure. Instead, we need to ensure that workers are free to organize, bargain collectively in good faith, and work in safe environments. To that end, in January 2016, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour introduced legislation to repeal Bills C-377 and C-525.

The legislation would remove provisions that make it harder for unions to be certified and easier for them to be decertified. It would also amend the Income Tax Act to remove the onerous and redundant requirement that labour organizations and labour trusts provide specific information annually to the minister of national revenue. This includes information on non-labour activities that are then made available to the public.

As hon. members are well aware, legislation is already in place to ensure that unions make financial information available and are accountable to their members.

Section 110 of the Canada Labour Code requires unions to provide financial statements to their members upon request and free of charge, rendering these additional reporting requirements unnecessary.

The bill before us today is the latest in a series of actions the government has taken to demonstrate its commitment to bargaining in good faith with public service bargaining agents. It fulfills a commitment we made to repeal legislation that had provided the government with the authority to establish and modify terms and conditions of employment related to the sick leave of employees, to establish a short-term disability plan outside collective bargaining, and to modify long-term disability programs in the core public administration. It would also restore the labour relations regime that existed prior to 2013.

It also supports collaborative management-union relations. Unions play a vital role in protecting workers' rights and growing the middle class, and we respect unions and the members they represent.

In the case of the federal public service, I am talking about the people who protect the health of Canadians by inspecting our food to make sure it is safe for us to eat. I am talking about the people who ensure that Canadians have access to safe and effective health products by monitoring everything from medical devices to prescription medications. It is public service employees across this country who administer income support programs, such as old age security benefits, that provide Canadian seniors with an important source of income.

Our public service employees come from all walks of life. They have an incredible range of expertise and experience that the government relies on to provide services to Canadians across the country and around the world.

If we truly respect our public service employees, we cannot support an approach that disregards or fails to respect the right to bargain collectively.

We want public service employees to be proud of the work they do. We want the public service to be a place that attracts our best and brightest minds.

We need to think about college and university students. We want them to see the public service not only as the perfect place to launch their careers, but also as the perfect place to build a country. All they have to do is look at the amazing things public servants are doing.

Recently, public servants supported the government's goal of helping Canadians achieve a safe, secure, and dignified retirement by working co-operatively with their provincial and territorial counterparts so that Canada's finance ministers could strengthen the Canada pension plan, yes, the enhanced Canada pension plan.

In 2016, they answered the call to help their fellow citizens displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfires.

They worked tirelessly to integrate tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into Canadian society.

When we encourage federal employees to give fearless advice, when we trust them to make responsible decisions, and when we respect them for their skill and expertise, these are the kinds of results that are possible.

Bill C-62 is strong proof of our commitment to restore a culture of respect for and within the public service.

I urge all members who believe in the principles of fairness and respect to join us in supporting Bill C-62.

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-62, which addresses a key issue for all those who believe in democracy.

The NDP has always defended workers’ rights and the rights of all Canadians in order to ensure that no one is left behind. That is why we believe it is important to continue playing an active role in this debate. Unions are the machinery that make democracy work. They took part in every struggle and are constantly coming up with innovative ideas. They have given workers a voice and a measure of power. I applaud their work and their unwavering dedication, and I want Canada to remain an egalitarian society.

Unfortunately, in the past decade, we have neglected our public servants, violated their rights, and subjected them to dramatic cutbacks and restrictive legislative measures. Today, thousands of employees are still not being paid properly because of Phoenix. Once again, as always, the NDP stood by Canada’s public servants and their unions throughout the process. The NDP would like to see public servants and the government enjoy a relationship based on responsibility, trust, and respect, today and in the future. That is why we are proposing concrete measures to reinstate a healthy working climate and a relationship of trust in the public service.

Among other things, we propose protecting whistle-blowers; granting powers to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada; adopting a code of conduct for departmental staff; and restricting the growing use of temporary employment agencies to the detriment of permanent employees.

We are as determined as ever to pursue these important goals. It is not a question of modifying a few policies here and there. We need a real change in attitude. The NDP will continue to demand that the government re-establish a free and fair collective bargaining process in the public service, and that it safeguard acquired protections and rights.

On October 17, 2016, the government introduced Bill C-62, which we are discussing today. Yes, I said 2016. The bill is more than welcome. It is aimed at re-establishing fair framework legislation for labour relations in the public service, and it is raising a lot of expectations. In December 2013, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act was amended to eliminate the procedures for the choice of process of dispute resolution, including those involving essential services. The NDP vigorously opposed these amendments, which the Liberals are now looking at.

In our 2015 platform, we promised Canadians that we would defend the interests of public sector workers.

It is because of this promise, which we intend to keep, that we are supporting Bill C-62 today. The bill repeals various sections of the two profoundly anti-union legislative measures adopted by the former government, namely Bill C-59 and Bill C-4. The Harper government’s first legislative measure attacked by Bill C-62is the former Bill C-59, in particular section 20. The bill unilaterally imposed an inferior system for the management of disability and sick leave on public servants, which was an unjustified and major attack on the rights of public service workers.

That bill also abolished employees' right to good faith bargaining, taking sick leave out of federal public sector collective agreements so that the employer could unilaterally modify that leave outside the bargaining process.

One of the key provisions of current public sector collective agreements relates to sick leave. It gives full-time employees 15 days of leave per year to be used in case of accident or illness.

The Conservatives' Bill C-59 also took away accumulated unused sick leave days and imposed a short-term disability plan on public service employees. To make matters worse, the Conservatives introduced a seven-day unpaid waiting period before employees would receive their short-term disability benefits.

This is unacceptable. The previous government had the nerve to claim that these measures would save $900 million, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

According to a 2014 report by the parliamentary budget officer:

...the incremental cost of paid sick leave was not fiscally material and did not represent material costs for departments in the CPA.

The quotation speaks for itself. It means that most employees who are on sick leave are not replaced, resulting in no incremental cost to departments.

The parliamentary budget officer confirmed that public service employees use sick days at about the same rate as private sector employees. An average of 11.52 days were used in the public sector, compared to 11.3 in the private sector. A difference of 0.2 days is pretty minor.

Division 20 of part 3 of Bill C-59 also authorized the Treasury Board of Canada to nullify terms and conditions in existing collective agreements. It gave the employer the authority to override many provisions of the Public Service Labour Relations Act, including the statutory freeze provisions that maintain the status quo during the collective bargaining process.

Members may be surprised by what I am about to say. Under the provisions of Bill C-59, employees would be forced to choose between reporting for work even if they are sick and losing a percentage of the salary they need to survive.

Robyn Benson, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, denounced these measures. According to PSAC, the sick leave plan for federal public servants is essential, and it must ensure that employees do not have to work when they are sick. That seems obvious to me, and I agree with PSAC.

I worked as a manager in various government and community organizations for 25 years. I managed a number of teams and a hundred or so employees. As a manager and as a member of Parliament, I believe that it is totally ineffective to make employees report for work when they are sick. It is even worse to cut employees’ sick days by more than half.

The second legislative measure of the Harper government addressed by Bill C-62 is former Bill C-4, in particular section 17, which radically changes the collective bargaining rules in the public service by giving the government full control over union rights, such as the right to strike and the right to arbitration. Bill C-4 takes away bargaining agents’ right to choose arbitration as a means of resolving collective bargaining disputes, making conciliation the default process. However, arbitration is a valid solution in situations where members want to avoid a strike, and the right to arbitration should therefore be maintained.

Section 17 of Bill C-4 also undermines the right to strike by making it illegal to strike if at least 80% of the positions in a bargaining unit provide essential services, as defined by the employer. Under Bill C-4, it is up to the government to designate which positions are essential, rather than working with the bargaining agent to negotiate an agreement on essential services.

This same section 17 infringed on workers rights in cases where the employer consents to arbitration by requiring adjudicators to give priority to Canada's financial situation in relation to its budgetary policies.

Discrimination complaints filed by public servants to the Canadian Human Rights Commission were simply erased. These measures are unacceptable.

That is why it is time to take action. This sets aside or amends changes that were made to four statutes during the last lost decade when the Conservative government violated union rights. I am referring to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Public Service Employment Act.

The NDP always made a point of opposing the former Conservative government's attempts to limit union rights, mainly the public sector workers' right to strike.

We are therefore happy to support the government's efforts to undo the Conservative Party's damage and make Canada's public sector labour code equitable once more. The NDP is also happy to support Bill C-62.

We do not support it blindly, however. My job as an opposition MP is to scrutinize the bill and identify elements of it that need fixing. By expressing opposing views, sharing knowledge, and engaging in dialogue, we will come up with ideas to refine this bill and make sure it does everything it is supposed to, and it certainly needs help on that front. That is why I will now take a critical look at the bill's weaknesses.

After all the back and forth on this, Canada's workers deserve an ironclad law that will level the playing field for everyone involved and restore the balance of power. Although Bill C-62 is progress, it is just the first step toward instituting all the measures we want to see.

We should never legislate easy solutions to the problems we face. We have to avoid that. The NDP fought very hard to have the government abolish the previous government's initiative that attacked provisions governing public servants' sick leave. Bill C-62 can do that by repealing Division 20 of former Bill C-59 on sick leave.

Why is the government concurrently working on a new health regime that has short-term disability provisions similar to those proposed by the Conservatives in the past? That is the first reason why Bill C-62 does not allay all of our concerns.

Other points have me wondering. The greatest weakness of Bill C-62 is that it does not reverse all the negative changes made by the former government to our labour legislation. While this bill seeks to restore the rights C-62 stripped from public sector unions under Stephen Harper's tenure, Bill C-62 falls short of addressing some elements of Bills C-4 and C-59. I am referring to Division 5 of Part 3 of Bill C-4.

The Liberal government seems to be taking half-measures in an area where expectations are monumental. If we are to truly do away with the Harper government’s anti-labour legacy, Bill C-62 must do better, first by re-establishing the provisions of the Canada Labour Code respecting Canadians’ right to refuse dangerous work, such as changing the definition of “danger”, now limited in scope to situations of imminent threat.

We are also concerned about another point that Bill C-62 ignores: the removal of health and safety officers from the process of refusing dangerous work. As it stands now, the employer assesses the safety of the work, and the worker must appeal directly to the Minister of Labour. The minister can simply refuse to investigate if he or she deems that the matter is trivial or vexatious, or that the employee’s refusal is in bad faith. This measure implemented by the Harper government should be permanently struck down by Bill C-62.

Lastly, we believe that we should take this opportunity to re-establish a federal minimum wage and to reinstate the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act repealed by the Conservatives in 2013.

We also need to advance gender equality in the federal public service. That is why Bill C-62 should include a proactive federal legislative measure on pay equity in order to counter the effect of labour market forces on women’s wages.

The government claims that Bill C-62 demonstrates its commitment to fair collective bargaining for public servants. However, the exclusions to collective bargaining in Bill C-7 show that the Liberals have not always defended fair collective bargaining.

The government must commit to eliminating the exclusions in Bill C-7 in order to respect the right of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to meet and bargain collectively, just as public servants do.

That is why, in light of all the previous explanations, we deplore Bill C-62's lack of ambition. This lack of ambition restricts the scope of a bill that deserves more than what the Liberals are proposing.

Our disappointment appears to be shared by the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. She recently called on the government to do more than simply introduce a bill to correct the Conservative bills aimed at restricting public servants’ bargaining rights.

It is imperative that we continue to work on this bill. We must go much further and take advantage of its full potential. I explained which measures should be retained, which measures need to be taken much further, and which measures should be eliminated. The Liberal government really needs to repeal all of the Conservative measures.

This morning, I heard the President of the Treasury Board mention some lofty principles. If the Liberals wish to follow these principles, they must repeal all of the anti-labour measures the Conservatives introduced. We must take advantage of this opportunity.

We know that this bill was introduced in the fall of 2016, which was quite some time ago. People have very high expectations. The federal public service is dedicated to serving Canadians. We just marked the second anniversary of the problems with the Phoenix pay system. We need to take Bill C-62 as far as we can in order to resolve these problems that we have been grappling with for far too long.

We have amendments to propose. I outlined the measures that we want to implement. I hope that we will all be able to work together so that, when Bill C-62 passes, we can all proudly say that we accomplished our mission and that we implemented proper working conditions for federal public servants, working conditions in which they can feel secure. I hope that we can allay the concerns related to the Phoenix pay system and that public servants will have working conditions that will allow them to do their jobs properly.

We know that front-line work is demanding. That is what everyday life is like in some departments. Those employees listen to Canadians who are in difficult situations and who come to them for help or to get the their file sorted out. We are therefore asking federal public servants to do very demanding work.

Here, we pass bills. The next step is to implement them. We need to make sure that public servants feel that we parliamentarians here in the House are collaborating to provide them with the working conditions they need to do their job properly.

Budgetary considerations have been mentioned. All elected officials, at all levels of government, always need to ensure their decisions stay within budget. As I explained, a number of measures cost nothing. As we know, employees who are off sick are not even replaced, so their sick leave does not cost us anything.

For this reason, we are eager to collaborate in perfecting and completing this bill, which will officially reverse the anti-union measures of the past.

Bills C-5 and C-34 have been languishing on the Order Paper since they were tabled by this government. We hope that merging them with Bill C-62 is a sign that the government is finally ready to move forward.

That is why I want to make an appeal, an appeal to set partisanship aside and implement an infallible law that genuinely protects the rights of all workers, an appeal for teamwork and collaboration to make sure the proposed amendments I have presented here can be considered and approved.

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 10:45 a.m.
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Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to share the official opposition's opinion on Bill C-62. As I said a few moments ago during the question and comment period following the speech given by the President of the Treasury Board, we are opposed to this bill. We think that it seeks to please union bosses rather than making public servants a priority.

According to the government, this bill seeks to improve the bargaining process, but we do not think that the government is taking the right approach. We do not think that this bill actually improves the process; rather, it seems its aim is to please union bosses. During the last election, those union bosses were prepared to invest $5 million in advertising just before the election, without any regard for campaign finance laws, just to hurt the government that was duly elected by Canadians in 2011. The political party that was in office at that time, the Conservative Party did what it could to respond, but of course it was at a disadvantage in terms of spending money and accountability. I will come back to that a little later.

Our concern with this bill is that this is payback. It is not the first payback by Liberal government to the union's leader, because we saw it a year and a half ago when the government tabled Bill C-4. Bill C-4 was established by the government to kill two pieces of legislation we introduced when we were in office, which would permit and give more democracy and transparency in the union system.

This Liberal bill is the logical next step for the Liberals, although certainly not for us, and fits in nicely with what the government is doing to thank union leaders for their generous support during the last election campaign. As I was saying earlier, this bill seeks to establish certain bargaining measures. However, make no mistake, the Liberals' real goal here is to make the union leaders happy with the government's position. This falls clearly in line with the Liberal policy to please union leaders.

Almost two years ago to the day, the then minister of labour, an MP from Alberta, introduced Bill C-4. I was the official opposition employment critic at the time so I worked with the minister, together with my friend, the hon. member for Foothills. We fought tirelessly against that bill, which sought to annihilate two bills that were introduced and passed by the Conservatives under the previous prime minister between 2011 and 2015. Those two bills, C-377 and C-525, addressed democracy, transparency, and accountability of unions.

We Conservatives believe that if workers are to have the respect they deserve, they must be given the necessary tools. This includes asking union leaders to disclose their salaries and financial statements to the public. At the time, it was argued that this was something they could do themselves. However, when a union member pays his union dues, he is entitled to a tax refund. That concerns all Canadians, because it is their money being handed out as tax refunds, to the tune of $500 million.

Union leaders were not pleased that we were asking them to disclose all their expenses and salaries. However, when you have nothing to hide, you have a clear conscience. Of course, their natural allies, the Liberals, opposed the move and pledged to reverse the decision, which is tantamount to doing away with transparency. Thus, one of the first legislative positions of this very government, which boasts about being the most transparent in history, was an attack on union transparency.

This was the first bill that was killed by Bill C-4. The other bill was about democracy inside the union. If workers wanted unions in their shops, we asked to have consultation, but private consultation, a secret ballot. This is the best way to ensure people will be represented. The will of the people will be expressed with a lot of strength under secret ballots.

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that two years ago you were elected by secret ballot, which is good. Who can oppose secret ballots in the House of Commons? When we elect a Speaker of the House, it is by secret ballot. However, the Liberals do not want to have secret ballots when workers decide whether to create unions in their shops. That is not fair. This is why we were, and still are, the champions of democracy and transparency in unions. Why are we champions of that? First and foremost, the most important people in the workforce are the workers, not the union bosses.

However, that is what the Liberals would do with this bill. The Liberals are on the side of union bosses instead of being the champions of the workers. I can assure the House that we will always be on the side of the workers. The government wants to kill that democracy and transparency.

That is what the Liberal government is trying to do with a series of bills to please union bosses and chip away at, if not wipe out entirely, everything the Conservative government did to enhance union transparency and democracy. That is why we still oppose this bill, which we do not think is right.

I should also point out that the government's approach has been a bit sloppy. Bill C-62 is a mash-up of two previously introduced bills, Bill C-5 and Bill C-34. Bill C-5 was introduced in February 2016, which is almost two years ago now, and Bill C-34 was introduced in November 2016. The Liberals have extracted elements of both bills and inserted them into the bill we are debating today. Aside from the fact that we disagree with the provisions in the bill, which is no secret, we expected greater diligence from the government on this matter. They are the ones who will have to answer for it, though.

Members will recall the unfortunate statements made almost two years ago when debating Bill C-4 in the House. One of the arguments made by Liberal opponents was that the bills we passed, namely Bills C-377 and C-525, were backdoor bills. One of the most eminent members of the Liberal caucus, the member for Winnipeg North, said this. We know this member often rises to speak. He is vocal in the House, to say the least.

Those were sad memories for me when my friend, the Liberal member for Winnipeg North, called the two pieces of legislation “backdoor bills”. They were private members' bills. That is disrespectful. Each and every member of the House is a front-door member. Therefore, when we table something, it is tabled by the front door. There are no backdoor members, no backdoor pieces of legislation, no backdoor nothing. Everything is done by front-door members of Parliament, from whatever party. That is where we stand.

This experienced member's comments were an insult to all his government colleagues who introduce private members' bills, which we Conservatives respect even though we may not agree with them. That concludes my remarks on this bill.

We are very concerned about this bill. We believe that it is important to think of the workers first and foremost. We realize that government officials and, of course, union officials are in the midst of negotiations.

That goes without saying. One cannot negotiate with 500,000 people. We understand that, but those 500,000 people must trust the representatives they appoint to negotiate with government officials. The best way to establish this trust, to strengthen it, to cement it, if you will, is to ensure that there is greater transparency and democracy within unions, and the best way to achieve that is to have full disclosure. Then, if they want to make that leap and establish a union, they can use the secret ballot. That is the best way and the one which can be influenced the least, whether in a positive or negative manner. Unfortunately, this government has directly attacked this principle, which we consider to be fundamental.

In response to my question, the President of the Treasury Board referred to certain financial realities in Canada, but he forgot to mention a few things, particularly when he talked about support for families. The foremost duty of the President of the Treasury Board is to balance the books. Theoretically, he is the government's “Mister No”, the person who says yes or no to government spending. Why did he say yes to the first plan for government assistance for children, when the government forgot to take into account one minor detail, namely, inflation? As a result of this oversight, four years from now, parents will be getting less than they did from our former government six years earlier. Way to go, guys; that is great.

Any junior accounting technician in a company who forgot to calculate inflation would be kicked to the curb. How is it possible that the President of the Treasury Board, whose primary duty, undertaken at the behest of the Prime Minister, is to make sure that the numbers add up, somehow missed this administrative detail, namely calculating inflation? That is pathetic. He should be ashamed of such an oversight.

On another note, we also provided assistance for children, but we had a balanced budget. I am appealing to the President of the Treasury Board's dignity and sense of responsibility. He has a duty to balance the books. This government is running colossal and compulsive deficits.

Two and a half years ago, the Liberal Party campaigned on running small deficits during the first three years and balancing the budget in 2019 when the economy is strong. That was the Liberal promise. Where are we today? This government has created deficits that are two and a half times larger than promised, and worse yet, it has no clue how it is going to return to a balanced budget. Never in the history of Canada, in peacetime, has a government had a strong economy and no plan to achieve zero deficit. It is unacceptable because the deficit leads to debt that will be left to our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to contend with.

I call on the President of the Treasury Board to tighten the purse strings. He is an experienced parliamentarian who has been serving this country for over 20 years in different capacities and on behalf of different parties. I appeal to his dignity and ask him to tighten the purse strings and especially to send Canadians a clear message that, just because his government has been overspending, does not mean that it will not balance the budget one of these days.

We think that the government should have a minimum plan to balance the budget. Will the government do so in 2019, as it promised? Will it do so in 2045, as the finance department's most recent report indicates will be the case if nothing changes? That would be absolutely ridiculous, but it would be even worse if the government had no plan at all for balancing the budget. Unfortunately, that is in fact the case. This government does not have a plan, and we very strongly condemn it for that. We are calling on the government to, at the very least, determine when it will balance the budget.

The government is turning its back on ordinary workers as it seeks to please its union leader partners and friends.

Ordinary federal employees have been suffering for almost two years now because of the Liberal government's bad decision to give the go-ahead to implement Phoenix. That is today's reality. We are gathered here in the House to talk about a bill that will make union bosses very happy. Meanwhile, unionized workers are still suffering as a result of the Phoenix problem. We have to be very careful here. Our thoughts are with all the heads of households and workers who have been hit hard by the Phoenix pay system problems. Enough can never be said and done to help these people. Canadian workers in my riding and the other 337 ridings have had their lives turned upside down by the Phoenix pay system.

A fact is a fact. The record shows that under the former government the ministers responsible put a kibosh on this project on two occasions. Both in July 2015 and September 2015, the ministers said that the Phoenix pay system should not be deployed because it was too risky. In January 2016, reports suggested not moving forward because the systems were not ready, it still had bugs, and most departmental financial directors recommended putting the project on hold. Unfortunately, on February 24 the government gave the go-ahead. In three weeks and a few hours, Phoenix will have been up and running for two years. A few weeks later, on April 26, the second phase of the Phoenix system was implemented. Nothing was done for 18 months even though alarms were sounding and red flags were raised all over the place. It took the Liberals months to admit that there was a problem.

It is sad that we are creating a bill that caters to union bosses instead of focusing on workers. Workers should be the priority, especially for the President of the Treasury Board, who claims that the government wants to be fair and equitable and says he wants to think positively and work together with the public service. However, today we are debating a bill introduced by the government in an attempt to pander to union bosses, instead of focusing first and foremost on the employees working in the public service.

For these reasons, we are going to vote against Bill C-62, because we feel it caters exclusively to union bosses. In fact, that was the same problem we had with Bill C-4, which attacked and demolished the fundamental principles of democracy and union transparency, principles that we and all workers hold dear. Bill C-62 is the logical but deplorable sequel to Bill C-4, which was tabled by the government almost two years ago now. We can therefore assure workers that we will always be on their side, not on the side of bosses and unions.

Federal Public Sector Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia


Scott Brison LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

moved that Bill C-62, an act to amend the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act and other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-62. The bill would restore fair public service labour laws that respect the collective bargaining process. It recognizes the important role of unions in protecting the rights of workers and in helping grow Canada's middle class.

Bill C-62 affirms the Canadian values of fairness and justice. It combines the government's previous bills C-5 and C-34. It makes no substantive changes to the earlier bills; it simply incorporates the adjustments necessary to combine proposals regarding sick leave, collective bargaining, and essential services for the federal public service into one piece of legislation. Merging these two bills into one is an efficient way to restore the equity and balance in our public service labour relations regime that existed before the legislative changes were introduced by the Harper Conservatives in 2013.

In part, Bill C-62 would repeal contentious sections of Bill C-59, which was a piece of legislation introduced, without consultation, through an omnibus budget bill by the previous government. Bill C-59 had given the government the authority to essentially ignore the public service labour relations act of the day and unilaterally modify the labour relations law that applies to and protects public servants. It would have allowed the government to unilaterally impose a new sick leave regime on public servants without negotiation or consultation.

On taking office, our government committed to not exercise the powers given to the government in Bill C-59, and now we are following through on our commitment by repealing the legislation itself.

Public servants and their representatives have made their position on the law very clear. They are upset and believe that the law violates their right to participate in a meaningful collective bargaining process.

We agree with the public service that this law brought in changes that were neither fair nor balanced. That is why we are acting to repeal them. Bill C-62 also repeals the most contentious changes made to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act in 2013. These include changes that allowed the employer to designate essential services unilaterally, to make conciliation with the right to strike the default process for resolving conflicts, and to impose new factors that arbitrators must consider when making a recommendation or award.

The amendments immediately created an antagonistic labour relations regime and made employer-bargaining agent relations worse. A number of unions even brought charter challenges related to these provisions. We have every reason to believe that such challenges would have been allowed by the courts.

In fact, in 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Saskatchewan's essential services legislation, which included very similar provisions to the 2013 federal legislation. However, the decision to repeal these regressive pieces of Conservative legislation is not just the legal thing to do. It is the right thing to do. We studied the situation closely. We met with public servants and the organizations who represent them. We recognized that the current situation was unsustainable and indefensible, both legally and morally. As a result, Bill C-62 reverses the changes to the act that gave the government the exclusive right to unilaterally determine which services are essential. Rather, the government will work with public sector bargaining agents to both identify and agree on essential service positions.

In addition, under the new legislation, bargaining agents will have the choice once again to determine which dispute resolution process they wish to use in the event of an impasse in bargaining. They will be able to select either arbitration or conciliation with the right to strike.

As well, public interest commissions and arbitration boards will be able to determine for themselves how much weight to give the many factors that come into play when making their decisions, factors like compensation that influence the terms and conditions of today's modern workforce.

This is how the system worked before the amendments of 2013. I look forward to getting back to a collaborative and fair approach once Bill C-62 receives royal assent.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will enable the government to keep an important promise it made to public service employees, their unions, and Canadians.

That was our promise to negotiate in good faith with bargaining agents to reach fair agreements that are fair and reasonable for federal employees and for Canadian taxpayers. The facts are clear in terms of the previous government's lack of commitment to bargaining in good faith.

When our government took office in 2015, all the collective bargaining agreements with public servants had expired. In fact, there were 27 collective bargaining agreements with 15 bargaining units. They had all expired under the previous government. Some of them had expired for almost four years. No public servants had collective bargaining agreements when we formed office. We made it clear that we would work with public servants. We would negotiate in good faith. After two years of hard work and good faith negotiations, we have achieved deals that now represent 91% of public servants. Thus, 91% of public servants now have collective bargaining agreements that were negotiated in good faith.

That success in concluding collective agreements was one achieved in partnership. From the public service we worked closely with people like Robyn Benson from PSAC and Debi Daviau from PIPSC. We worked together, not just on areas of economic increase but on other areas where we can improve the quality of the lives of public servants, and work with them to improve the outcomes for the Canadian public, the people we all serve, those of us on the elected level and the public service, the professional public service we have in Canada, which is one of the most effective anywhere in the world.

This act today, Bill C-62, continues our work toward restoring balanced labour laws that recognize the important role of our public service and the unions that represent them. In this system, the employer-employee relationship is more equal, with both parties within our approach having crucial roles in ensuring workers receive decent pay, are treated fairly, and work in safe, healthy work environments.

Restoring a culture of respect for and within the public service has been and is a priority of our government, a culture that encourages federal employees and the government to work together to fulfill our commitments to Canadians. Ultimately, we are all working together to improve the lives of citizens. The bottom line is that Bill C-62 will undo the measures that stacked the deck in favour of the employer and against the public servants and the bargaining agents representing them. It also highlights our ongoing commitment to support the Public Service of Canada.

As a society we must never roll back fundamental labour rights that unions have worked very hard to secure. Rather, we need to always ensure that workers can organize freely, bargain collectively in good faith, and work in safe environments.

Members may remember how in January 2016 the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour introduced legislation, Bill C-4, to repeal two other unfair labour law bills from the previous government, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, and how we voted to support that legislation in the autumn of 2016. Those two bills by the former government introduced a number of contentious measures related to the financial disclosure process of unions and their certification.

Bill C-4, which received royal assent, reversed those provisions that would have made it harder for unions to be certified and easier for them to be decertified. It also amended the Income Tax Act to remove the onerous and redundant requirement that labour organizations and labour trusts provide specific information annually to the Minister of National Revenue. This included information on the non-labour activities, which would then have been made available to the public. We already had laws in place prior to that, which ensured unions are, in fact, financially transparent and accountable to members.

What is more, the contentious measures this legislation introduced were not formulated in accordance with the principles of respectful consultation. This includes, in terms of consultation, the traditional tripartite consultation process among the employer, unions, and governments normally used whenever we consider reforming labour relations. Therefore, the laws introduced by the previous government were deeply flawed and we, quite rightly, moved to repeal them.

My point is that the bill we are considering today is only the latest in a series of actions that demonstrate the government's commitment to bargaining in good faith with labour leaders and public service bargaining agents. This is of tremendous importance, not only to the welfare of our public service employees but to Canadian citizens, whom we all work to serve. Labour unions play an important role in protecting the rights of workers and in growing the middle class. We respect them and the people they represent.

It is public service employees who administer Canada's income support programs, such as the old age security benefit, for instance, that provides seniors with an important source of income. They are the RCMP and the public servants who helped thousands of asylum seekers who came to Canada earlier this year, as an example. They are the people who help fellow citizens displaced by wildfires. They are the public servants who serve Canadians day in, day out, and they come from all walks of life. They offer an incredible range of expertise and experience that the government draws on to ensure the delivery of services to people across Canada, and, in fact, around the globe.

We need our public service employees to be respected for the great work they do. More than that, we also want young people graduating from our colleges and universities to see the public service as not just a great place to build a career but a great place to build a country. I often speak to young people who are interested in entering the public service. Some of them, for instance, are involved in modern digital work and what I explain to them when they are looking at their options is that we cannot give them the stock options that they may receive with a tech start-up, but we can give them something bigger and that is an opportunity to paint on a larger canvas and improve the lives of Canadians. I would encourage all young people to consider spending at least part of their lives in public service, either within the professional public service or at the political level. The opportunity to improve the lives of our fellow citizens is a rare and important one.

To do that, we need to make some fundamental changes to the public service. We need the public service to be less hierarchical. We need to make it easier for people with ideas and ambition to come into the public service to make a difference, and potentially go back out after tackling some specific projects. There is a lot of work we need to do, but I continue to believe that the public service, either at the professional level within the Public Service of Canada or at the political level, remains one of the best ways one can actually improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

Throughout our history, our public service unions and, broadly, our labour unions have been a force of positive change. They have fought to secure the benefits that Canadian workers now take for granted, whether it is a minimum wage or a five-day workweek, parental leave or health and safety regulations. When labour relations are balanced and fair, Canadian workers benefit, but the country does as a whole as well. In fact, the economy does as a whole.

Unions and employers must be on an equal footing when it comes to negotiating wages and other important issues and benefits that come up in the modern workplace. In the federal public sector, federal employees won the right to collective bargaining in 1967. At the time, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson said in Parliament that this right is “rooted in the concept of equity and equality between the government as employer and organizations representing its employees”.

We are continuing to fight for this right today. The bill being considered today is strong proof of that principle and reflects that. It is strong proof of our commitment to restore a culture of respect for and within the public service. It is proof of the faith we have in Canadians and the positive and uniting values that hold our country together.

I am proud of the work we are doing as a government, and much of the work we are doing as a Parliament in the discussion of these issues, and also of the restoration of positive working relations with the labour unions, the labour movement, and the federal public service. I want to thank all hon. members of the House who have supported and continue to support our efforts to restore fairer public service labour laws.

As parliamentarians, our shared challenge is to continue to work in the spirit of respect and engagement. All of us can do this by supporting Bill C-62. It would go a long way toward recognizing the important role of our federal public service and the unions, the bargaining agents who represent them and protect their rights. It is the right way to show our support for our professional and exceptional public service employees and to recognize the important work they do every day on behalf of all of us in improving the lives of our citizens.

Public Service Labour Relations ActRoutine Proceedings

October 17th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context


Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act and other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

September 21st, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address the view expressed by my hon. colleague that the government has been unfair in its contract negotiations with Canada's border guards.

Border Services officers and other peace officers in Canada have our government's utmost respect for the work they do and the service they provide to Canadians every day.

I understand his concerns about these public servants. Members will no doubt recall that, shortly after the current government took office, the President of the Treasury Board contacted public service unions and promised to bargain fairly with them. We never reneged on that commitment. As result, we have reached 19 agreements with the bargaining agents that represent over 95% of public servants employed by Treasury Board.

This is strong proof of our commitment to negotiate in good faith and reach agreements that are fair and balanced. In December 2016, we concluded our first of four tentative agreements with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. Since then we have reached 15 more agreements with a number of other bargaining agents, including settlements with four of the five bargaining groups in the core public administration represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. This is the very same union that represents the border guards.

We are determined to reach agreements with the other bargaining units by negotiating respectfully and in good faith. As an expression of our good faith, the government has also introduced a number of initiatives to repeal laws that were seen as anti-union.

We have already repealed two laws, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, related to the financial disclosure processes of unions and their certification. These bills were repealed as they had not been formulated in accordance with the principles of consultation. Furthermore, we introduced legislation, Bill C-5, to repeal the controversial legislation that gave the government the authority to unilaterally override the collective bargaining process and impose a new sick leave system; and again, on November 28, the government introduced another piece of legislation, Bill C-34, to repeal changes made to the Public Service Labour Relations Act in 2013.

These changes gave the employer the unilateral right to designate essential services and took away the unions' right to resort to third party dispute resolution. We have a solid track record when it comes to bargaining in good faith, which clearly shows our desire to achieve responsible outcomes for all parties.

With respect to the border services' bargaining unit of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, we were disappointed that we were not able to reach agreements through mediated negotiations, but we do remain open to continuing negotiations and to reaching an agreement that is fair and reasonable for these very important employees of Canada and Canadians.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
See context


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will debate Bill C-49, on transportation modernization, at second reading.

On Monday we will debate our changes to the Standing Orders. Following that debate, we will resume second reading debate on Bill C-51.

Tuesday the House will debate Bill S-3, on Indian registration, at report stage and third reading.

Following that debate, we hope to make progress on the following bills: Bill S-2, the bill respecting motor vehicle recalls, at second reading; Bill C-17, respecting the environmental assessment process in Yukon, at second reading; Bill C-25, on encouraging gender parity on the boards of federally regulated organizations; Bill C-36, the bill to give Statistics Canada greater independence; Bill C-48, the bill to impose a moratorium on oil tankers off the B.C. coast; and Bill C-34, the bill to reinstate sensible conditions for public service employment.

Resuming DebateCanada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on one theme from my colleague's speech about the other place and the time it has taken to get this bill shuttled through.

There is a couple of ways one could interpret the story of the bill.

The one that is the most charitable to the Liberals, and the story they would tell, is that they are the victims of their own success. They made an independent Senate and now that Senate does not always behave as it should. In this case it has rejected the will of Canadian voters, who overwhelmingly supported parties that thought the anti-labour legislation of the Harper era should be repealed, and that took time. They will hopefully come up with a plan to get it through the second time, although it is not clear what the plan is and how long it will take.

The other interpretation suggested by some is that a number of important labour reforms have not happened. Some have been proposed, like in Bill C-34, I believe it is. We have not seen anything about the fair wages act coming back. We have not seen any full pay equity legislation. One wonders maybe if the government is not a victim of its own success, but that having Bill C-4 stay in the system is a convenient excuse to not be pursuing these other important labour reforms.

I wonder if the member wants to help us parse those various interpretations of what is going on.

Public Service Labour Relations ActRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2016 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia


Scott Brison LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act and other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

November 21st, 2016 / 4:45 p.m.
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David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

I'd like to thank the witnesses for participating today.

The first question is for Chief O'Bomsawin. When exactly did you find out about Bill S-3? I was kind of shocked to hear that it was like “Hello. Bill S-3 is here. Welcome. Come talk to us.” That's shocking to me.

I'd like to get it on record exactly when you found out about Bill S-3.