Mr. Speaker, the least we can say this morning, and the Minister will agree, is that a review of the Canada Labour Code is long overdue. Several times we stood in this House to ask questions on various provisions of the code and each time the Minister would refer to the review he tabled three weeks ago, parts of which, I must say, are certainly evidence of his good will.
I am well aware that the Minister is a courteous man, but I have a feeling that he did not follow his reform ideas through to their logical conclusion and that he was a little bit inhibited in some of his actions. I certainly hope to have the opportunity in committee to urge the Minister to go further, to surpass himself, and to see to it that the bill be further improved upon, since, as you well know, this is the role of the opposition and a full time job.
This being said, there are positive elements in there. Obviously, when the Minister suggests measures to accelerate the hearing of the parties, we cannot but agree. When the Minister proposes that a one person court may be convened so as to speed up the work of the Canada Labour Relations Board, we are all for it. When the Minister wants to change the name of the Canada Labour Relations Board, which lived last winter a crisis that almost destroyed it, we are in favour of that.
What the minister will have to specify is this: in the bill that will be considered by the human resources development committee, to make the Canada Industrial Relations Board, a quasi-judicial tribunal that is extremely important for the balance he is seeking to strike, does he intend to make it a truly representational body as he was asked to do on many occasions? Will he accept that members of this board be appointed from lists that will be submitted, as is done for other governmental organizations? To ensure that the Canada Industrial Relations Board decisions are not never questioned, the board must become a representational body.
Too often, in the past, appointments were made that did not reflect the kind of talent, expertise and knowledge that is to be expected from people who sit on this quasi-judicial tribunal.
The minister knows perfectly well this bill contains a provision that is rather vague. It says that the minister will consult. Of course, the notion of consultation is not very precise. It is true that consultation is important when making this kind of appointments, but I think balance would be much better served if the minister could use lists that would be submitted by both management and union representatives to fill vacancies on the board.
You will also understand that this reform, and the opposition's position, and the common understanding that will guide us over the coming weeks, because we on this side of the House are very aware that this is the beginning of a relatively lengthy process, since the Canada Labour Code is an extremely important tool in union democracy, that the whole issue of replacement workers will be the focus of our concerns.
I must say that it is undoubtedly this aspect of the bill that is the most disappointing. It is undoubtedly this aspect of the bill that goes most against the grain for the minister, where he did not achieve what he would have liked. The reform the minister is proposing has no central component, only peripheral details.
It is not clear where this came from. Recognizing the right to use replacement workers only in cases where the union's representational capacity is undermined is not something that flows from the Sims report. First of all, there is no case law to support it. There is no partner. I challenge the minister to rise in his place and tell us who asked for such a formula when the Sims task force was conducting its review. Who on the employer side or the union side is calling for such a convoluted formula, the concrete results and ramifications of which are unknown?
The mere fact that negotiations are continuing and the parties sitting down at the same table is evidence that a union's representational capacity will not be undermined and that the employer is not entitled to use replacement workers.
I cannot go along with the minister's statement that he cannot act without a consensus. I think this indicates a lack of knowledge of the context giving rise to the legislation passed by the National Assembly in 1977. If a consensus is required it is clear that, in such an instance, we are condemned to the status quo, and I think both the legislator and members of Parliament could be faulted for lack of courage in their failure to permit this very healthy exercise in democracy to take place in a well defined context. We agree that it must not take place in any old way, but, rather, that the context in which replacement workers are used must be well defined.
I think we have to give in to what has been requested by the FTQ, the CSN and the Canadian Labour Congress and include it very plainly among the unfair labour practices. At the moment, seven unfair practices are set out and defined in the Canada Labour Code.
What is an unfair practice? It is the allegation that an employer, a union or an individual has taken part in an activity prohibited by the Canada Labour Code. Why was it not named clearly and
unambiguously? It would then have been a lot easier for the Canada Labour Relations Board to conduct the arbitrations required.
Everyone agrees that a strike is the ultimate weapon. It is acknowledged that there must be intermediate stages. However, in cases where it is unavoidable-and it is acknowledged to be an element of union democracy-I think it should have been clearly included among unfair practices along with section 24; section 50, which is about bargaining in bad faith; section 94, which deals with interference in union business; section 37, which has to do with a union's duty of fair representation; and section 95, which concerns prohibitions relating to trade unions.
I repeat, this is the thrust of the reform. You are well aware that the official opposition will not let this demand drop. We will encourage the minister to go right to the limit of his reformer tendencies, because I know for a fact that the minister is not a conservative.
There was also a strong demand by the unions regarding technological change. On several occasions, the minister rose in this House and mentioned how much the labour market was changing, and how traditional practices were fast disappearing.
One of the major demands was the right to strike, to reopen a collective agreement whenever significant technological changes occur between the signing of a collective agreement and its renegotiation. I believe we must keep this in mind. The committee will have to do some soul-searching regarding this particular demand.
I believe the minister should have implemented the Sims report as a whole and taken note of a demand, a very important recommendation regarding his powers. This very studious minister could not have forgotten the existence of a very clear recommendation to abolish eight different powers, or eight sections of the act giving the minister powers that appear somewhat archaic in light of current practices and realities.
Cases in point are section 57 regarding the authority to appoint arbitrators and an arbitration board; section 59 regarding the minister's right to receive copies of arbitration decisions; and section 71 regarding the right to receive notices of dispute. There are about eight sections like that. I believe that members of the Sims task force were all agreed that these powers were somewhat outdated.
You will also understand how disappointed the opposition is with regard to the RCMP. We even tabled a motion-which I moved-inviting the minister to put an end to the discrimination against RCMP employees. The RCMP is the only police force in Canada which is not allowed to negotiate working conditions through collective bargaining.
I believe the Sims report was very clear in this regard. The minister must be aware of it. It was recognized that it was not desirable to grant the right to strike. In fact, no one within the RCMP is asking for this right. What they are asking for is the right to collective bargaining with compulsory arbitration, which many municipal police forces currently enjoy.
Another serious omission, which we will have a chance to address in committee, concerns a very important demand made by PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, an organization the minister has held in high esteem so far. PSAC asked to be excluded from the application of the Public Service Staff Relations Act and be subject to the Canada Labour Code instead.
Why did the Public Service Alliance of Canada and its members democratically express such a demand? Because under the Public Service Staff Relations Act they cannot negotiate provisions as important as those governing job security in legislation other than the staff relations act. The same goes for protection against technological changes, job classification, appointments, promotions, and transfers.
To conclude, while recognizing that the minister is acting in good faith, this proverbial good faith of his, we must take his reform proposal one step further and include a number of substantial changes requested by unions among others. I am convinced that, by the time we are through with our committee work, the minister will heed the official opposition's demands.