Good afternoon and thank you, Chair.
I represent FETCO, Federally Regulated Employers-Transportation and Communications. Our members are all federally regulated firms operating under the Canada Labour Code. We've existed as an employers' association for over 30 years. Our members are generally large employers within the federal sector.
To give you a sense of colour for who they are, we represent major airlines such as Air Canada, Jazz Aviation and WestJet; telecommunications firms including Bell, Telus, Shaw and Vidéotron; railways including CN, CP and VIA Rail; the ports, the Maritime Employers Association in Montreal, the B.C. Maritime Employers Association in Vancouver; and all the major courier companies in Canada, including Canada Post, UPS, FedEx and Purolator.
FETCO is pleased to submit comments on Bill C-369, regarding National lndigenous Peoples Day. As you know, in its final report the Truth and Reconciliation Commission included 94 recommendations in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. Today we are here to talk about recommendation 80 around a statutory holiday.
I would like to first say that FETCO members are unanimously and strongly supportive of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people is most appropriately a high priority of government and members are supportive of these important efforts.
FETCO represents some of Canada's largest employers with operations providing key products and services to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Members share the government's commitment to reconciliation.
In its outreach to Canadians, your committee has requested feedback from a wide range of stakeholders on what a national indigenous peoples day should look like. Below are some specific comments from FETCO, on behalf of a large majority of federally regulated employers who are all captured by the Canada Labour Code, where this legislative requirement will reside.
FETCO members support a day being set aside to celebrate and recognize Canada's first peoples and to reflect on the unfortunate legacy of the residential school system. Members believe that healing is required between Canada's indigenous and non-indigenous people and a specific day to recognize this is appropriate, as noted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
FETCO has no specific comments on what should specifically be included in this important day of commemoration. This is a question best answered by those for whom this day is going to be set aside, that is, Canada's indigenous people. Employers will support the direction recommended by those most affected. We do suggest that government engage stakeholders in a consultative dialogue on recommended courses of action in the event our members have value to add to this important conversation.
FETCO members do not believe it is necessary to add another general holiday, in other words, a paid statutory holiday, to the Canada Labour Code to accomplish this important goal. Currently, the code provides nine statutory holidays. Most FETCO members, as a result of previous negotiations with employees and unions, exceed this minimum number. FETCO employers typically provide between 10 and 13 paid holidays throughout the year. Adding an additional paid holiday to the Canada Labour Code represents substantial productivity losses and business cost increases for Canadian businesses. We do not feel these concerns are in any way inconsistent with our support for the concept of a day being set aside.
Employers in the federal sector have seen significant change in the past three years that has had business cost and productivity loss implications. Two weeks ago, while responding to another parliamentary committee on the most recent budget bill, we stated the following:
Over the past three years, enormous workplace changes have been introduced via the legislative and regulatory process that amount to major cost pressures for business. In the past three years, the following have been introduced (or are currently being contemplated): paid personal leave, family responsibility leave, expanded vacation leave, caregiver leave, indigenous practices leave, leave for victims of domestic violence, medical leave, changes to the EI program, accessibility legislation, flexible work arrangements, pay equity, termination compensation and elimination of wait periods for certain compensatory benefits. On an individual basis (in isolation), each of these changes could be justified. But the cumulative cost effect of these changes on employers is consequential. To FETCO, it seems contradictory for government to be engaging in a national dialogue on concepts like business investment, workplace productivity and economic competitiveness while simultaneously driving up the cost of doing business. FETCO believes it is reasonable to demand that business cost implications receive greater attention from government when workplace changes are introduced.
A paid general holiday can be a double-edged sword from a business perspective. Consider the fact that FETCO members represent some 500,000 employees, or over half of all the private sector employees in the federal sector. Consequences of a paid day off are twofold.
First, it means that most employees are not at their jobs, representing a substantial productivity loss for companies operating in an intensely competitive global marketplace. Customers go elsewhere when a business is not available.
Second, many FETCO members are continuous operations given the essential services they provide. Airlines, railways and marine vessels do not typically stop on a statutory holiday. Those employees obliged to work on those days are paid a premium to do so, so not only are companies paying some employees to not be at work, but they're also providing extra compensation to others to be there.
Our members respectfully suggest that there are other options to consider when setting aside the appropriate time to show respect and reverence for this important issue, outside of paid day off for all employees. If the purpose of National Indigenous Peoples Day is to raise awareness of this issue which contributes to ongoing reconciliation, we're not convinced that a paid holiday is going to achieve this important objective.