Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Hamilton Mountain.
I would like to come back to an earlier exchange. The Minister of Labour was accused of misleading the House on the dockworkers' ability to deliver medical assistance, vaccines, drugs and personal protective equipment if needed. Obviously the dockworkers are able to do that.
Of course there may be several things in any one container, but generally the containers are identified and we know what they contain, in large or small quantities. If we absolutely need something in a container it can be delivered. It is not witchcraft. This is 2021, we are able to send a small helicopter to Mars. I am sure we can find the right container at the Port of Montreal.
I would also say to our Liberal colleagues that the possibility of bargaining on issues related to essential services is not new. Essential services have always been negotiated during labour disputes, at the Port of Montreal or any port, whether in Halifax, Vancouver or the United States. We are not reinventing the wheel here. This is negotiated between the parties. Maybe I should provide a bit of background for the situation we find ourselves in. This round of bargaining over essential services at the Port of Montreal is a bit odd.
I will note that today is April 28, International Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace. There are still hundreds of people every year who are victims of workplace injuries and illnesses. I must admit that it is rather sad that we have to have a debate on this day on a bill forcing people back to work that breaks the back of union members who were exercising a fundamental, constitutional right. I was going to say that it is ironic, but it is worse than that. It is absolutely disgraceful.
The minister and the Liberal government claim that they are not taking sides in this labour dispute, that they like everyone, and that they want the issue to be resolved. They claim that they introduced this back-to-work legislation to respond to other concerns about the supply chain, the economy, and so on. They say that is the reason they introduced this bill and that they are not upsetting the balance of power between the parties.
Normally, when someone tells a story, they start at the beginning, and then there is a development and an ending. This time, I will start at the end, because something happened today that, to me, is extremely telling. The Liberals threw their whole weight behind the Port of Montreal and the interests of the management side. They trampled the fundamental rights of working men and women who were acting in a way that was very respectful of the law.
Today, these workers must be so angry because they have been had by the Liberals. When they were in the opposition, the Liberals would tear their hair out the moment the Conservatives introduced back-to-work legislation. However, today, they are doing the exact same thing.
It is important to point out that pay is not really the issue, nor is the Port of Montreal losing millions of dollars. Its executives are not acting out of desperation because the port is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Port of Montreal is doing well.
As members know, the economy is struggling right now, particularly SMEs and the cultural and tourism industries. However, containers continue to arrive at the Port of Montreal, and business is good.
Workers had one main demand, and it had to do with work schedules. As my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville said earlier, dock workers have a demanding job that requires an extremely high level of availability, which makes it very difficult to maintain any kind of work-life balance. Dock workers always need to be available and ready to work on call. They need to get to their job site as quickly as possible.
The union is asking the employer to put an end to the punitive measures in relation to the work schedules that were imposed. Obviously, that is the crux of the problem. Management put pressure on workers by being much stricter and imposing certain types of work schedules that went against the dock workers' legitimate requests.
The union asked the employer if, should the special legislation come into effect, it intended to immediately revert to the shift schedules that were in place before the Maritime Employers Association announced changes on April 22, rather than implement the new schedules until a new collective agreement takes effect.
The employer responded that it had taken note of the questions and would reply in due course depending on whether Bill C-29 passed and came into force. That is a typical example of an employer that has no interest whatsoever in negotiating or even answering questions. The employer made it clear that it would respond to the union once the bill was passed. This is not the first time we have seen this kind of thing.
This shows just how badly the government's actions have upset the balance of power between the parties. The mere threat of back-to-work legislation killed the Port of Montreal's interest in finding a solution and finding common ground with the other party. Now it is biding its time, waiting for the Liberals to do the work. Then it can force the workers to accept whatever it wants.
I also deplore the irregular work schedules that are being imposed at every turn. Workers cannot even take a day off to spend time with their families. I am not an expert on the subject, but as far as I can tell, it would be very unlikely for a 250-foot cargo ship to show up at your dock unannounced. From the moment it enters the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we have an idea of when it will arrive, so we can plan schedules accordingly. These container ships are massive. Unfortunately, it is much easier for the employer to maintain all the flexibility it needs to change the schedule as it pleases and shove it down the workers' throats.
The Minister of Labour and the government did not even wait for the general strike to begin before threatening special legislation, which they did the day before. Last Sunday, the Liberal minister said that if there was a strike the next day, there would be special legislation. There had not yet been a single minute of unlimited general strike. There was an overtime strike and a weekend strike. The union was using progressive and partial pressure tactics legally. It wanted to send a message to the employer that if the employer wanted to keep the freighters coming, the containers being unloaded and the supply chain working, they had to sit down at the bargaining table and work out a solution to the work schedules. It does not take a rocket scientist to find solutions. I was going to make a connection with the Prime Minister, but I will refrain.
The constitutional rights of these workers were undermined. Not long after, the employer left the bargaining table and negotiations came to an end. The employer only needs to wait for special legislation. It does not even want to reply to the union's emails and legitimate questions.
What are the Liberals doing in light of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on the Saskatchewan case? The court recognized that union members had the right to use job action and that our labour relations and collective bargaining system was based on both parties having appropriate opportunities, depending on the circumstances, to put pressure on one another to find a solution together.
The solutions are not always perfect, and neither is our labour relations system. We recognize that improvements to the Canada Labour Code are needed. Nevertheless, in general, the parties make concessions and find a compromise. This is how workers' movements can improve their working and living conditions, fight for social justice and create a fairer, more equitable and more balanced society. This has been true of many disputes and struggles throughout history.
If we take job action away from workers because it could have repercussions elsewhere, the right to strike becomes theoretical. Job action will obviously cause disruptions and have an impact on others. That is how the system works. If workers cannot use job action to force their employer to sit down at the table to negotiate a solution, then these workers are being denied their right to strike. This means that the Liberal government is violating a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.