Mr. Speaker, the first phase amendments to the Canada Labour Code will soon be sent off to receive their rubber stamp from the other place. It also appears that changes to parts I and II of the code will have to wait for another Parliament. Hopefully the next Parliament will be more even handed with the revisions than this one was.
During the debate at report stage I proposed 16 amendments to the bill. Reformers thought these would clarify and improve the legislation. We wanted to give labour and management the mechanism to solve their differences. The government, however, is more interested in courting the favour of the separatists than in bringing in balanced labour laws.
Federal jurisdiction in labour matters is interprovincial and international in scope. While less than a million Canadians work in industries covered by the Canada Labour Code, federally regulated businesses are service oriented and involved in the free movement of goods and services, capital and people across Canada. Because of the unique nature of the federal system, alternative sources are often not available. The operation of these industry sectors are vital to the nation's economy and to the nation's daily functioning.
Canada has a world class transportation system and a communications infrastructure that should not be allowed to become vulnerable to closure. A disruption in the day to day operations of vital transportation sectors would inhibit the functioning of the national economy. The potential impact of even a short disruption of many federal operations would not only be catastrophic to Canadian businesses but to the Canadian economy as a whole.
A strike in either the rail, truck or sectors that service the Canadian automotive industry which has to move its finished products, raw materials and parts throughout North America on a daily basis could also be catastrophic. For example, two million manufacturing jobs depend on the federally regulated sector to provide the services and infrastructure vital to their existence. Many manufacturers operate on the just in time principle and disruption in the source of supply is felt immediately.
For instance, at General Motors over 100 rail cars and 925 trucks deliver components to their Canadian plants daily and over 225 rail cars and 180 trucks are required to ship finished products across the country and United States every day. A work stoppage in these vital sectors affect all GM employees who face layoffs when the parts and components are not available. Companies must be flexible, adaptable and efficient to meet changing conditions and the changing needs of their customers.
The government should be minimizing the intrusions into labour markets and employer-employee relations by passing legislation to ensure that both parties negotiate within an equitable and fair bargaining environment.
Legislation and regulation should help create an environment which encourages economic growth, investment and job creation. Collective bargaining is about compromise and negotiation. We cannot legislate good labour relations.
I would like to talk a while about final offer selection arbitration. This certainly is not the first time I have spoken on that concept in the House. It is interesting to note that the previous speaker, the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, went on and on about the need in his estimation for anti-replacement worker legislation.
With the adoption of final offer selection arbitration there would be no need to have anti-replacement worker legislation. If the two parties could not come to an agreement they would have an agreement imposed on them from one of their positions. We as a party prefer this method to the other one that has been used in the House many times.
When back to work legislation is used as it has been 19 times in the last 20 years, we find that after the parties have been legislated back to work they have to go through final offer arbitration as a result and come to an agreement at that point.
If it is good in one situation why not make it available at the beginning? The parliamentary secretary has agreed with us that the method of legislating workers back to work has not been effective. As a matter of fact in his own words-and I agree with his summation-it encourages both management and labour to depend on back to work legislation.
One of the unique things about final offer selection arbitration is that it does not in any way diminish the negotiation process. It is a tool that will help improve the bargaining process by having both parties get their positions as close together as they possibly can, knowing that if they are too far apart they may be risking a final arbitration decision that would not be anywhere near what they would like.
The thing about a final offer arbitration that makes it rather unique is that while it is there to be used in a situation where the parties cannot agree, the ultimate use of final offer arbitration selection would be not to use it at all. It would encourage the two parties to come to agreement on their own. Any agreement the two
parties can come to on their own is the best possible agreement for all involved.
Stable labour relations will provide investment and reinvestment in a country that does not have what is considered to be by management stable labour relations. Management will be tempted, if not forced, to look to other countries in which to set up their businesses.
Our economy is such that we cannot afford to have job producing businesses move out of the country. It is entirely incumbent on us as legislators to create a climate in which as many people as possible can be kept employed within our borders. We should be encouraging businesses, manufacturers and employers of all kinds to set up shop and employ Canadians. If we do not, we certainly risk our reputation as a worldwide exporter and supplier of goods. We also risk the possibility of employers moving to other countries where labour laws are a little more beneficial to them.
Final offer selection arbitration does not favour one side or the other. It is an equal tool that can be called for by either party. The two parties have to agree on an arbitrator. They have to put forth the respective parts of the agreement that have been agreed and not agreed on and their final positions on the items on which they do not agree.
From that the arbitrator chooses all of one position or all the other position. Through this process the two parties will come as close as they can to an agreement, knowing full well that the arbitrator can select all of one or all of the other. The arbitrator's decision would be binding.
A permanent and fair resolution process must be put in place that is removed from the whims of government. Back to work legislation has become all too predictable. Management and unions have become accustomed to it and in some cases rely on it. Permanent legislation would provide both sides with predictable rules and a timetable by which to negotiate.
We have talked about Canadian jobs. I do not think there is a member of the House who is not concerned about the high rate of unemployment in Canada today. We should all be, as I am sure we are, thinking of ways to ensure that more and more Canadians are employed. The risk to Canadian jobs should be minimized by what happens in the House.
Not only will there be a significant impact on the number of jobs lost in the export sector if disputes cannot be resolved, but jobs at the ports will be at severe risk. We are in a position where shippers and receivers of goods will be looking to other ports if we cannot resolve the issue of work stoppages, particularly on the west coast ports of Canada. We have to compete whether or not we like it with ports along the west coast of the United States, most notably the port of Seattle.
Any interruption in the services covered by part I of the Canada Labour Code can have a very devastating effect on the Canadian economy. There must be some regulation by various levels of government. It is unnecessary to put unnecessary measures in place each time labour and management are unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. That is what has happened in the past. Resolving the differences of the two groups can be achieved without interrupting the regular flow of government proceedings.
We are not talking about doing anything whatsoever to inhibit or endanger the collective bargaining process. We are talking about a way to enhance it and that way is final offer selection arbitration.
Each time we have used back to work legislation in Canada the legislation has the effect of doing what is not supposed to be done in Canada. It takes away the right to strike or to lockout and it usurps the collective bargaining process. That practice should be replaced with final offer selection arbitration.
Some people will see the inclusion of grain and the loading of ships for which the grain is already in port as an improvement. As the previous speaker pointed out, since World War II flour mills and grain elevators have come under federal jurisdiction. They were considered essential to the national interest.
It is a slight improvement that grain at the port will now be loaded on the ships. In other words it is declaring it an essential service of one particular group of people. I am really quite surprised it has not been reported as such by declaring a group of people an essential service.
Under the general terms that grain has been essential to the national interest, many other commodities fit into that category. Potash, coal, sulphur and timber products have a huge impact on the national economy as well. The bill is deficient in that those other commodities are completely absent.
Parliament has been asked or at least felt obligated to end 19 work stoppages in the last 20 years through back to work legislation. Now we find that once the grain reaches port section 87.7 will ensure that it will be loaded. There is no provision whatsoever to ensure that the grain will actually reach the port. Many work disruptions could take place between the farmgate and the port that could tie up the system. The House could be called upon or feel obligated to use back to work legislation again and again.
We should be grateful for half measures, but I do not know why we have to move in half measures. I do not know why we could not
make some changes to the system to keep us competitive with aggressive operating ports like the port of Seattle.
With regard to final offer arbitration, in the national interest final offer arbitration would be a far more effective way to ensure a continuous flow of grain to national markets.
Grain represents about 30 per cent of the business going through the port of Vancouver. I agree with the government that it is a very important commodity. However it is not the only commodity that is important to the national economy. Groups such as the B.C. Maritime Employers Association represent 77 wharf and terminal operators and stevedore firms at Vancouver and Prince Rupert. They fear that the grain provision could worsen the already rocky history of labour disputes at the port. If some longshoremen can keep earning wages for loading grain they might have less incentive to end the strike quickly.
We must maintain our reputation as a reliable shipper of goods. If we do not, I do not have to say how easy it is for our credibility to be damaged and for our customers to look elsewhere. Customers are being wooed by other very aggressive marketers. Their bottom line is that they cannot sit in port waiting for a load. They have to get their load and they have to get it delivered in order to keep paying their employees and to satisfy their customers. We are in a position where we have to compete whether we like it or not with these aggressive and market oriented ports.
It is certainly in our best interest to settle these disputes as quickly as possible and to make sure that whether the ships are arriving for coal, grain, lumber or whatever it is, they are assured that when they get there they are going to get a hold full of whatever they came for and be impressed enough to come back another time.
That fits very well with the government's suggestion that it would like to create jobs and of course it cannot just create jobs out of thin air but it certainly can create an environment in which business and industry can thrive and prosper, and they will certainly create the jobs. Creating jobs is not an end in itself but we have to have a customer to purchase the things that those jobs produce.
In 1994 the west coast port strike was estimated to cost Canadians over $125 million. The indirect costs are to be probably double that. If we were to talk about the possibility of losing grain sales in the future the estimated cost to the Canadian economy could run to $5 billion.
What I am saying is there should be some provision in this bill that protects the economy and the innocent third parties from work stoppages in the public sector for which there is no alternative. We use the public sector to transport our goods or we do not transport them. Canada has a world class transportation system and communications infrastructure that should not be vulnerable to closure.
Some of the witnesses who appeared before our standing committee had some very interesting points with regard to the provision on grain. I would like to quote Donald Downing, president of the Coal Association of Canada: "This amendment cannot be allowed to stand. It discriminates between commodities and makes a special case for one. It suggests the Government of Canada places a priority on special status on grain that would be impossible for us to explain to our valuable coal customers in over 20 countries".
Sharon Glover, senior vice-president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, suggested: "The negative impact of any port dispute is not limited to grain, nor is its economic impact greater than the implication of a port shutdown or the exporters or importers of other commodities including forest products, coal, sulphur, potash and petrochemicals. We firmly believe the inclusion of provisions such as this one that would create an unlevel playing field among various sectors of the economy are unnecessary and not helpful in making Canada an attractive place to invest".
My colleague spoke at length about his thoughts on the need for anti-replacement worker legislation. We are talking about roughly 700,000 employees of Canada when we talk about who the Canadian Labour Code affects.
I would submit for the umpteenth time that if we were to adopt final offer selection arbitration there would be no need to come up with anti-replacement worker legislation.
If the two parties could not agree on the contract or on the items that were up for discussion, they would submit those items to the arbitrator and a solution would be arrived at, knowing full well that if they cannot arrive at a solution one of the parties will ask for an arbitrator to be brought in.
The uniqueness of final offer selection arbitration is that when used to its ultimate it is not used at all. In other words, the parties will arrive at their own solution without any interference from government.
The anti-replacement worker legislation is there, but it is neither fish nor fowl. The government did not declare any services to be essential services and it did not put a ban on replacement workers.
However, this bill gives the power to the Canada industrial relations board to rule whether the use of replacement workers is an infringement upon or undermines the union operation. We all know that the union hierarchy is going to put tremendous pressure on the board to say that any use of replacement workers will be deemed
as undermining the union. Certainly that is going to be the union's position.
The minister has assured us that the appointments to the board are not going to be political, that they based on merit and ability. I very much look forward to that happening. Regardless of the qualifications of the board members, one of the qualifications will have to be strength of purpose because the members will be lobbied long and hard, particularly by the labour movement, to treat this provision as a replacement worker ban.
I do not envy the members of the CIRB their task in any way when it comes to dealing with these provisions. If the government's intention was to have anti-replacement worker legislation, then it should have stepped up to the plate and written it into the legislation.
We have often seen government take this type of approach. It takes an idea from an opposition party and waters it down so badly that the opposition party cannot possibly live with it. Later on government members say "we did our best, we tried to give you what you asked for and you turned it down". That is exactly the position that the Bloc Quebecois will be in when this bill is voted on.
This provision leaves too much control in the hands of the CIRB. Its members will have pressure put on them, particularly by labour and members of the board who come from a labour background. Pressure will be put on the board to view any use of replacement workers as undermining the union.
This does not in any way achieve a balance. The minister has stated that his goal is to achieve a balance. That is a worthwhile goal, but I cannot see how this bill achieves that goal.
Nancy Riche said: "I would go so far as to suggest that anybody who does work of a member of a union undermines the representative capacity of that union. None of the bureaucrats are going to agree with me, but we will have to wait and see. The board will rule".
She is absolutely right about that, the board will rule. On any use of replacement workers, whether it is management or union members who do not agree with the strike and try to cross the picket line, there will be representations to this board and it will have to rule.
Mr. Ed Guest, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, had this to say: "We strongly oppose the proposal contained in the draft legislation to create potential liability for employers who use replacement workers. The proposed legislation injects the Canadian industrial relations board into the dispute and gives only one party the right to take proceedings on the issue, the parties being the union. This, in and of itself, creates a tremendous imbalance in the legislation. A one sided concept preventing an employer from operating by whatever means during a labour dispute removes any notion of a balance in the economic test between parties".
There is that word again, balance. There is another person who suggests that this legislation has not attained the balance that it set out to.
On the subject of off site workers, Bill C-66 gives authority to the CIRB to order an employer to release the names, addresses and other relevant information of off site workers to unions and to those seeking union certification. Having to hand over information on home workers and even give unions access to the company's electronic communication systems raises serious personal privacy and safety issues. Individual rights are being trampled on here by allowing the disclosure of names, addresses and so forth of off site workers.
Many witnesses appearing before the committee expressed concern over the potential for invasion of privacy if unions are given access to employees personal addresses without their approval. That is the key phrase, without their approval. If employees have no concern with having this information given out to union organizations, fine and dandy. It is a contract between the two individuals or the individual and the union. However, if they object they should be allowed to opt out. There is no provision in this legislation for that. We put in an amendment that kind of went the way of all amendments that are put in by the opposition parties in this House. Our amendment had to do with the employer's being given the choice of whether they wanted to have this information shared with the union or not.
On September 3, 1996 the Minister of Labour appointed a $600,000 commission to study the changing workplace, yet another commission. This should be one of the items under consideration that requires consultation and study before implementation. However, the government is intent on having this legislation passed and gone through the other place as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, it would like to get it out of the way this afternoon and get on to other pieces of legislation according to the Order Paper.
However, we believe this does not achieve the balance that the minister seeks. It tips the balance in favour of the union and not the employee or the employer.
Again, I have comments from witnesses. Michael McCabe, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, said: "We believe it is necessary that the union have the ability to contact all employees within the bargaining union. However, we are concerned that nowhere in proposed subsection 109.1(1) does it require that employees' permission to release such personal information be sought and received. If the employer gives the union this information without employee consent, the employer-employee trust and confidentiality relationship will be breached. Further-
more, many employees do not want personal information released for fear of personal safety".
I concur completely. The unions should be allowed to certify and to organize, but it should be done with the complete compliance of the people from whom the information is being sought. It is a very basic question, whether private information about a person should be released by statute or by permission.
Again I would like to quote Mrs. Sharon Glover, senior VP of the Chamber of Commerce: "The provisions dealing with offsite workers, which were not part of the general consultations over the last two years and which appeared in the Simms task force report, should not have been addressed in this legislation".
The Canada Industrial Relations Board, renamed from the Canada Labour Relations Board, has been given vague yet significant powers on replacement workers. It also has to deal with off site workers and successor rights.
The government attempted to rectify the original problem contained in the bill by amending the section dealing with the airline industry. It could not resist, however, adding a provision that would give the cabinet the authority to extend successor rights provisions to any part of the airline sector where the government deemed it appropriate. Once again we have another bill going through the House in which the governor in council has been given sweeping authority and latitude.
We realize that the governor in council must have some latitude. We do not feel it is necessary to deal with every intricacy of every bill. The minister and cabinet should have some latitude. But I believe the airline industry or other sectors gives the minister too much latitude.
In closing, I would like to stress that labour and management must be given the tools to solve their disputes in a fair and equitable manner without the threat of government intervention. As a matter of fact, I often think that if government were to back away from a lot of areas that Canadians would see an improvement in the economy. There is very little incentive to bargain earnestly when back to work legislation is inevitable. It is a fact of life.
I would like to put in another plug for final offer selection arbitration. I know the minister is no fan of final offer selection arbitration, but it could be a solution. Despite what the minister says there is widespread support for it and it would be a great improvement to the labour-management situation.
The purpose of a strike is to force a settlement and final offer selection arbitration is a mechanism which will force a settlement but with the unique attribute that when used to its ultimate, it is not used at all. It encourages parties to reach a solution.
As I have said many times, a solution arrived at by the parties involved is certainly the very best solution for everybody. It puts the onus on both sides, rather than saying: "It really does not matter if we go out on strike or if we are locked out, it will only be for a short duration". I do not think that is productive for anybody.
Final offer selection arbitration does not remove the right to strike. The fact that back to work legislation removes the right to strike should have been taken into consideration here. This legislation should have been rewritten so that it was not necessary to use back to work legislation ever again.
These Canada Labour Code amendments will not be more conducive to business, investment and job creation. Payroll taxes, like labour-management regulations, will raise the cost of doing business and discourage investment. That is a sad thing.