Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this morning to speak again to Bill C-66, an act to amend part I of the Canada Labour Code which was introduced by the Minister of Labour.
I know there will be many more speakers today but I want to congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and the hon. member for Wetaskiwin for putting forward their comments, concerns, suggestions and fears for some of the things that are or are not in this bill. We think this is a very well balanced bill. Although it will not go all the way in doing the things we need to do for the workers and the employers under federal jurisdiction, it will still go a long way.
The legislation has a couple of very important objectives. The first objective is to update the provisions related to the collective bargaining process so it can function more effectively. The second objective is to improve the efficiency with which federal labour law is administered.
I strongly support the bill because I am a firm believer in the collective bargaining process. In my view the bill deserves the enthusiastic support of the House because it is good for workers, it is good for employers and it is good for the Canadian economy.
Members may recall that in November 1994 the federal government issued a document entitled "Building a More Innovative Economy". In this paper the government acknowledged that workplace organization and labour-management co-operation were among the key factors contributing to both employment growth and productivity growth. It states: "Well-trained workers, adaptable work organizations, effective labour-management relations, employment-employee involvement in the enterprise and safe and healthy workplaces all contribute directly to a firm's economic performance and the well-being of individual workers".
In other words, the federal government recognizes that economic betterment and human development depend not only on technological hardware and scientific virtuosity but also on our social relations and our social processes.
The mechanisms set up to deal with political, economic and social conflict are as important to national well-being as the structures built to manufacture robots, produce new software and transport resources. The collective bargaining process has generally worked very well in Canada. Indeed, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has written: "The fact of the matter is that the existing collective bargaining system, imperfect as it might be, has served Canada well in these turbulent times which are dominated by global economic competition and massive restructuring".
In its brief to the Sims task force the Canadian Labour Congress noted that despite complaints and suggestions for improvement, the code's constituents accept the code.
I am sure members have heard many times that the vast majority of collective bargaining settlements are arrived at without a work stoppage. I believe the proportion is over 95 per cent. However, when impasses do occur, the parties have available to them highly skilled, well respected and successful mediators in both the private and public sectors. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has been particularly effective in preventing and in helping to resolve labour-management disputes.
The amendments presented to us by the Minister of Labour are an important investment in the country's social capital. They modernize the federal labour law without altering its basic structure that has the overall support of both labour and management. They will produce a greater efficiency in the administration of law and in so doing will enhance legitimacy of the collective bargaining process.
I will dwell for a few minutes with the code amendments pertaining to bargaining rights. The amendments improve the way employees obtain union representation. An important and timely amendment in this section provides that when an undertaking moves from provincial to federal jurisdiction, say because of a sale, both bargaining rights and the collective agreement will continue.
At the present time the code permits the continuation of bargaining rights in the collective agreement only if the seller and buyer are both in the federal jurisdiction. This change is welcome because of the speed with which capital can move these days.
As the Sims task force report stated "successful businesses rarely remain static". Reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and transfers in leasings in whole or in part of enterprises have become common place. Changes in ownership can occur very quickly and very frequently resulting in changes in jurisdiction.
Members of the task force reported hearing of the use of deliberate steps by some enterprises to change jurisdictions to avoid their bargaining obligations. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It is one thing for a firm's employees to vote not to have a union. It is quite another for a firm to engage in various tricks to evade its bargaining obligations. For this reason I support the amendment.
The second amendment under the general category of bargaining rights has to do with successive contractors. The minister is proposing that an employer succeeding another as provider of preboard security screening services to the air transportation industry be required to pay employees who perform these services the same remuneration the employees of the previous contractor received.
The amendment has been advanced because in the past changes of contractors in this sector have resulted in loss of remuneration and employment at the end of each contract period for workers, many of whom are women and immigrants.
The minister's proposal will deter competition based on who can pay the lowest wage. It will create an even playing field for contractors whose employees are unionized. It will help to reduce turnover rates, an important security consideration in the air transport industry.
The amendment is intended to apply only to security screening the air transportation industry. However on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour the government would be able to extend the application should similar circumstances arise in other federally regulated industries.
Finally, an amendment to the code would allow the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to grant an authorized representative of a trade union a list of the names and addresses of employee that normally work in locations other than the employer's premises.
The board will also be able to authorize a trade union to communicate with those off site employees in whatever is practicable. However, such an access order will have to spell out the necessary conditions under which communications with the employees could take place so that the privacy and the security of the off site workers can be protected.
The amendment is a timely one given the rapid growth of non-standard employment, especially home based employment. It will give workers in the federal jurisdiction a choice. If as a result of the amendment the board grants a labour union access to off site workers, the workers will be able to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented at the collective bargaining table. Right now they are without that choice.
Those are the major legislative proposals regarding workers' bargaining rights. They are fair and reasonable. They deal appropriately with some of the workplace realities of the 1990s. They
will do what they are designed to do, namely to improve the collective bargaining process for all concerned.
I do not think any employer in the federal jurisdiction could in all honesty describe them as onerous. Both workers and employers coming under the Canada Labour Code ought to be pleased with the balance of the amendments brought before the House by the Minister of Labour.