An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act

Sponsor

Simon Marcil  Bloc

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

Status

Defeated, as of April 3, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-420.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code to make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

The enactment also amends that Act to, among other things, authorize the Minister of Labour to enter into an agreement with the government of a province to provide for the application, to pregnant and nursing employees, of certain provisions of the provincial legislation concerning occupational health and safety.

Finally, the enactment amends that Act, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act to clarify the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

April 3, 2019 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning in support of Bill C-420. I want to thank the member for his work on the bill he has introduced today in the House.

This is an opportunity for me to set the record straight on something he just said. The member for La Pointe-de-l'Île painted all federalist parties with the same brush, but the NDP is a very strong ally with respect to Quebec's claims in Ottawa. This has been our trademark for many years, since well before the 2011 orange wave. This was a focus and priority for our leader, Jack Layton.

We continue to recognize the Quebec nation. The NDP has what we call the Sherbrooke declaration, and I encourage my Bloc Québécois colleagues to read it. The Sherbrooke declaration presents our vision of Quebec within Canada as a partner with rights. The declaration also recognizes Quebec's distinctiveness. I simply wanted to correct my colleague on this.

I remind members that not only do I support Bill C-420, but many of my colleagues in the 42nd Parliament have also introduced similar measures. It goes without saying that I support this bill from my Bloc Québécois colleague and, in particular, the part that deals with anti-scab legislation.

My colleague from Jonquière introduced a similar bill, an identical one in fact. She wrote the part of Bill C-420 that refers to scabs. She very eloquently promoted this initiative to prevent the use of scabs in our country. She also wanted to provide unions with tools to defend themselves in dealing with employers who replace striking workers and violate the right to bargaining and the right to strike. The Bloc Québécois knows it can count on the support of the NDP on that point.

My colleague from Jonquière did not propose this initiative for nothing. She gave it her all. She involved many others in her work, including unions. Unfortunately, the government dismissed out of hand the idea of adopting anti-scab legislation. That is not surprising, when we consider that soon afterward, the Liberals passed special legislation forcing Canada Post workers back to work. That is no coincidence.

The Liberals never side with workers, even when they have the opportunity to do so. Instead, they side with employers, as we have seen. These are two examples that show that the Liberal government may talk a good game, but when it comes time to act, it always sides with employers. Whether they are voting against anti-scab legislation or passing back-to-work legislation to prevent strikes and collective bargaining, the Liberals always side with the employer.

The second part of the bill seeks to offer pregnant women rights similar to those enjoyed by women in Quebec who do not work for federally regulated businesses, namely the right to preventive withdrawal when they are pregnant or nursing. When their work is considered hazardous to the health of their unborn or nursing baby, women should have the right to preventive withdrawal. It goes without saying that we support such an initiative.

My colleagues from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and Abitibi—Témiscamingue both introduced similar initiatives, which shows that we agree on this point. Not only do I support this bill, but my NDP colleagues introduced similar initiatives.

Many employers in Quebec fall under federal jurisdiction, including banks, airports, airlines and ports.

There are many other examples, particularly in the telecommunications sector, which employs many Quebeckers. This therefore affects a lot of people. We sometimes tend to think that only a small number of people are involved. However, when we count them all up, we realize that many of our fellow citizens would fall under this law, which would improve on the rights they currently enjoy.

The other aspect of this bill governing businesses under federal jurisdiction is the application of the right to work in French in Quebec. Naturally, this is an initiative that we support. I will give an example to remind our Bloc Québécois colleagues that we support them. Our NDP colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, introduced a similar bill to give francophones the right to work in their language in Quebec in federally regulated businesses. Unfortunately, this bill was rejected by the government in 2012, even though our colleague also fought hard for it.

Those are a few examples of the NDP's support for Quebeckers, the protection of the French language and the protection of workers' rights. This shows that we can rally behind the Bloc Québécois bill.

This bill is a step in the right direction, and we hope the other parties in the House will support it. NDP members who have introduced similar initiatives know what it is like to run up against fierce opposition from both Conservative and Liberal governments. Those two parties joined forces against NDP members every time we introduced those initiatives.

I hope the Bloc Québécois's initiative will win the Conservative and Liberal support we never got. I wish the Bloc the best of luck because it will need that support to get this bill passed.

We know how the House of Commons works, how voting works. I hope the Bloc Québécois will find many Liberal and Conservative supporters. My point is that not all federal parties are the same. As a federal party, the NDP is special and unique in that it not only recognizes Quebec, but gives it the rights, powers and abilities it needs to develop its skills, its identity and its distinct character within Canada.

This is a good opportunity for me to support this bill and the workers who deserve our support now more than ever. In fact, workers all too often continue to find themselves under attack by their employers. Their rights are violated every day in the workplace. All too often, the workers whose rights are being violated by their employer have to deal with a government that does not listen to them. When it comes time to defend these workers, successive governments have sided with employers, large corporations and multinationals, who all have the ear of the Prime Minister when they knock on his door.

This was the case on a recent file that I will not name. When a multinational knocks on the Prime Minister's door, the response is quick, and tough measures are quickly put in place to help. Inappropriate pressure is even used to get things done for these corporations and multinationals. That is what is happening in the office of the current Liberal Prime Minister, who is very quick to respond to requests from multinationals and large corporations. When employees of companies like Sears or GM need help from their government, they are told to wait and that the government will get around to them at some point. Meanwhile, when the heads of large corporations knock at the door, they get immediate assistance.

I congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague. We will gladly support him, as we did in the past with our own initiatives regarding workers' rights and the French language in Quebec.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I know my friend, the parliamentary secretary for labour, is particularly looking forward to my remarks today. It is great to be back in the House.

Bill C-420 deals with a number of different issues. It is, in a certain sense, an omnibus bill dealing with various aspects of labour relations, and I thank the member for bringing it forward.

I am going to be highlighting a number of the issues in the bill and speaking to them. I will not speak about all of the issues, but I will speak to a few of them, and specifically the issues of preventive withdrawal and the ban on replacement workers.

It might not surprise members to find that the proposed ban on replacement workers is a deal breaker for us. However, there are some interesting ideas in the bill that I will speak to in the area of preventive withdrawal.

Banning replacement workers would have a significant negative impact on the economy, and particularly on remote communities, which rely on the access that small trucking companies, for example, might provide. They would be negatively impacted if there were no recourse that an employer could use in bringing supplies to those communities.

I will speak first to the issue of preventive withdrawal in the bill. This addresses the case of a pregnant woman in the workplace who, concerned about the impact on her health and safety and on the health and safety of her unborn child, wishes to withdraw from her workplace in order to avoid exposures or situations that would cause a health issue for either of them. This issue being explored in Bill C-420 is similar to a discussion that the House had, I believe on an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-345, which only dealt at that time with the issue of preventive withdrawal.

The fundamental issue at play here is that in the province of Quebec, there is the opportunity for women in this situation to access paid leave, but in the rest of the country and in the federal jurisdiction, only unpaid leave is available.

The first step is that a woman in this situation would seek reassignment. If no reassignment were available, then she would leave the workplace. In the provincially regulated area in Quebec, there is an opportunity to access paid leave that does not exist within the federally regulated workplace in Quebec or elsewhere in other jurisdictions in the country. Bill C-345 would have created an opportunity to align the federally regulated rules in the province where the work is taking place with the provincial rules that exist.

At the time of the debate on Bill C-345, Conservatives supported the bill. We share in principle the objective of making sure that women and unborn children have the maximum opportunity to be safe. We recognize the challenging situation that may emerge when people feel there is a risk to their health and safety but have concerns about whether economically they are able to withdraw from the workplace in that situation.

Bill C-345 did not pass because it was opposed by the government. When I spoke to the bill at that time, I mentioned that the bill raised a number of different issues that maybe could have been further discussed and worked out in committee.

There was a question of alignment in general between different jurisdictions. We have a federally regulated and provincially regulated labour force, depending on the sector. This can lead to a situation in which people in the same community are operating under different rules. Some are working in a federally regulated sector and some are working in a provincially regulated sector. That is a reality of the way that the system works, and maybe this causes consternation in cases in which people do not have access to the same opportunities within their communities that others do.

I pointed out at the time, of course, that there are going to be alignment issues either way. If a bill like Bill C-345 had passed, we would have had an alignment issue in which in one province the federally regulated workforce would have been treated differently from the way the federally regulated workforce would have been treated elsewhere.

I argued at the time, and I think it is still the case, that there are other possible ways we need to talk about supporting women in this situation. We would not want people to be in a workplace where their health and safety were threatened, certainly at a time of relative greater physical vulnerability and the vulnerability of a developing child in the womb.

These are issues that require our attention. That is why we supported Bill C-345 at the time. Those provisions are incorporated into Bill C-420. However, we are not supportive of this bill, not because of those provisions but because the issue of the proposed ban on replacement workers really is a deal breaker for us.

There are situations where employers and workers are negotiating and the negotiations break down, and that leads to a strike. Strikes involve costs for everyone involved. They involve costs for workers, who are without the opportunity to work and earn an income for the period of time of the strike. There is a cost for the employer. There is a cost for the public, which is not able, for that period of time, potentially, to access that service or to access it in the same way.

The right to strike certainly is very important. It is fundamental. It is a tool that incentivizes and pushes both sides to dialogue. The way we calibrate the rules around the use of that tool are important to ensure the greatest level of balance and the greatest incentive to dialogue. However, the proposal to completely ban the possibility of using replacement workers in any situation is, from our perspective, too extreme.

Hiring replacement workers, for most employers in most situations, is not an easy thing to do. It is not as if the possibility to do that leads employers, in the vast majority of cases, to be totally casual about the need to come to terms with their workers through good dialogue. However, one can imagine, in the federally regulated sector, a small trucking company, for example, that has contracts and deadlines to meet and is vulnerable to going out of business if there is no alternative in the event of a work stoppage.

With respect to the impact on people who rely on those services, we can imagine a situation where remote communities rely on the work of small trucking companies and small airline companies, the people who are shipping resources in. The lack of any possibility of having replacement workers in any of those situations creates a real vulnerability for those communities in terms of getting essential resources in.

Generally speaking, when we have seen changes to the Canada Labour Code, we have sought to move forward with them in a way that reflects discussion and consensus among the different stakeholders, including the representatives of labour and the representatives of business. This recognizes the reality that there is a need for balance. We cannot, by tipping the pendulum too far the other way, create a significant disincentive around investment. If such a disincentive were created, I am concerned that it would lead to less investment in Canada and less investment in new business. The results of that would be worse for employers as well. When we have strong, growing, thriving businesses, that creates more demand for labour and puts labour in a stronger position.

In my home province of Alberta, we see a situation where the province is really booming. Labour has great opportunity to choose between different employers. Wages go up dramatically, because there is a shortage of labour. Business is demanding labour, which is driven by the strength of that economy. Because of that provision, the Conservatives have to oppose this.

Briefly, on another matter, I want to note that a number of MPs recently spoke to a young man who is on a hunger strike in Toronto to highlight violations of human rights in Turkey, violations in particular that target the Kurdish community. He described the experience of growing up in Turkey, where his ability to live freely and identify as a Kurd was denied to him, and the many problems associated with that. I want to acknowledge that important issue. It is my hope that this hunger strike will now come to an end. We encourage those who have concerns for human rights to fortify their physical strength so they can continue to be a voice for justice on this issue and I hope members will continue to highlight these human rights violations targeting Kurds and others in Turkey.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I am happy to join this debate on Bill C-420. I had to check my prepared text. I actually agreed with a number of points my colleague across the way made. I wanted to make sure that we had it right in the text.

I would like to use my time to speak about the current situation and where we are with the three prominent issues that arise from this piece of legislation: the use of replacement workers, the situation for pregnant and nursing employees, and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. Through my comments I hope I will be able to share with the chamber and with colleagues the concerns the government has with this piece of legislation.

Let us start with replacement workers. The Canada Labour Code balances a union's right to strike with an employer's right to attempt to continue operating despite a work stoppage. The current provisions in part 1 of the code already limit the use of replacement workers. Indeed, federally regulated employers cannot use replacement workers to undermine a union's representational capacity. In fact, federally regulated private sector employers rarely use replacement workers. More often, management, supervisors and other non-bargaining personnel are reassigned to take the place of striking workers.

The current provisions in the code related to replacement workers are the result of a broad and comprehensive review that represents a carefully crafted compromise between the interests of employers and the interests of trade unions that could not be achieved through a private member's bill or through the private member's bill process.

In the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through the use of private member's bills without prior consultation with all stakeholders.

The Canadian Labour Congress has said in the past:

...we urge the federal government to stop the introduction of one-off changes to the Canada Labour Code. Amendments should not be made through private members' bills. They should be made with concerted pre-legislative consultation that engages employers, unions and government.

Members who were in the House at the time will remember that one of the first actions our government took was to repeal the Conservative private member's bills Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which upset the balance of rights and responsibilities between federally regulated employers and unions.

Good labour relations are a key element of an economic system, and indeed, of the prosperity of this country. If legislative changes are to be considered for part 1 of the code, let us do it the right way, through real and meaningful consultation and engagement with unions, employers and all stakeholders.

The current provision in the code was achieved through a thorough and meaningful tripartite process. It strikes a balance between the interests of unions and the interests of employers. It allows each side to exercise pressure on the other. If passed, Bill C-420 could upset that balance.

Regarding pregnant and nursing employees, the code currently contains provisions that give a pregnant or nursing employee the right to ask to be reassigned or to have her job modified, without loss of pay or benefits, if there is a risk to her health or the health of the fetus or the child. If a reassignment is not possible, the woman may take a leave of absence for the duration of that risk.

Also, an employee may be entitled to leave with pay to obtain a medical certificate or while waiting for her employer to respond to a reassignment request. Any additional leave is without pay. However, the employee may be entitled to benefits under an insurance plan or a sick leave program provided by the employer or to benefits through the employment insurance program.

As mentioned by my colleague across the way, the fact is that currently only Quebec specifically offers preventative withdrawal job protection with wage replacement for pregnant and nursing women.

If passed, Bill C-420 would put pressure on provinces and territories that do not have preventative withdrawal provisions. Moreover, our government is already supporting another related private member's bill, Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, which was passed in the House June 14, 2017, and is currently being studied by the other place.

The purpose of Bill C-243 is to consult on the development and implementation of a national maternity assistance program strategy. The objective is to support women who are unable to work due to pregnancy and whose employer is unable to accommodate them by providing reassignment. If Bill C-243 passes, it would require consultations with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders. It is reasonable to believe that the results of such consultations would have an impact on the mechanism proposed in Bill C-420.

Finally, I will speak about the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. In 1982, the Constitution Act enshrined English and French as Canada's official languages. It also provided that they have equality of status in all institutions of Parliament and of the Government of Canada.

Two separate statutes regulate the language of work in Quebec: the Charter of the French Language, enacted 1997, and federally, the Official Languages Act, enacted in 1969 and revised in 1988.

While the government is sensitive to the preference of francophone Quebeckers to work in French, there is little documented evidence that francophones face difficulties working in French in federally regulated private enterprises in Quebec. In fact, according to the 2016 census in Quebec, an increasing number of workers whose mother tongue is English or another language use French as their main language at work or equally with English. About 48% of workers whose mother tongue is another language primarily used French at work in 2016. That is compared to 46.5% in 2006. Similarly, about 25% of workers whose mother tongue is English mainly used French at work in 2016, compared to 23% in 2006. That is an increase in both measurements. Moreover, the federal labour program has never received a complaint from a federally regulated private sector employee in Quebec concerning an inability to work in French. Indeed, in 2013, a government report concluded that these employees are generally able to work in French in their workplaces.

One last thing I must point out is that corporations active in Quebec, including those incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, are already required, under provincial law, to comply with the Charter of the French Language, which includes having a French name when registering to carry on business in Quebec.

There we have it: Canada's current position when it comes to replacement workers, pregnant and nursing employees and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. Now that members can see the full picture, they can understand why the government cannot support Bill C-420.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, two weeks ago, on the International Day of La Francophonie, the parties here were all so proud of the French language. We were treated to solemn declarations, videos and Internet memes. We even heard Yves Duteil's lyrics quoted in the House of Commons. I could not believe my ears. I am not making this up. One would have thought Camille Laurin had been resurrected and elected to sit here in Ottawa.

Just 24 hours later, however, the Liberals and Conservatives were hard at work preventing hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers from doing their jobs in their preferred language, French. The theatrics should come as no surprise. Everyone here in Ottawa is quick to stand up for French, except when the time comes to bring in meaningful measures that make a difference in the real world. The major Canadian political parties want to vote down Bill C-420, which I am honoured to have introduced on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. It has one simple objective: to bring the federal government into the 21st century. With this bill, we are defending the rights of all workers in Quebec to work in our common language, French, Quebec's only official language.

To the other parties, allowing Quebeckers to work in French in Quebec is too much to ask. To the government it is even shameful. The Liberals told us in the House that French at work in Quebec was shameful. Bill C-420 establishes that it was not only not shameful, but a rather logical societal choice for workers in Quebec to work in the language of Quebec on Quebec soil. Bill C-420 also seeks to protect workers' freedom of expression by preventing federally regulated companies from using replacement workers. If the government wants to talk about something shameful, I would say that it is not French in the workplace, but rather the use of scabs during disputes, and with Ottawa's blessing, to boot.

The 1950s are long gone and the Bloc Québécois wants to stop the use of scabs at the federal level, but the Canadian parties are opposed to this, as usual. It is no surprise to see the Conservatives stuck in the past, since they are all about staying in the past. I was sure that earlier my Conservative colleague was going to confidently announce that the Earth is flat. However, the Liberals' insistence on maintaining working conditions that are straight out of the last century says a lot about the way Canadians view labour relations. Clearly, the people who want to move Quebec forward cannot expect much from the House of Commons.

Speaking of being firmly stuck in the past, I must also talk about how the federal government is lagging behind on gender equality, which means that Quebec women are discriminated against when they must use the preventive withdrawal program. Bill C-420 will ensure that the pregnant women who need this program can do what is in the best interests of their health and their baby's health without being penalized.

Ottawa penalizes Quebec women who work in federally regulated workplaces. They are the only ones who cannot avail themselves of Quebec's parental leave plan, even though they work in Quebec. All Quebec women are entitled to at least 90% of their salary in the event of preventive withdrawal, except federally regulated employees. These women receive just 55% of their salary, which is essentially half. Furthermore, they are not eligible for employment insurance. Two-thirds of women overall do not even have access to the program.

Women should be encouraged to protect their safety and that of their babies, not penalized for it. Nevertheless, my colleagues from other parties are going to vote for the opposite, as usual. That is on them. I know that the NDP proposed similar amendments and bills, but I am talking about the Conservatives and the Liberals. It is always the same thing with them in any case. Perhaps we should arrange for their women voters to get wind of this.

In short, the Liberals and the Conservatives are, as usual, going to vote against the following three principles: workers' language rights, their right to strike and the rights of women workers. The fact is that Quebeckers are not getting what they need from Ottawa. They are not getting what they need from elected officials who are out of touch with the reality in Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec has everything to gain by voting for representatives who understand Quebec and who understand that, in Quebec, we take the side of workers, not the side of employers. We always come down on the side of French, particularly when it requires political courage. That is what Quebeckers want. They want elected officials who speak for the people in the federal Parliament, not officials who speak for Parliament to the people.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

moved that Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce my bill, Bill C-420, in the House today. This bill would strengthen the rights of workers under federal jurisdiction. First, I must point out that labour relations in Quebec are regulated by Quebec labour laws, except in the case of workers in federal sectors. All workers in ports, airports, banks and interprovincial or international transportation companies, like the STO, are subject to a different set of laws and, as I will show, different standards that are unacceptable in the 21st century.

Essentially, there are two classes of workers in Quebec. I could not tolerate this, as a former union representative, as a father and as a proud representative for the people of Mirabel, who are also workers.

With Bill C-420, the Bloc Québécois wants to fix three major flaws that violate workers' rights and put people in danger.

First, Bill C-420 would prohibit the use of scabs during a labour dispute. It is an anti-scab law like the one passed in 1977 in Quebec and wherever there is social justice. That is obviously not the case here.

Presently, at the federal level, all an employer has to do to show good faith and to have the right to use scabs is to appear as though he is continuing to negotiate with the union. That is appalling. You can say whatever you want, but we know who still has the upper hand. The use of scabs makes labour disputes last two and a half times longer. Not only is that appalling, but it is detrimental to social peace. It makes for more violent and longer disputes.

What happens after these long labour disputes, when everyone ends up hating one another to the point that it is impossible to get along? A special law is imposed on the workers, which is what happened at Canada Post. Hurray for the Liberals who are really pathetic. A special law is imposed on the workers to force a collective agreement down their throats.

This is not exactly the first time such changes are being proposed here. This is the twelfth time the Bloc Québécois is introducing a bill on this. In fact, the dean of the House, my colleague from Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, introduced anti-scab legislation during his very first term. That was in the 1980s when there was no Internet or cell phones. It was a very long time ago. Even then, he could not get his bill passed. Anti-scab legislation is a big deal. My colleague has been a member of the House for 35 years and the federal government still uses strikebreakers. Quebeckers have been calling for a ban on the use of scabs for 35 years, but Ottawa will not budge. Nothing ever budges around here anyway.

As recently as 2016, the federal government used strikebreakers during the labour dispute with the employees of the Old Port of Montreal. We have not forgotten that.

We are also amending legislation to ensure that pregnant women can use preventive withdrawal when necessary and with decent benefits. We are amending the legislation to ensure that all female workers can avail themselves of Quebec's legislation when they work in Quebec, even if they are working under federal jurisdiction.

That applies to Canada too because Canada's labour law is 40 years behind Quebec's. Canada is a throwback. No woman should ever have to put herself or her unborn child in danger by working too long because she does not have the means to take time off for health reasons. It is a pay issue, but it is also a health and safety issue. Such archaic labour laws in a G8 country—or rather, a G7 country—are outrageous.

Lastly, we will ensure that Quebec's Charter of the French Language applies in federally regulated workplaces. In Quebec, French is the language of work, of culture and of politics. It is our common language, and it should be the language used everywhere, including in sectors governed by Ottawa. We hear from countless people in federally regulated organizations where employees are required to speak English and everything is done in English. These organizations are in Quebec, where the common language is French. Love it or hate it, our language is French.

In short, we want to force the federal government into the 21st century because it is 40 years behind when it comes to labour law. Most people are workers. The Liberals may get around in limousines, but ordinary people are workers. I know that the Liberals have not seen much of that. They have never really had to get their boots dirty.

Quebec has been changing and evolving, but the federal government has not taken meaningful action in decades and is stuck in the past. The gap between Quebec society and Canadian society has not shrunk but widened, and not just on this issue but on many others as well. However, in terms of labour law, the federal government is really 40 years behind. I want to reiterate that because it is truly appalling.

While Quebec was implementing a real parental leave program to allow families to be together when they welcome a new child and while it was setting up reasonably priced child care centres so that women do not have to make the difficult choice between their careers and having children, Ottawa was doing nothing, as usual. This means that, when people in Quebec take a federally regulated job, they are getting into a time machine and travelling 40 years into the past.

As I said at the outset, there are two classes of workers in Quebec today: those who are subject to Quebec laws and those who have the misfortune of being stuck in the past because they are subject to federal laws. Since there are not two classes of citizens in Quebec, there cannot be two classes of workers. For decades now, Ottawa has refused to correct this injustice. No matter who is in power, whether Liberal or Conservative, nothing gets done.

Even the federalist parties that are never in power, like the NDP, are incapable of offering Quebeckers subject to federal regulations the same rights as other workers. Even they do not have the courage to make all federally regulated businesses subject to the provisions of Bill 101.

It is practically inexplicable that the federal government could be so narrow-minded. It is practically inexplicable that workers are being denied rights as basic as being able to work in one's own language year after year, for decades now. It is practically inexplicable, but it is also a clear reflection of the fundamental differences between our respective societies.

Quebeckers stick together. We did not always have the choice. We had to stick together to keep from disappearing. We had to stick together in order to successfully assert each one of the rights we have. Quebeckers have never had anything handed to them. Everything we have, we had to fight for and defend. That is why we stand in solidarity with our workers, because they are our family, our friends and our neighbours. They are our nation.

We have passed legislation that is more favourable to workers because we want the government to serve us, the workers. We want work-life balance. We want to work with dignity, in our own language, in an environment that reflects us and that we are comfortable in.

We believe that work should never put honest women and children at risk. We also believe that all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that having a family is not an obstacle to our personal ambitions. We want a work environment where we can thrive. We spend a huge portion of our lives at work, so we should do whatever it takes to make sure that work is not a grind.

The federal government clearly thinks otherwise. Someone in Ottawa obviously has a problem with letting people work in French, because the federal government has been refusing to allow this for decades.

Clearly, someone has a problem with allowing preventive withdrawal for women in the absence of hazardous conditions because the federal government has been refusing to allow it for decades now.

Some mucky-muck obviously has an issue with preventing the use of strikebreakers to replace employees during labour disputes, because the federal government has been refusing to deal with that for years.

These are not the only times Ottawa has abandoned workers. Here in Ottawa, the parental leave system is called unemployment. What can a person do with 55% of their salary when they are expecting a baby? One would have to be totally clueless to think that is a great plan.

When a woman loses her job when she returns from maternity leave, the federal government tells her that it cannot pay her employment insurance benefits. The woman is wished the best of luck and told to leave. We have seen that. We are not the federal government. The federal government has always been all about the financial interests of our neighbouring country and Bay Street. This is the way it has always been.

When it comes to labour law, workers are not the priority. The priority is to prevent workers' rights from inconveniencing management too much. Workers who stand up for their rights during a strike or a lockout are a nuisance to management. That is bad for business. Pregnant women or new mothers who want to not only take leave but also collect a salary are a huge nuisance to management.

Do not even talk to them about workers who want to work in their own language, those annoying people who demand respect and demand to be treated as equals. How difficult. This is how Ottawa sees ordinary people. Ottawa looks down on them, as usual. This is how the federal government acts, no matter which party is in power. It acts as a dutiful servant to the major financial interests. If someone owes the federal government $20, the government will put this person through hell to get it back. However, corporations and the banks are able to legally send their money to tax havens. The government has refused to combat tax havens. When it comes to labour and taxation, Ottawa remains always a dutiful servant to the banks.

Ottawa forces taxpayers and businesses to file two tax returns for no reason, since Quebec could take care of it. Quebec has even asked to take care of it. The National Assembly made this request. This would cut accounting bills in half for honest workers who have to file two tax returns. Our small businesses would only have to pay half of what they pay to deal with one extra tax agency every year. Quebeckers could demand that the banks be held accountable for the billions of dollars in profits stashed away in Barbados.

You all refused to debate it. You all voted against the motion moved by my colleague from Joliette.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the House for permitting me to be a part of the debate on Bill C-420, tabled by my colleague the hon. member for Mirabel.

First of all, I would like to remind the House what this bill is about.

Bill C-420 would amend the Canada Labour Code, also known as the code, in order to accomplish three things.

First, it would prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

Second, it would authorize the minister of labour to enter into an agreement with the government of a province to provide for the application to pregnant and nursing employees of certain provisions of the provincial legislation concerning occupational health and safety.

Lastly, Bill C-420 would amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act to clarify the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.

Tabling the bill gives us the opportunity to review the Government of Canada's actions in regard to labour relations especially, as well as in regard to working conditions for pregnant and nursing employees.

I want to use my time today to go over some of the actions that have been taken.

Let us talk first about what Bill C-420 proposes to do with regard to replacement workers and labour relations reform in Canada.

The bill seeks to amend the code to make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on a lawful work stoppage. Any contravention of this provision would entail a fine of up to $10,000 for the employer. The bill would also permit an employer to not reinstate any locked out or striking employee at the end of the work stoppage.

We have to keep in mind that amending the code can have an impact on labour relations if it is not done properly. Any proposed amendment requires a broader comprehensive review of part I, as well as a tripartite consultation process that involves the government, the labour movement and, of course, employers. In fact, all concerned parties, including academics and external stakeholders, should be consulted since these reforms would affect a great number of Canadians across the country.

It is a long-standing practice not to amend the code in a piecemeal fashion or without soliciting the input of affected stakeholders. The current provisions in the code are the result of such a review and represent a carefully crafted compromise between the interests of employers and trade unions.

Let me provide an example. In 1995, a working group, mandated by the minister of labour, led an extensive public consultation on part I of the code. Workers, employers and government stakeholders were consulted, as well as external stakeholders, such as academics and others, who could provide relevant insight. The working group's report, entitled “Seeking a Balance”, formed the basis of the significant changes to part I of the code that came into effect in 1999.

The consultation process is critical to any legislative changes made to industrial relations at the federal level and our government has always respected that.

Since our government took office, we have been committed to re-establishing a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada. Re-establishing a climate of collaboration and developing evidence-based policies is our objective. The very first step we took in that direction was to table Bill C-4 to repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. We did this because Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were both adopted without having been through the aforementioned tripartite consultation process typically applied to labour law reforms. This process is an essential part of the foundation that supports free collective bargaining.

Let us talk now about pregnant and nursing employees. The health and safety of all workers, including pregnant and nursing workers, is a priority for our government. Let us not forget that federally regulated workers everywhere in Canada are very well protected by the strong provisions on preventive withdrawal provided for in the code. In fact, the code contains provisions on reassignments and leaves of absence for pregnant and nursing employees. These provisions provide protective measures to help them to pursue their employment in a safe environment.

In addition to provisions already in place, our government has taken a number of actions to ensure the health and safety of all employees, including pregnant and nursing employees. First, we have put forward new compliance and enforcement measures for occupational health and safety standards and labour standards. These measures include monetary penalties and administrative fees for employers who are repeat offenders, the authority to publish the names of these employers, greater power for inspectors, new recourse against reprisals, and improvements in the wage-recovery process.

Next, we have introduced amendments to the code to give federally regulated private sector employees the right to request flexible work arrangements. We have also put forward a series of new leave provisions, including a five-day personal leave, of which three days are paid, and five days of paid leave for victims of family violence, out of a total of 10 days of leave.

In addition to these provisions, other recently introduced amendments to the code would provide eligible working parents with improved access to maternity and parental leave once these amendments come into effect.

On top of all that, I must remind everyone that the government supported Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy. The bill is now in the other House for review.

Let us now turn our attention to the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. The 1982 Constitution Act, which enshrines English and French as our country's official languages, provides that both these languages be given equal status in all governmental and parliamentary institutions. Additionally, two separate statutes, the Quebec charter and the federal Official Languages Act, regulate the language of work in Quebec. Active companies in Quebec, including those incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, are already required under provincial law to comply with the Charter of the French Language. That includes being registered under a French name.

Consider also that the labour program has never received any complaints from federally regulated private sector employees in Quebec concerning an inability to work in French. This is backed up by a 2013 government report that concluded that these employees in Quebec seem generally able to work in French in their workplaces. If we look at Quebec's 2016 census, there are, in fact, an increasing number of workers using French as their main language, or equally with English, while on the job. Between 2006 and 2016, the rate of workers whose mother tongue was English and who mainly used French at work rose from about 23% to 25%. Meanwhile, workers whose mother tongue was a language other than English or French and who mainly used French on the job increased from 46.5% to 48% during this same period.

As members can see, our government is proactive not only on the issue of labour relations, but also on the issue of working conditions for all Canadians, including pregnant or nursing women, as well as on the issue of language of work for federally regulated employees in Quebec.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Mirabel, for his important work on Bill C-420.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2019 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-420, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act.

At the outset, it is important that as we debate the bill it should be with the intent of striking the best balance between workers and employers. That should be our intent when we consider any legislation or policy reforms relating to our labour relation laws. Striking that balance is in the interest of all Canadians.

Bill C-420 would make a number of changes to Canada's labour laws, and I appreciate the opportunity to comment on these proposed changes.

Among these changes are amendments to the Canada Labour Code relating to occupational health and safety for pregnant and nursing employees. While it was before I took my seat in the House, the suggested change in this section of the Canada Labour Code had been debated in this Parliament when it considered Bill C- 345. That bill, as does a portion of the bill we are studying today, sought to rectify an imbalance that existed for women working in the same province but under a different jurisdiction.

A woman who is pregnant can request modified work in the event that her job may be putting her health or her baby's health at risk. When a workplace cannot be adapted or modified to allow a pregnant woman to work without risk, it might then become necessary for her to preventively withdraw from work. Some provinces offer pregnant women income during preventive withdrawals, but if women working in that same province are employed in a federally regulated industry, they are not eligible for those provincial benefits.

Employees under federal jurisdiction can still preventively withdraw from their work with job protection, but it is unpaid. I am certain that everyone could appreciate that this would be a difficult decision for an expectant mother to make. There is question of fairness to be considered, given that the employee in a federally regulated position is subject to the same provincial and municipal taxes but is not eligible for the same benefits in such a case.

There is merit to the measure in the bill that would allow the federal Minister of Labour to negotiate an agreement with the government of the provinces in these cases. As I noted, this measure was debated in Bill C-345 and it had the support of the Conservatives in the House.

The bill we are considering today, however, contains much more than just this measure. It includes a measure that would not strike the best balance between workers, unions, employers and employees.

The measure I am referring to is of course the section of this bill that would make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the work of employees who are on strike or locked out. This debate is not a new debate. It is one that has been debated before in the House as well as in other jurisdictions.

The only provinces that have adopted and kept this approach to labour laws are Quebec and British Columbia. However, this is not a new idea and it has been studied and evaluated over and over. Empirical evidence would suggest that there are negative consequences to the imbalance created by banning temporary replacement workers in the event of a labour dispute. These adverse effects impact everyone. It impacts unionized workers, employees, employers and investors.

Banning temporary replacement workers creates a significant imbalance in the process. That imbalance is created because without the ability to hire temporary replacement workers, a business could be significantly challenged in its operations or could even be unable to continue operations during a labour dispute. This would result in lost revenue and profits for that business.

Depending on the nature of a business and the competitiveness of the market, a business could even permanently lose customers to a competitor, and despite less productivity, many of a business's costs would remain.

A labour dispute can also be devastating for employees and even their families. However, it is necessary to consider that workers who are not working because of a labour dispute might be provided with strike pay by their union. Alternatively, or even in addition, they could even seek temporary employment themselves.

That is a clear imbalance. It significantly, and arguably unfairly, increases the bargaining power of unions. That increased power would expectedly result in higher labour costs, or in other words, a higher share of a company's profits going to unionized workers.

The other side of that reality is that there is then a lower return for investors. That expected outcome would discourage investment into the business. Decreased investment is not a gain for unionized workers. Investment is in their interest. Among its benefits, greater investment could net better tools, more innovation, a healthier work environment or greater market access. That in turn would lead a company toward greater productivity. Greater productivity would result in greater profits, which could then result in greater wages or even better job opportunities. That is the power of the market.

Unfortunately, this policy that we are considering today in the House would impede that power. It would artificially inflate the wages of unionized workers, resulting in less investment, lower economic growth, fewer jobs and ultimately lower wages. It would create a long-term reality in which there is no real winner.

As I stated at the outset, any reforms to Canada's labour laws should be made with the goal of creating the best balance of interests. Because labour laws that create balance are in the interests of workers, employees, unions, employers, investors and ultimately all Canadians, the measure to make it illegal to hire temporary replacement workers in federally regulated industries in Canada is not a balanced approach. Therefore, it is not a win. It would inevitably result in some lose-lose situations. That is not in the interest of all Canadians, and I would strongly caution all members of the House in going down that path.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak in this new House of Commons. As the NDP's labour critic, I am always pleased to talk about workers. Today, I will be speaking to Bill C-420, which was introduced by the member for Mirabel.

In any discussion on the Canada Labour Code, we cannot forget to talk about the health and safety of federally regulated workers, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. However, one important aspect has been ignored, and since I returned to the House of Commons, I have been quite worried and upset. No one is talking about protecting good jobs.

Bill C-420 talks about health and safety, but this aspect is part of protecting good jobs. There are federal employees in my riding of Jonquière. We have been home to a taxation data centre since 1983. More than 1,000 workers provide good service to all Canadians. In fact, there is even a taxation services office in Chicoutimi. These are good jobs, and the Bloc Québécois needs to remember that.

I have not seen anything about protecting these good jobs over the past few days in the House of Commons or on social media. This aspect does not seem to be taken into consideration. This is important to a region like mine, to Jonquière. One thousand jobs represents 1,000 families. This is the equivalent of thousands of jobs in Montreal, for example.

Let us return to Bill C-420, which is comprised of three bills introduced by the NDP in this parliamentary session. First, there is Bill C-234, which I introduced and deals with the issue of scabs. There is always a double standard in negotiations. I do not like to say this but, unfortunately, the parties are not on an equal footing in negotiations. I will speak about this more later on in my speech.

The second part of the bill is based on Bill C-345 , introduced by my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, which proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code for pregnant or nursing employees. The third part reflects a bill that was introduced by Thomas Mulcair, but which unfortunately was never debated in the House of Commons. It called for the application to Quebec companies of the provisions in the Official Languages Act with regard to Quebec's particular linguistic characteristics. I will get back to this point in a few moments.

Let us come back to the first part of the bill on anti-strikebreaker legislation. It is time to reform the Canada Labour Code to have it reflect the reality of new technologies, automation, and telework. Why not take the opportunity to include these bills in the modernization of the Canada Labour Code, but also to protect workers during negotiations?

In November, special legislation was imposed on postal workers. Both parties cannot negotiate as equals if the company is able to hire replacement workers every time. The Canada Labour Code does not include any standard prohibiting the use of strikebreakers. It is time to remedy that problem. Labour legislation in both Quebec and British Columbia includes standards on this, so could we not include some in the Canada Labour Code? There is a lot of talk about consultation, but it is important to consult the employers, the government and workers on a set of standards. These are people who wake up every morning and perform miracles across the board.

Why not take care of them and amend the Canada Labour Code?

I could go on and on about this. However, the bill is divided into three parts, and I really want to talk about protections for pregnant or nursing workers.

I was working as a letter carrier when I was pregnant, and there were no protections. I had to work with my mail bag on my back and climb several stories. That was part of my job. However, pregnant women who do high-risk work need measures to lighten their workload, to keep them and their unborn babies safe. It can be really hard. It is normal to have a valid medical certificate. It is also normal for the doctor and employer to work together to come up with ways to ensure the safety of mother and baby. However, the Canada Labour Code does not allow for that.

I think there is room for improvement, like Quebec's preventive withdrawal. The Minister of Labour should make sure that mothers who wish to nurse and return to work are able to do so, as is the case in Quebec. Of course, working conditions must be taken into account to ensure that women are safe and able to nurse.

There is a real push to make it easier for women to access the workforce. Women should never be penalized for deciding to have children. Unfortunately, that is often what happens.

A number of similar bills have been introduced in the House of Commons. When my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue introduced hers, it was summarily rejected. Now we have an opportunity to make amendments, and I hope that, this time, the government will show some consideration for pregnant and nursing women and vote in favour of Bill C-420. At this point, the Canada Labour Code is in dire need of an update.

I would like to spend the rest of my time talking about the part that deals with language of work in Quebec.

Quebec has two different language of work regimes. Each applies to different categories of organizations and workers. One is the Official Languages Act, which governs all federal institutions, that is, all Government of Canada and parliamentary institutions. The other is Quebec's Charter of the French Language, the Quebec charter, which applies to all provincially regulated workplaces. Quebec has about 135,000 federally regulated employees in roughly 760 private organizations.

Often certain companies will send documents in English only. Of course, some employees in Quebec businesses speak English. However, it is not right that they are receiving the documents in English only. Quebec workers speak French and their language is French, so they should be receiving the information in French and being served in French. We need to pay special attention to that. I believe that the Canada Labour Code could include requirements and protect francophone workers in Quebec who fall under federal jurisdiction.

As I mentioned several times, the Canada Labour Code is due for a major reform. There have been some bills, including Bill C-65, that have made amendments to the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-420 makes further amendments. I hope that the government will consider a comprehensive reform and modernization of the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

November 1st, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act.

Mr. Speaker, I was a union member before I became an MP, and I always cared deeply about the working conditions of the workers I served. As we know, Canada's labour legislation is 30 years behind that of Quebec. That is why I have the honour of introducing my first bill in the House of Commons today. The purpose of my bill is to amend the Canada Labour Code to give all Quebeckers working in Quebec for a federal work, undertaking or business the same protections and rights that we enjoy in Quebec.

The bill would make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. That is a good anti-scab provision. It would give pregnant and nursing employees the same occupational health and safety rights, including preventive leave, that are provided for under Quebec's legislation but not federal legislation. Lastly, it would make all federal works, undertakings and businesses operating in Quebec subject to the requirements of the Charter of the French Language.

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