Mr. Speaker, the longshoremen have been without a collective agreement for 850 days, and during all that time, there was no involvement by the government, who has been dragging its feet from the start only to introduce special legislation. In the end, what is the government saying? It is telling the boss that he does not need to negotiate anymore, that he can let things drag on, because the government is going to pass legislation, as usual.
They do not care about labour law or free bargaining. The Liberal Party caters to the bosses. We know that.
When there is no negotiated settlement, and the government imposes its special legislation, the work environment suffers greatly. Tensions remain and are amplified. Nothing is solved.
Since 1990, Ottawa has passed no fewer than 15 pieces of back-to-work special legislation, including the one before us today. On average, that is one piece of special legislation every two years. The last one targeted the postal workers in 2018. I remember well.
In Ottawa, special legislation that takes away workers' rights has become the norm rather than the exception. Legal experts Renée-Claude Drouin and Gilles Trudeau have indicated that this situation is pernicious because it essentially denies certain categories of workers the right to strike and can also turn what should be an exceptional situation into a permanent solution. That is what we are seeing tonight.
Dockworkers are well aware of the seriousness of the situation caused by the pandemic. They have been putting off their option to strike for months. This has been going on for 850 days. The employer did not negotiate and cannot even agree with itself. That makes it rather difficult to negotiate with another party.
The government did not do anything either. It saw that things were not progressing, but it washed its hands of the situation. What is worse, the government made it clear that, as soon as the workers went on strike, special legislation would be passed under a gag order. In short, the government made it clear to the employer that there was no need to negotiate because big daddy Ottawa would step in with legislation. The Liberal Party supports employers.
The Liberals essentially told the employer to keep stalling if it was not getting what it wanted because they would step in and save the employer's skin once again, as they do every two years.
As we all know, the worst part is that the longshoremen did not even want to go on strike. They did it in response to the employer's attacks on scheduling. Those attacks were intended to compel its buddy Ottawa to pass its special anti-worker legislation with its undemocratic gag order. The Liberal Party caters to employers.
As we know, the government could still have stopped the strike today even faster than using legislation, simply by stepping in and asking management to stop using those measures, since the employer will have to stop anyway. The longshoremen would have called off the strike immediately. Their strike is a response to the attacks from management.
The government had all the cards it needed to stop the job action and send the longshoremen and management back to the bargaining table, but it wanted special legislation instead. It still prefers to send the message that it is there to save the bosses' butts. That is what it means to be a party that caters to employers.
This bill represents a fresh setback for workers' rights. The Canada Labour Code is already an antiquated farce worthy of a Dickens or London novel. To this day, in 2021, it still allows the use of scabs. The Liberal Party claims to be progressive. Progressive, my foot.
The Liberal Party and its government are siding with the bosses and the big banks, not regular folks. We must not be fooled by their nice-sounding speeches and their cool attitude. It is a party that caters to big business.
No, we do not want a strike. The public, Quebec, union members, everyone wants the work to resume. There was no need to get to this point, but the government let the situation deteriorate. How irresponsible, as usual. Even today, there was an option that would have allowed for free bargaining. The government could have taken action, but it did not. How irresponsible. This government prefers to drag its feet until its soles wear out, rather than take action.
Let us briefly review labour law together. Even though, in this case, the government had all the cards to prevent a strike and keep negotiations going, the right to strike is a fundamental right. It is entrenched in labour law. It has even been recognized by the Supreme Court. In a ruling, the court recognized that the right to collective bargaining is a constitutional right, writing that section 2(d) prevents the state from substantially interfering with the ability of a union to exert meaningful influence over working conditions through a process of collective bargaining.
In another ruling, it even gave the right to strike constitutional benediction as an essential part of a meaningful collective bargaining process.
A judge even wrote that “[t]he right to strike is not merely derivative of collective bargaining, it is an indispensable component of that right. It seems to me to be the time to give this conclusion constitutional benediction.” A Supreme Court justice said that. She also said that it “is an indispensable component of collective bargaining.” That is not nothing.
By imposing closure on the legislation, the government summarily discarded the entire process for bargaining working conditions.
According to Pierre Trudel, a law professor at the Université de Montréal, the right to strike is the “irreducible minimum”. Canada has a court, a charter and a constitution that its government is not even able to obey. What contempt for the fundamental rights of workers. What a terrible day, what a terrible night today is for their rights.
The minister is taking the side of management while reminding us that she is the daughter of a union member. What a betrayal.
To come back to Mr. Trudel, he also writes, “The Court added that the international human rights instruments to which Canada is a party also require the protection of the right to strike as part of a meaningful process of collective bargaining.” Economic repercussions are not an argument for infringing on the right to strike. On that topic, the Committee on Freedom of Association, the wing of the International Labour Organization that interprets conventions pertaining to freedoms, has stated that even if the right to strike has an economic impact, that right has to be upheld. It is an international convention.
Today, the government has once more chosen to sacrifice the higher goal of economic and social peace. What great statesmanship on the part of the Liberals. It would seem that the federal government is quick to renege on its own international commitments when it is in its interest to do so. What is the value of federal commitments? This is how we can estimate their true value. It is the party of big business.
The highest court in the land recognizes the importance of workers' right to strike. In addition, Canada is a party to the International Labour Organization conventions that also recognize the fundamental nature of this right. However, the Liberal government is suppressing this right through special legislation to be passed under a gag order while declaring itself to be progressive. For goodness' sake. Clearly, its words and deeds are not lining up at all. Progressive, my foot. Everyone in the business world knows that it is thanks to the balance of power that each party makes concessions in order to negotiate working conditions.
Both parties lose during a lockout or strike, which exerts pressure and forces the parties to sit at the table to find a compromise and negotiate an agreement. However, the threat of special legislation disrupts this balance of power and sends management the message that it no longer needs to negotiate in good faith. This destroys the entire bargaining process between the employer and the union.
Management knew that the government was going to do this, so why would it bother negotiating seriously, with both sides giving up certain conditions in order to reach a compromise? Why would it do that, knowing that the government was going to play the card that would give it a leg up? The strike is unquestionably having a major impact on Quebec's economy. No one is denying that. However, I remind members that the government could have gotten involved during the negotiations so that they could keep moving forward without the need for a strike. The government did the opposite. There have been 850 days of negotiation, during which the government did nothing but drag its feet until its soles wore out.
The Bloc Québécois supports the dockworkers' demands and their fundamental right to freely negotiate their working conditions. We always stood with workers and we always will. The Bloc Québécois is denouncing the passage, under a gag order, of this special legislation that takes away the dockworkers' right to a negotiated collective agreement, in spite of there being other alternatives. Labour law sets the framework within which parties can exercise their negotiating leverage in a legitimate and legal manner. Failing to respect the workers' rights is making a mockery of a fundamental institution designed to ensure social and economic peace. That is what tonight's debate is about. The government's decision to ram this legislation through under a gag order is once again shaking the cornerstones of our society. We are wholeheartedly denouncing this situation.
What a way to act. What contempt for our people. I am ashamed of being in the House tonight and seeing the government act this way. What a disgrace.