House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


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3:35 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I addressed the question of final offer selection arbitration in a similar way to the hon. member for Mercier earlier in the debate.

The first part of collective bargaining is a matter where management and labour sit down at the table and through best efforts attempt to reach a satisfactory conclusion to both parties. That should happen. They should move through the process and take whatever time it takes to bargain in good faith and attempt to reach favourable conclusions. That is not affected by final offer selection arbitration.

Then we go into mediation. Mediation is the intervention of a third party that informally and without authority tried to bring the two parties together to discuss the issue. The mediator does not have the authority to say do this do that. However it is part of the collective bargaining process. That is good.

Then we get to the point where we could move to arbitration or there could be a vote to strike or a lockout. At that point the third parties, the farmers, the producers of potash or those who wish to ship on the rails, must get their product to market to the commitments in the international market, to keep good faith and to keep a good name by marketing appropriately. When the rail line stops because of a strike or a lockout somebody is affected who is not at the bargaining table so there must be a quick resolution to the problem.

All the labour unions between the farmgate or the potash plant and the coast must understand that at that point in time they are in a special circumstance. That is why we recommend final offer selection arbitration so that an arbitrator can quickly be put in place. The two parties, because they have worked at trying to bring themselves to a final position, will most likely be fairly close. They will be asked to give their final position and the arbitrator will choose a or b . Then there is no strike. The workers and management must accept the arbitrator's decision and the main producer, the farmer who is an innocent third party, is not affected in an adverse manner.

That is the logical way to go.

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3:40 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-66.

There has been a fair bit of discussion today about grain farmers and the problems they face as a result of transportation to the coast and getting their grain loaded on to ships. I thought I would introduce a slightly different perspective to the bill by dealing with a letter I received yesterday from a man in my riding whose name

is Brian Coles. He has been a longshoreman for 32 years. He has a fair amount of experience on the waterfront in Vancouver.

My riding of North Vancouver is on the harbour. There is a major grain terminal in the riding so any stoppages that occur affect the people who live and work in my riding.

Mr. Coles has been a resident of North Vancouver for 21 years. He wrote to me expressing some of his concerns from the union perspective. I thought it only fair that I read his concerns into the record.

In his letter he stated that since the sixties there has not been an opportunity to negotiate in good faith with the BCMEA and that locking out and refusing to let them work the grain has always been the problem even though they have been willing to work the grain. He said they had even sent officials to Parliament at various times to guarantee the grain would be worked and there would be no need to bring in repressive legislation. However he feels it has always been in vain and has always gone the company's way, thereby forcing the government to force them back to work. That has concerned him.

Keeping in mind that this is the union perspective, he feels that the BCMEA has the best of everything. It is the most productive workforce in Canada. It can pick up the telephone 24 hours a day and get any type of tradesman, driver, switchman, machine drivers, labourers, carpenters, anything it wants and also has government as its ally.

He also feels that his counterparts in Montreal, the longshoremen who went on strike for three weeks, have ended up away ahead of them in manning, wages and benefits. He feels he lives in a free and democratic country but it is being run by big business and a Liberal dictatorship. He finished his letter by asking me to clarify my position on the subject and Reform's approach to the whole thing.

It is important to note from this that sometimes a fair amount of tension builds between companies and unions, each believing it is being unfairly treated by the government of the day. That was one of the reasons why the member for Wetaskiwin proposed 16 amendments to the bill. It was felt they would clarify and improve the legislation, not just for the companies and unions but for a lot of the other people who are affected by the bill.

A key factor was giving labour and management the mechanisms to solve their differences. It appears that the government is more interested in courting the favour of the Bloc Quebecois than bringing in balanced labour laws.

We probably all agree that there is a unique nature within the federal system of labour controls because there are not usually alternative sources available for transportation, for example, of grain to the coast or longshoremen to load the ships. If the situation is unique then unique solutions must be found to any problems that develop.

As the member for Wetaskiwin said earlier, Canada has a world class transportation system and a communications infrastructure that can handle the materials when it is working properly. But if trouble develops, then right away major problems appear, whether it is moving materials for General Motors or grain to the coast. It has a dramatic impact on workers right across the country. It does not take long until people are laid off, for businesses to be catastrophically affected. The impact is felt by the entire economy, including the tax and spend government side of the House which loses some income as a result and has to borrow more on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

I read out the letter from Mr. Coles earlier. I mentioned that it was from a union perspective. The companies clearly have their perspective on this as well. It creates a unique problem when tensions build between the company and the union and they cannot solve their problems. They are heading for a strike and the entire country will be affected.

Frankly, legislation that attempts to force solutions really is not satisfactory. If a solution is imposed on one side or the other, all we end up with is a level of dissatisfaction on one side or the other. Good labour relations cannot be legislated. However, government can provide an environment which encourages settlement. It gives a strong incentive to actually go ahead and settle. That was the basis for Reform's proposal that we should have final offer selection arbitration in these cases.

The aim is not to tie the hands of labour or management, but to give them a major incentive to talk together to reach a solution, without this terrible thing hanging over their heads that some mediator is going to come in and do things that are really not for the good of either side.

By giving them the tools to resolve their differences and saying: "Listen, you have the opportunity to sit down and negotiate. You had better come up with your best offer, because if we are going to put you to the final offer arbitration, one side or the other is going to be chosen".

It is in the interests of labour, management, producers and processors that these disputes be resolved without parliamentary intervention if possible. It has to reach crisis proportions for that to happen. It happened in 1994 when the House ended up sitting on a Saturday and Sunday in order to put through the legislation because it was so important to the business of the country.

It is in the interests of all Canadians to have reliable access to essential services. We want to keep employment within our borders and not lose it to the United States. The port of Seattle is very close to us in Vancouver. Every time there is a problem at the Vancouver dockside, and it really does not matter who causes the problem, if the port is shut down Seattle is there trying to get the business. The salesmen are very aggressive at taking business away from us. It is

essential that we keep these jobs in Canada. Everyone agrees on that. That is why it is important that the government provides incentives rather than big sticks to get these situations resolved. As I keep mentioning, the incentive should be there and not a big stick. Final arbitration does not favour one side or the other. It provides the tools needed to come to a very close position, close enough that probably either side could live with the decision in the final offer arbitration.

If and only if the union and the employer cannot come to an agreement by the conclusion of the contract, the union and the employer would provide the minister with the name of the person they jointly recommend as an arbitrator. Then the union and the employer would be required to submit to the arbitrator a list of matters that were agreed on, all the stuff that is finalized. They would have no problems.

Then they would submit a list of the matters that are still under dispute. For the disputed issues, each party would be required to submit a final offer for settlement.

Under most labour negotiations that occur in the private sector outside of federal control, there will be employers or unions who will say that it has made its final offer. We all know that these are often posturing positions, that it is not a final offer. It is sort of a threat. When a strike vote is taken, or a lockout vote is taken, then an endorsement by the employment association or by the union is asked for to have a strike. It helps build the pressure on the other side.

Because this is final offer arbitration, this had better be a final offer. It brings it home to each side that they have to get really focused on what they want to come out of this negotiation.

The arbitrator, of course, would then select either the final offer submitted by the trade union or the final offer submitted by the employer. It is all of one position or all of the other. The arbitrator's decision is binding on both parties.

The point that I made earlier was that because of this, it is a strong incentive to get close together. Probably both parties would make sure that they were giving as much as they could and that they were trying to retain as much as they could, knowing they had to get pretty close together before they submit matters to the arbitrator.

From Reform's perspective, we believe that a permanent and fair resolution process has to be put in place like this to take it away from control by the government. The two parties in this dispute would be selecting their own arbitrator. Then they have complete control of the final position they give to the arbitrator that they have selected. There is no government with a big stick to force one side or the other to take some sort of unpredictable settlement.

The risk to Canadians' jobs would be minimized. The risk of loss of business across the border to Seattle or to some other port in other parts of the United States would be minimized.

We cannot allow the situation to deteriorate as it has in the past. Business does move to the U.S. ports it sees as more reliable and we lose the cargo and jobs in the British Columbia ports.

This government and the one before it have shown that they are in the habit of reacting to emergencies rather than putting in place a workable process that can be used whenever we run up close to an emergency situation. They tend to wait until the crisis is there before they act.

One major advantage of final offer arbitration is that it is already there. It is already in place. It is a known end to the process. It does not require Parliament to be called on an emergency basis when everything is in crisis to pass things in the middle of the night or on a weekend. It certainly does not interrupt the business of the House for other matters and keeps the level of upset in the business community to a minimum.

It is important to stress that we are not talking about ending the collective bargaining process. We are talking about making it work better so that the incentive is there to come close together before both sides get to an arbitration point.

Now the minister unfortunately says that he does not support the final offer arbitration situation. I guess that is par for the course. Maybe he is just opposing it because the idea came from the Reform.

It is quite amazing how often good ideas are promoted by people in the business sector or by the average Canadian. We bring the issues to the House only to find that they are opposed by ministers even though many members on the government side support the positions that we take. It raises the question of how democratic this place is when those sorts of good ideas can be suppressed by one or two people running the whole show.

My riding has some major grain elevators, and a lot of pigeons as a result. Maybe Census Canada, instead of wandering around trying to fine people for not filling out their census forms, should take a count of the pigeons in my riding. I think they would get a surprise. I guess one benefit of a strike is that the number of pigeons decrease because they run out of food for a little while.

Grain shipments are very important to my riding but other shipments go through the port as well. Potash, sulphur and wood chips are major shipments that occur in the area. There is a large sulphur depot on the north shore and in Port Moody from where I

believe potash goes as well. Therefore, disruptions in the transportation system do affect other sectors.

I am aware that many of the members on the Reform side of the House are from rural areas where they are involved with farming interests so there has been quite a lot of talk about those farming interests in the discussion on the bill. However, it affects many other industries when the port is locked up for some reason.

Clause 87.7 of the bill ensures that grain, once it reaches the port, will be shipped out. However there is no provision to ensure that the grain gets to the port. What is the point of having a provision in the bill which states that the grain will be shipped out once it gets there when there is no provision for it to actually get there in the first place? That is a major flaw in bill and makes one wonder how such a half measure could get in there. Maybe someone was not thinking straight when the legislation was drawn up.

As part of the national interest, perhaps final offer arbitration would have been a more effective tool to ensure the movement of grain to the markets and to ensure the movement of other commodities as well.

We know that technology is advancing all the time. There is going to be a new generation of container vessels soon surfacing at Vancouver's new terminal. It will require 15 double stacked trains for complete discharge or loading. These are huge volumes of rail cars and huge volumes of products that have to be moving to service these ships. With the improved technology, the grain can be loaded quickly and the port will be empty and idle before a 72-hour strike-lockout notice would appear if we were to remain under the old situation.

Grain represents about 30 per cent of the port of Vancouver's business so it is very important that we consider grain along with the other commodities.

Groups such as the BCMEA-I guess I should really expand that out so that people know the meaning of the acronym-the British Columbia Maritime Employer's Association represents about 77 wharf and terminal operators and stevedoring firms at Vancouver and Prince Rupert. They fear that the grain provision would worsen an already rocky history of labour disputes at the port and this bill has not addressed the problems. They feel that if some longshoremen can keep earning wages for loading grain they might have less incentive to end a strike quickly.

Grain customers are using United States ports like Seattle where they know that the commodity will be delivered as promised. We cannot ignore the threats from ports that are so close to Vancouver. With Vancouver now being the largest port in terms of volume for Canada, we really have to make sure we have stability and can deliver on our promises. Therefore, as we gradually eliminate government subsidies, farmers are not really captive to Canadian ports and transportation systems any more. All parties to this, the port employers and the unions, have to recognize the fact that there is decreasing incentive for farmers to keep using these routes if they are unreliable. We have to make sure that we put in place something reliable. Final offer arbitration would be one of those things.

I could move on to other topics in more detail, but at this point I should wind up and give members a bit of an opportunity to question me on some of the provisions in the bill.

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4 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.


George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment briefly on my colleague's speech regarding the man who wrote him a letter dealing with the longshoring industry. He can assure the gentleman that the bill resolves the question he was asking.

For years longshoremen said they would look after longshoring activities while the grain handlers loaded the vessels and BCMEA or whatever the company was would not allow them to do it. That now is part of the process of the bill. The bill allows that to happen. They have to look after the grain vessels.

I have heard a lot of talk today from my colleague from Wetaskiwin and others on the final offer selection. People in labour and management call this the one armed bandit of labour-management relations. However the bill does not impose conventional or final offer selection. It expressly recognize the right of the parties to agree if they want to. If they want to agree to it, it is there for them. If it is as good a way of resolving the situation as I hear expressed across the way, certainly they can agree to do it.

This resolves the question of the man who wrote the letter as far as longshoremen doing the work. Now they will be able to do that.

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4 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether or not to thank the member for the intervention but I can certainly answer the questions.

He said that the bill resolves the question that was in the mind of my constituent who wrote the letter. That must be a Liberal view of the bill. I will quote again from the letter that says quite clearly:

I thought I lived in a free and democratic country. However I believe it is run by big business and a Liberal dictatorship.

I do not think that my constituent is convinced that the Liberals have acted in his best interest in this bill. It is certainly not the way he sees it.

The member also mentions that the bill recognizes the ability of the parties to agree to final offer arbitration if they want to. There is

ample evidence that when there is a bit of friction between a company and its union as bargaining time approaches for a contract it is not easy for them to agree on anything. If in the traditional way their "final offer" is not a final offer but is part of the posturing that goes on as they come to a final offer, we could hardly expect them to agree to final offer arbitration.

If the government had put that in the bill and they knew they had final offer arbitration at the end of the process, their final offer will truly be a final offer. It really is the incentive to make it the final offer.

By just saying to them that they can agree to final offer arbitration if they want to, we can see what would happen. Let us say the union side truly comes up with its final offer. It knows it cannot budge. It says to the employer that it would like to go for final offer arbitration. In the meantime the employer has done the posturing thing and has put forward a final offer that is not really the final offer. Of course they do not want to agree to final offer arbitration. We see the conundrum that results immediately.

Including that provision is a non-issue. It must actually be in the bill that the process ends with final offer arbitration so that we get to final offers. I think that answers the question.

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4 p.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, certainly my colleague is very familiar with the port of Vancouver and the immense amount of goods shipped through there to various places all over the world. Therefore, how does he view the special status afforded to grain that the bill allows for? How does he see it affecting other products that are certainly important to B.C. and the Canadian economy as a whole?

Both forest products and the petrochemical industry are similar to grain as far as their impact on the Canadian economy and on the value added industries they spawn is concerned.

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4:05 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising this point. Earlier in my speech I mentioned the special status of grain. It is true that many other commodities are moved through my riding and loaded at the port. He mentioned some, but the ones I can think of are coal, sulphur, wood, lumber products, potash, petrochemicals and grain.

Many constituents have asked me what is going on and why the bill gives special provision to one commodity while the rest are being ignored for some reason. I cannot suppose for the government side why it made this decision, but there is always a feeling that because many of these other products are B.C. based maybe the west is being picked on again. I should not say that. I am sure it was just an accident that those things were left out of the bill. The government simply has no idea what happens at a port. It never realized that coal, sulphur, wood, potash, petrochemicals and a lot of other things went out of that port along with grain.

That is clearly an area that needs to be addressed. It is very distressing the government has not dealt with it. A sense of frustration is felt not only by me but by my constituents and certainly the companies and workers in my riding.

I thank the member bringing that matter to the attention of the House.

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4:05 p.m.


Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the changes to the labour code proposed by the government under Bill C-66 which will affect about 700,000 workers in federally regulated industries.

I oppose the legislation because it attacks the wrong problem. The problem as government members see it is labour disputes that must be dealt with in a specific way. It will be much better in the long run to deal with the real problem, the existence of federally regulated industries.

Let me summarize my argument. Unions exist to get higher wages for their members. They might often say they just want job security and all kinds of other goodies like work regulation and safety. All that can be translated into higher income. Basically unions exist to benefit workers.

It is true by definition that if enterprises are suddenly required as a result of unionization to pay higher wages to their workers the extra money must come from somewhere. There are only four logical possibilities.

First, the money that has to be paid to workers could come from the profits. An old ideological position is that it is a struggle between capitalists and the working class. Many people will know this position will not likely have a very strong effect. If the profits of companies are squeezed too much it may seem as if they are stuck where they are at the moment, but the fact is that they can always leave. More important, in a region in which unions are very strong factories simply will not be established. There will be no investment. The extent to which higher wages going to the worker come from profits is extremely limited. In some types of industries it is more possible than others. I will explain that in a moment.

The second possibility is that the employer simply raises the prices of the product and services produced by the unionized firm that suddenly faces higher labour wages. Under those circumstances the benefits to workers come directly from the consumer. It would tend to be consumers of only a very small proportion of the product. Therefore it does not totally come out of their pockets.

If everyone in society were unionized and insisted on higher wages it is quite clear there would be higher prices and the gains made by workers with the higher nominal wages would be wiped out by what they had to buy. This kind of situation existed in countries like Sweden where unionization was almost universal, at which point there had to be tripartite agreements between government, industries and workers to ask how they could prevent this cycle of inflation from taking place.

The third way in which workers can be compensated when they insist on higher wages is at the expense of other workers. In a sense the higher costs of production due to the higher unionized wages are passed on in higher prices. It is the consumers who pay in the end for the workers whose union action brought higher wages.

The other possibility is that workers induce a substitution of capital for labour so that the company will make the same profits and will not have to pass on higher costs through higher prices for their output. They would save labour. As a result the workers in the industry before the wages were raised are now thrown into the non-unionized sector where, if they are to be absorbed, they get lower wages. This is what economists have found. Everything else remains the same between industries. The workers who are unionized have 10 per cent to 15 per cent higher wage rates than those who are not unionized.

When a union is squeezing a higher wage out of an employer through unionized action, where does the money come from? It comes in some industries from government.

There is no sense for any reasonable government in the industrial world to attack the activities of unions, as self-serving as they are. The right to organize and the right to try to get more money for their members are such ideological issues that any government which tried to confront the ability of unions to do so directly would suffer greatly. It is a cause that makes workers go to the barricades. People have been prepared to die for the cause. It is not worth any government taking on the unions directly, but society has an option to strictly limit the power of the unions by certain policies. The policy which I would recommend is to remove situations where there is an unlimited pot of money or a very large pot of money. That large pot of money has been created by government policy itself.

I would like to elaborate on that basic idea by considering that unionization can take place in four analytical classes of industries.

The first business that I would like to discuss involves small privately owned firms, where entry is easy. A lot of capital is not required. They typically have no more than ten employees. It is a mom and pop shop, a tailor or even a small manufacturer of drapes or whatever is locally produced.

In that kind of business everyone is just scraping by. Often the employers are just making enough money to stay in business. They do it because they feel that someday they might hit it big or they like to have their freedom. They are their own bosses. If these people rationally calculated how many hours they work and what their income is, they would realize that they work for very little money. They could probably earn more on the outside.

When I return to the university and to the Fraser Institute after the next election, a study of small business will be one of the projects which I hope to undertake. I want to know what makes them such good employers and what they give to society.

Unions in the small business sector are non-existent. Why? Everyone knows that if they unionize those small shops to get a higher wage the employer might just throw in the towel and leave. He is not making enough anyway. Alternatively, the company could be driven out of business because it cannot pass on higher wages through higher prices. Try to sell ice-cream, shoes or drapes at a higher price than the neighbour charges. They would be driven out of business.

The second category of business that I would like to discuss is where they have a small element of monopoly power. For example, the steel industry used to have a certain amount of monopoly power. I say used to have. So did the automobile industry. That was before transportation costs fell dramatically and before technology spread throughout the world at the push of a button.

In the past those kinds of industries had what we call an oligopoly position. They were protected by natural processes in the economy. The cost of transportation was high. There was limited entry because of the scale that was required to build an automobile factory or a steel factory. Under those circumstances workers were somewhat successful in organizing because they were able to drive up the price and the price could be passed on. The price of steel in an automobile is still relatively low and automobile prices are not affected if unions in the steel industry raise the price a bit.

In the sixties, seventies and into the eighties we had huge, very disturbing strikes in the steel and automobile industries. They are gone. The reason is there are no oligopoly profits and there are no opportunities to pass on increases in the cost of production through higher product prices. That is because of free trade. It is because of the low cost of transportation.

We have now a very strict limit on the power of unions. Even international unionization has been shrinking where it was once almost universal. Even in Canadian industries where this is the

case, they have strong limits on their ability to push through the benefits that they think their union members deserve.

The third category in which unions have been very powerful in the past were industries in which there exists what we call economic rent. Economic rent is a surplus in the value of a product above the cost of production. This typically is found in natural resource industries.

Let us take gold. A gold mine may have a cost of production of $100 an ounce but the price that the gold fetches is $450. The question is what to do with the $350. It is in industries like these that unions were strong because they wanted a bigger share. It can be applied to copper, to tin, to whatever can be mined.

It was also true in the B.C. forest industry. We inherited from nature, undisturbed for millennia, for hundreds of thousands of years, mature forests where it might cost $3,000 to cut down a tree but the price would be $10,000. The government did not at that point try to get that $7,000 but took only the residual of whatever the cost of production was.

It can be imagined that under those circumstances, unions were happy to go on strike and the employers were happy to give in to get a bigger share of that $7,000 difference between what it costs to cut down the tree and get it to market and the $10,000 it sold for. That is how British Columbia in the post war years got itself the highest wages in the forestry industry anywhere in the world.

The honeymoon of natural resource industries has ended. There are very few resources left right now where it is possible for unions to tap into this economic rent. The power of unions in British Columbia has decreased and is decreasing continuously with the disappearance of this economic rent.

I now would like to turn, as my time is winding down, to the fourth category of industries where unions are powerful. The most powerful unions are typically found in industries that have a deep pocket. Who has the deepest pocket? The government.

Therefore government owned industries typically have the strongest unions. When they raise the wages of their members, who pays for them? Not at the cost of capital. It is sometimes through higher prices but it is typically, simply at the cost of subsidies.

The world has realized that this is the case and that is why everywhere in the industrial world we have privatized those industries that previously had been owned and run by government. Subsidies have ended but there is a very subtle additional area that we are now talking about, industries that are regulated by the state.

In Canada we still have 700,000 workers employed in this sector. Here the action is subtly different. Regulation means that the firms are allowed to operate a monopoly. They have the protection from the state that there will be no competition. For example, the airlines used to be that way. Courier services are that way. There are 700,000 workers still working in this kind of field.

We now know from studies that as a result of the monopoly guaranteed by the government and the regulation, costs in the airline industries around the world rose dramatically.

I will never forget started it all, the deregulation movement in the United States which spread to Canada. There were airlines that flew between states and therefore were subject to federal communications agency regulations. However, there were some that were not regulated because they were intra-state flights.

What we had as a result of this was that a flight between Boston and Washington D.C. cost exactly twice as much as a flight between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The former was regulated and the latter was unregulated.

How does regulation affect the whole situation? What happens is that the pilot unions say: "My responsibility for flying a 747, which costs $100 million, is very large. I am responsible for the lives of 500 passengers. I shall not take on this job unless I am paid $300,000 a year". At that point the employer says: "No, you cannot have $300,000, $250,000 is enough. No, you have to take a strike". What did they do? After a song and dance, very occasionally taking a strike, the employer said: "Sorry, here is your $300,000". The civil aviation board now has to raise prices because its costs have gone up. That is how we got double the cost of tickets in the regulated and non-regulated sector.

It is quite clear that what we have in Canada with 700,000 workers being subject to such regulations is they are facing exactly the same incentives as do the regulated airline industries. Imagine if the Canadian regulations would allow the diversion of wheat board exports to any harbour on the west coast other than Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Does anyone think that the unions would have as strong a position as they have now? No way. They would know, almost like the guys in the small shops, that if he strikes his business will go away and there will be fewer jobs in the end.

My conclusion is that Bill C-66 is attacking a symptom when we have a much more serious malady which is regulation and government ownership in industries where as a result there is practically no competition. Let us restore competition and see what happens to the power of unions. That is the way to go.

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4:25 p.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the Reform Party member for Capilano-Howe Sound.

It is distressing in 1997 to hear what could, if we were not afraid of calling a spade a spade, be described as an anti-union plea.

Among other things, the hon. member is critical of unions for defending their own interests. If unions do not defend the interests of workers, who will? Employers? The government? I do not think so. If unions do not have the right to defend workers' interests, what then are businesses defending, within their corporations and within chambers of commerce?

Does the member for Capilano-Howe Sound not think that the pay of unionized employees has an upward effect on the pay of non-unionized employees? I think it does, and I think it absolutely essential that it do so.

Does he think that by keeping workers at minimum wage, he is helping to put money in the pockets of the men and women of this country? In the end, if people are not paid fairly for the work they do, what must be put in place? A social safety net to help offset the poverty created by businesses that do not pay their workers fairly. I therefore presume that the member for Capilano-Howe Sound is also against the establishment of a minimum wage.

I ask him one last question. Do we really need businesses that are unable to pay their employees fairly? I say we do not. If businesses are unable to pay a fair wage, they have no right to exist, because they are generating poverty.

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4:30 p.m.


Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. One would expect it from someone representing a union.

The question to me is what is fair or give an operational definition of fair. I do not know what it is, but I do know that if we provide conditions where there are no deep pockets we can let the unions fight it out.

I am not against unions. I am against, as in the case of the wheat transportation agency, a monopoly protection being granted to an industry, to a bunch of workers who then take the power given to them by the state and exploit others.

There is always the belief that wages would not increase if it were not for unions. I sat next to a gentleman on a flight to Vancouver last week. He was being sent by his Canadian company to Singapore. He was telling me about the business they had there. One of its biggest problems was that every year it had a turnover of 30 per cent to 40 per cent of its workers. He said they get their training from his company and then go to better jobs. I said there was a solution and he agreed that the company would have to pay higher wages.

This is how in a free and competitive economy the wages of workers rise. If a company cannot get the quality of workers it wants to stay remain with the company, it has to pay higher wages. If the company lags behind and does not pay enough it will not get them. It is as simple as that.

I do not know whether the company was unionized, but it costs the employer to train the workers. It has to make a very careful calculation between the extra cost of training people who then leave and paying higher wages and having fewer leave. There is a very nice calculation which at some point indicates it is worth the company's while to have higher wages and less turnover.

That is how in a free society the average living standards of workers rise without any government help. It is just a natural process without, I might say, interminable wrangling over the definition of what is fair. What is a fair wage? Something that might be fair to one member may not be fair to another. How do we know?

By all means the answer is unions. Let them be allowed to organize but remove as much as we possibly can the monopoly powers granted to them and their employers through government. In my judgment that is the way to stop the deplorable situation of our transportation system being periodically paralysed by strikes.

If workers knew of an alternative way of moving the goods they would be very much more reluctant. Either they would drive the company out of business or it would be diverted so that the business would continue to operate at a much lower level. All the workers would be laid off and would put pressure on the union to be reasonable.

I have used a somewhat different approach to solving a problem that has plagued the House. In my training as an economist and having thought about the issues for a long time, I believe it is best solution possible for all of us.

Whether government is doing it in this session or the next one I predict herewith that this will be the trend around the world to make unions serve both their members and the interest of society as a whole.

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Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague outlined his position very well. He indicated there were four categories of industry on which his principles would apply. Those seem to be somewhat traditional industries. He applied deregulation, less government ownership and competition in the marketplace as solutions to the problem.

The Minister of Human Resources Development talked about the new economy relative to unemployment insurance and so on. I know my colleague is a rather futuristic thinker. In terms of the technological world we are facing, the different kinds of world communications and the spatial arrangement of workers in the

workplace, do the principles he enunciated apply, or is there something more futuristic the member could suggest to the House?

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Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleague to look at an article that appeared in the Globe and Mail a couple of weekends ago wherein the issue was discussed. There is a wide diversion of opinion but basically unemployment is not caused by technological change or union action. I come down on that side. It is caused by the existence of generous welfare programs. That is a widely accepted view among a large portion of economists.

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Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate what has been said many times today to make sure everyone understands. The legislation we are debating deals with the federal labour code. It does not deal with provincial codes. However, things set in motion at one level of government often eventually see their way to the other end.

I come from British Columbia, a very strong labour province with an NDP government. When it is not in power the NDP represents the unions. It talks about the rights of workers and all the great things it will do for them. However, once the NDP takes power it often finds its policies have changed considerably and it does not represent the people it claimed to represent before getting there. Such has been the case in British Columbia.

When we talk in terms of unions we go back to their history and ask ourselves if they are necessary. Historically unions were not only necessary but absolutely essential. The conditions under which workers toiled were absolutely deplorable. In eastern Canada, in one case I read, in the last century if workers banded together to ask for a raise they could be sent to jail. Those were conditions that people worked under in Canada.

There was child labour and slave labour. There were improper breaks. Working conditions were dangerous, totally unhealthy and unsafe. The wages were such that a person could not eke out a meagre living. The unions when they came in were absolutely necessary.

The model of a union is very simplistic. The workers band together as a group, go to the employer and ask for conditions that are safe or wages that allow them to live. If their demands are not met they withdraw their work until such time as the company listens and grants them a reasonable wage or better working conditions.

Time moved on and that model continued. It continues basically unchanged today. It started in North America in the 19th century and now, as we are about to move into the 21st century, we are still working with that same model.

One of the many attributes of Reform Party members is that we listen to what constituents have to say. We listen to what different groups in our society have to say. Not only do we differ from other parties, but from time to time we differ within our own party. We represent the things we were elected within our various ridings to represent, having in mind the common goal of Canada.

In my riding of Kootenay West-Revelstoke, in southeastern British Columbia, there are two very big companies and two sets of unions at each company. As well there is considerable union organization throughout the workforce in other areas.

I have sought out these union groups and have talked to them at length about the various problems they are facing. Union popularity is falling. Right or wrong union popularity and membership are falling. The pendulum has swung a little too far to the other side for some unions but not for all, not by any stretch of the imagination. For a few very powerful unions the pendulum has swung too far. My hon. colleague from Capilano-Howe Sound alluded to some of them. All unions are tainted when a couple of unions get too powerful and demand too much.

I talked to them about alternatives to this model and why we are going into the 21st century using a 19th century model for labour dispute settlements.

One principal item the legislation the government is bringing forward deals with is the banning of replacement workers. I cannot speak for all members of my party, but I can say from my perspective that I am not in favour of replacement workers. I agree with the concept of not allowing replacement workers. The reason is that union workers, if they are on strike, cannot replace the company. Then why should the company be able to replace the workers if the kind of system to be used is one where either the employees withdraw their services or the company locks them out? It seems absolutely ludicrous that a company could lock out employees and simply go to other people.

The greater problem is that strikes in themselves do little good for anyone. It is an economic battle between the employer and the employee. Unless there is something very lucrative at the end or huge concessions neither side wins. The greater loser is all the collateral damage it does. When we talk about it from the federal perspective in terms of the transportation system in particular the losses are catastrophic.

There are not only the losses. We talk in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars while those strikes are under way with the loss of confidence by foreign purchasers of our products and our goods and our services who start to think perhaps they should not order from Canadian companies because there are too many strikes and they may not get what they need when they need it. They better look at some area that is more reliable.

One of the ironies of the government's putting in a restriction on replacement workers is the government knows full well that if it sets up some kind of legislation which ends up in a full blown strike with both sides at an absolute impasse, it would legislate everybody back to work.

What it is really doing is setting itself up to have more power in terms of legislating ends to strikes. What happens? We have a grain shipment strike. The government legislates the grain handlers back to work. We have a longshoremen strike in the harbours. The government legislates them back to work. It has done so in British Columbia twice in this Parliament. The rail companies go on strike. The government legislates them back to work.

The government has made one error in its philosophy. For years the air traffic control system, the air navigation system, was under federal law. During that time air traffic controllers were not allowed to strike. Technically they were allowed to strike but they were all designated in the event of a strike. They had to go to work. They had to do their normal designated duties. That was the government's idea of how to allow a strike. What it is doing is either playing games with the unions, pretending to help them when the reality is it is doing the exact opposite, or it has just not thought out this legislation very well at all.

The public has certain notions. We build a lot of our laws, our regulations and our policies based on this perception by the public. It is absolutely unthinkable to have the concept of a policeman standing on the sidewalk watching somebody being mugged, raped or murdered and doing nothing because they are on strike. The public will not accept that. The police understand this and they too accept that they are an essential service. Consequently no one sees that situation occur.

It is equally unthinkable for a group of firemen to stand on the sidewalk watching someone's house burn down, perhaps with a small child still inside and not do something about it. They are very important. They are an essential service. Those firemen accept this and the public has a right to expect that kind of service.

How do we deal with these people? Look at a smaller company. I do not want to name one because no matter which one I name, I take risk of offending the industry. If there is something of lesser importance than those two examples it can be said that it is all right for the employer and the employee to have the economic tug of war to see who could do without wages or corporate revenue long enough to be declared the winner.

Generally that is where the struggle is. There is some collateral damage in terms of the family of the workers or perhaps if it is in a small town, some of the other businesses, because some of the local spending is down. However, primarily it is between that company.

Essentially what we are saying is that because they are not important we will let them withdraw services, lock their employees

out, let them have this economic tug of war and may the richest person win, because that is what it is sometimes almost amounts to.

There is something terribly wrong with the system. It says that police, firemen, air traffic controllers, because they are important, their right to have a strike will be restricted. Other companies, because they are of lesser importance, will be allowed to have it.

Then there are those in the middle, like the rail companies. They are allowed to go on strike for a while and then we say this has gone on long enough. We have made our point. We cannot let them strike. We legislate them back.

If there is an essential service, there needs to be a mechanism that ensures that they are dealt with fairly. If something can be brought up that truly is fair, why not apply it to all people.

I mentioned earlier that I have sought out union groups and I have asked for their input. I have spoken to them about alternatives to the dispute settlement mechanism of a lockout or strike.

When we talk about final offer selection arbitration a lot of people think we are completely subverting the whole negotiation process. It has been mentioned but perhaps it needs to be clarified. When we talk in terms of final offer selection arbitration all the other mechanisms of collective bargaining still exist. They still go through the whole negotiation process. They can have conciliation. If they agree they can have arbitration. They can have virtually anything they agree to. But there has to be something at the end of the day when negotiations break down, when all other means have been exhausted, that they use for that final dispute settlement mechanism.

Some of the union leaders I have spoken to point out that rarely in the event of collective bargaining do unions end up in a strike position. He is absolutely right, but it is those times when they do that cause the problem. Their argument is that the reason they rarely end up going on strike is the hammer, the hammer known as the strike.

We have to reinvent the hammer. I believe that the new hammer should be final offer selection arbitration. It has been spoken of at length today. Perhaps if we speak of it long enough and often enough the government might finally start to listen to it. It is a workable solution.

If someone has something better, I am certainly prepared to listen to it. That is what I have been saying to the union groups and the corporate groups that I have talked to about this.

As has been pointed out, they still negotiate, go through the process and try to move as close as possible. What invariably happens where final offer selection arbitration is used is usually each party knows that if they are too far away from the norm of

where they should be, then they are likely to lose when this is submitted to the arbitrator.

If industry standards, for example, suggest that a company should pay a $1 raise to its workers and the company says it will give them 90 cents and the union says it wants $3.75, if that goes to arbitration the company will win. If, however, the company says it actually cannot afford to give a raise this year and was thinking of asking employees to take a cut but is prepared to sign at the same rate, and under those circumstances the union asks for $1.35, the union would prevail.

What happens is both the union and the company know this and they move much closer together, often to the point where they may ultimately finally agree to settle. That is often the case.

I have heard people argue the concept that perhaps that works if it is just wages or it is just something else. But they are afraid of what will happen is the company will offer a big raise, something that is equal to or which even slightly exceeds the industry standard that they are entitled to. The company will offer the hours that they want and several other advantages but it will slip something else in with no particular monetary value that would be catastrophic for them to lose and they lose that.

There is nothing that says that in a model to be set up for final offer selection arbitration those items cannot be separated. There is nothing that says it has to be done all in one full package.

These are things that need to be determined if the government would ever become willing to give meaningful discussions and debate to the concept of considering final offer selection arbitration.

What happens too often is we end up in an antagonist position where people have to take one side or the other. What happens too often with unions is unions get their back up and all companies are bad and the companies in turn get their back up and all unions are bad. This is the method by which we approach it.

There is an old theory in psychology, theory X and theory Y. Theory X says everybody is lazy and everybody does not want to work and on and on. Theory Y says the exact opposite. These sort of ideas were really pushed hard in past decades, suggesting that the only way we can have workers work is to squeeze them. Most people want a decent job. They want a decent wage.

Now in this time of restraint most people recognize you can only push a company so far and a lot of concessions have been made by unions. With certain exceptions, unions are getting a bad rap, just as some companies are. During a time of restraint, of unemployment, of all kinds of problems in our economy, there are chartered banks reporting profits of over a billion dollars. They are coming out and saying "this year it is even bigger, we are doing better and we are so happy about it that we are giving $1 million to $3 million salaries to our presidents".

No wonder people get their backs up. No wonder people start talking about rich corporations and how we should go on strike and force them to pay more. Just as a couple of militant unions can taint the unions, a couple of greedy corporations can taint the corporate side. Most jobs out there are not high income corporate jobs but regular companies struggling to continue to make a living in a time of economic restraint and recession. This is the kind of attitude we have to come up with.

That is why we have to move to something that provides an alternative to this confrontational type of approach to labour settlement. "You give me this money or I will withdraw my services. You take this cut in wages or we are going to lock you out". That was a 19th century solution. We are going into the 21st century; we need a new solution.

I call on the government to consider this whole concept of final offer selection arbitration. I have never heard a meaningful discussion from the government side on this topic. I would love to have some input. I trust the parliamentary secretary to the minister will make an appropriate question or comment to this to the effect that the government will open meaningful dialogue and discussion on this. That would be progress, and progress is much better than playing games.

I fear the Liberals are playing games with this legislation. They put in provisions to make unions stronger while they recognize and by example demonstrate that they are going the opposite way. They set them up so they can go on strike but legislate them back once they do. They are playing cat and mouse. They are putting a bandage on a serious labour hemmorhage. We have to solve some of the problems in this country instead of continuing to put band-aids on them.

If the Liberals are really concerned about the workers why did they hike the Canada pension plan by 70 per cent? This is an enormous hike in costs to employees. Why would they do such a thing at a time when they are saying that they are going to do something good for workers, that they are going to give them more power so they can go out on strike and demand higher wages? They have just put the need for a demand for a $700 raise on all the workers in this country and said "We are going to take your money. We are going to take an extra $10 billion out of the economy just for the Canada pension plan payroll tax alone, but we are going to strengthen the labour code so you can go on strike and extract that from your employers".

If the government wanted to do it right, it should not have put that on in the first place. I look forward to the comments of the parliamentary secretary saying he will consider final offer selection arbitration.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following therefor:

"Bill C-66, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be not now read a third time but it be read a third time this day six months hence".

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The Deputy Speaker

The motion is acceptable.

Before going to questions and comments, I have to get this in before five o'clock.

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The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Frontenac-bovine somatrotopine.

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Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest, as I always do, when my friend from Kootenay West-Revelstoke speaks. I was very pleased to hear that he has taken the time to speak with and to ask for advice and glean information from the union members in his constituency. After all, they are his constituents.

I heard him say that we have to look for alternatives to the system we have now which seems to pretend nothing is happening and then, when the services of the workers are withdrawn or they are locked out, then the federal government gets in a sweat and recalls Parliament if necessary and brings in back to work legislation along with a final settlement to the situation.

Final offer arbitration was not recommended in the Sims report because it was felt it created a loser-winner scenario. However, I would like to ask my colleague if he would comment on the winner-loser scenario as may be set up when back to work legislation and arbitration is imposed on the parties.

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Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to speak on that variance and the winner-loser concept in normal labour negotiations as well.

One of the problems that occurs is that when we talk in terms of the power of the union moving from the oppressed to, in some cases-and I stress not all of them but a few certain unions-the oppressor deals with whether or not we are in an inflationary time or are we recessionary time.

In an inflationary time the unions are very powerful. As my colleague from Capilano-Howe Sound said, when this cash flow is coming in the unions can demand a larger portion of it. Those are the times when the unions say they want more. They may be justified in saying that in some cases because they took it on the chin during the last recessionary time, but right now we are in a recessionary time. The companies are saying that it is now their turn. They are saying that they can now drive the union wages down, ask for concessions, ask for cuts and ask people to do twice as much work with half as many people. They can ask for all kinds of things. It does not mean they are always going to get it but they can ask.

Curiously, my colleague from Wetaskiwin made a comment on the fact that I have taken the time to go out and speak to the unions. The results that I have received from these discussions are that there is always a bit of hesitation about something new and different. We all have that. It goes into every aspect of our life.

However, union members are saying it has some merit. They are interested in it because most of them are looking for a reasonable alternative to going on strike, losing wages and the problems associated with their families. They do not like putting companies in jeopardy which, in some cases, strikes do.

Interestingly, because we are in a recessionary period, when I go to the companies and talk to them, the larger companies say they are not really sure if they like that. They think the system is working just fine because the pendulum happens to be at a certain point. One thing about a pendulum, it continues to move back and forth.

There is no right time in the future. The right time to make these kind of changes is now. If we wait until the companies say yes, the pendulum is over here now and we can do it. Then the unions will be saying no. It has to be brought in. In the long term I believe both companies and unions will benefit from it. Unions will still have the full right of collective bargaining.

All we are changing is the final dispute mechanism. Companies will have the surety of knowing when they sign a contract they will be able to fulfil the contract and that any change in the conditions of employment for the workers will be dictated by the marketplace, by the ability of the company to pay, by similar wages in comparable industries, all the different factors that can be put in. All kinds of safeguards can be put into this and that is the direction we have to move.

I welcome the question from my colleague but I am disappointed that I did not hear comments from the other side suggesting that they would look favourably on some of the things we have been talking about today.

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Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like thank the member for a very enlightening answer. I have one further question. When he is

talking to union people in his riding, as he indicated he has done, is it the fact that the unions are looking for higher wages at this point or is it as I suspect that job security and simply having a job in these difficult economic times is one of the things that the organized labour people are really looking at present.

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Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, job security is very big for people nowadays. For most job security is bigger than wages. Overall, if we want to put a broader title on it, people are looking for justice. It pervades every aspect of our life and it is no different in the workplace. People want a just wage. A just wage is one that will sustain them, that the company can afford to pay because they do not want to be the highest paid unemployed workers in my riding. They want to have a good liveable wage that will sustain their jobs. These things go hand in hand. They can have job security by working for $1 an hour but they want job security at a sustainable wage under reasonable working conditions.

Yes, there are a few radicals who would ask for the moon. And yes, there are a few companies out there who exploit workers every opportunity they get. Most are prepared to work together. Our problem is a confrontational labour-management system. We have to find a way to get around that. When we do that we will find that both sides will be working toward a more common goal than they currently are. Things like job security are in the best interest of both the workers and the company because job security for a worker means wages are coming in. Job security for the company means products are continuing to be made, which it sells to sustain itself.

Companies and workers have to learn to work together instead of confronting one another. That is what Reform's proposal is all about.

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Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today as the labour critic for the New Democratic Party to speak to third reading of Bill C-66, the amendments to part I of the Canada Labour Code. This is important legislation and for the most part quite supportable by all members of the House.

Despite the fact that a number of critical amendments to the legislation have not been accepted by the Liberal government, I think the legislation in front of us is still acceptable because it represents a significant improvement over what exists in the Canada Labour Code today. Despite the fact that the government did not go far enough in drafting the bill, the minister is to be commended on the consultative process in which he engaged prior to the drafting of the legislation.

Collective bargaining, as we have heard in the debate today and in public practice, is the cornerstone of effective labour-management relations. Even the minister acknowledges that. Anything a government can do to protect, support and enhance the collective bargaining process is worthwhile.

Of course we realize that the Canada Labour Code part I amendments apply only to areas of federal jurisdiction. It is the law governing collective bargaining for private sector employers and unions within federal jurisdiction. These include Canada's railways, airlines, broadcasters, banks, grain and shipping companies, among others. Essentially these are companies and unions within the fields of transportation, communications and banking.

According to information contained in the Sims report, more of which I hope to get the chance to discuss later, part I of the Canada Labour Code applies to approximately 680,000 employees, or about 6 per cent of workers in Canada. Almost 50 per cent of all workers in the federal jurisdiction are covered by collective agreements.

Work stoppage activity in the federal jurisdiction is comparable to work stoppage activity across Canada, on average. During the past six years strikes and lockouts in the federal jurisdiction represented 4.5 per cent of the total number of work stoppages and accounted for 6 per cent of the total person days not worked due to work stoppages. We are not talking about serious circumstances.

One of my concerns, which is shared by my New Democratic Party colleagues, is that part I does not apply to federal government employees who are subject instead to the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Members of the RCMP and the military are not covered by either part I of the code or the PSSRA. It is my feeling that there should be one act, one board and one jurisdiction for all federal employees.

It has been some time since a comprehensive review with the intention of modernizing the Canada Labour Code. This process began in early 1995 when a task force was established by the Minister of Labour to conduct the review and, where appropriate, to make recommendations for legislative change.

The task force was headed by Edmonton lawyer Andrew Sims and the subsequent report became known as the Sims report. It did a fine job. To a large extent the legislation before us represents the recommendations the task force brought forward.

The task force and the minister's response to its recommendations were both subject to extensive consultations. Sims had a simple premise on which he worked and it made sense. Let me quote from the Sims report: "Free collective bargaining, like free enterprise, works when individuals and groups, unions and employers, make decisions about their own best interests and work out their own relationships within the framework of the law".

It continues: "Legislation cannot fix every problem. Neither the Canada Labour Code nor the Canada Labour Relations Board can solve every labour-management situation. The parties themselves must do that".

Sims carries on in his report to say: "The great advantage of a negotiated settlement is that the parties, by their signatures at least, accept that they have achieved the best that they can at that time and, consequently, are more likely to live contentedly with and take responsibility for the result. Collectively bargained solutions often involve change. Change works best when both sides agree to the future direction. That is the reason why collective bargaining is so appropriate to organizations undergoing change. Our legislative framework, therefore, favours free collective bargaining and makes little attempt, except in exceptional cases, to impose solutions upon the parties".

Obviously, to achieve our goals in Bill C-66, the test of free collective bargaining must be applied to all the clauses and if the clauses fail, then the legislation will fail as well. In some cases Bill C-66 fails the test of free collective bargaining and the idea that the system works best when collective bargaining is allowed to work. In other cases the changes proposed work very well.

Let me talk first about the Canada Labour Relations Board testimony before the standing committee studying the bill. The Canada Labour Congress termed it the most fruitful area of labour-management consensus building facilitated by the Sims task force.

The CLC said it had been frustrated repeatedly in the past by the government's lack of consultation with labour over appointments and reappointments to the board. Since the board's activities and rulings have a direct impact on workers, unions and management, the CLC argued that the board's composition should be "representative of the parties involved". Management representatives in the consultation process agreed, as did the task force.

Bill C-66 embraces the notion of a representational Canada Industrial Relations Board, and we all support that idea. However there are a few problems discussed before the committee that have not been resolved yet.

First, participants in the consensus process recommended that a labour-management selection panel should be given the opportunity to review and advise on the names of persons to be appointed or reappointed to the positions of chair and vice-chair of the new board. The task force supported the spirit of the recommendation but the bill is silent on it.

Second, the consensus group recommended with respect to the appointment or reappointment of representative members that they should be made from among those included on lists of names provided by the parties. Again the task force supported the recommendation but the bill refers only to consultation with the organization representative of employees or employers that the minister considers appropriate.

Third, the consensus participants recommended that appointments should be on a staggered basis to prevent all appointments coming due at the same time. The task force supported the recommendation but again the bill is silent on it.

There were other recommendations on which the bill is silent. There is no real explanation of why the government refuses to accept these recommendations which would do so much to improve the legislation and improve the confidence level that all parties would have in the independence of the board.

Elsewhere in the debate, as well as during committee hearings, I expressed deep concern about the lack of anti-scab provisions in the bill. I am well aware that a consensus on replacement workers could not be found during the consultation period, or even within the task force. However that is no reason for the minister not to take a firm stand in support of collective bargaining by supporting a prohibition on all replacement workers. If there were to be any disappointment in Bill C-66 as it now stands, it would be the fact that the legislation does not come right out and ban replacement workers within federal jurisdiction.

The province with the longest experience with anti-scab provisions is the province of Quebec. The task force member with the most direct experience in that province, Rodrigue Blouin, supports unconditionally the outright ban on replacement workers. In Quebec, replacement workers are banned and in the 19 years the ban has been place all the evidence points to a very successful legislative program.

Let me take a second to quote Mr. Blouin as I did during the debate of the amendments I proposed the other day:

I submit that the general principles underlying our system of collective labour relations dictate that the presence of replacement workers during a legal strike or lockout is illegitimate. Their use must hence be declared illegal.

Let me continue the quote:

The use of replacement workers undermines the structural elements that ensure the internal cohesion of the collective bargaining system by introducing a foreign body into a dispute between two clearly identified parties.

It upsets the economic balance of power, compromises the freedom of expression of workers engaging in a strike or lockout, shifts the original neutral ground of the dispute, and leads eventually to a perception of exploitation of the individual-The conclusion to be drawn from my analysis is that there is, on the whole, a situation of illegitimacy that Parliament must condemn in no uncertain terms.

I carefully read the minority report of Mr. Blouin. I am quite taken by his analysis and his conclusion which reads:

Parliament has the duty to restore the delicate balance necessary to ensure that the collective bargaining system achieves its purpose. The presence of replacement workers is an intrusion into an economic dispute that takes place in the workplace, in accordance with a public policy designed to promote industrial democracy. This policy is negated by replacement workers.

I am reminded of the minister's testimony before the standing committee in this regard. In responding to committee members the minister said that an important priority of the government was to let the collective bargaining process function.

I argue, as did Mr. Blouin, that the one element of the legislation which prevents collective bargaining from functioning well is the provision about replacement workers. That is why I support an outright prohibition on the use of replacement workers. That is why I proposed an amendment which the Liberals chose to defeat but which, if passed, would for all intents and purposes prohibit the use of the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit on the date on which notice to bargain collectively was given.

The Sims report highlights several high profile disputes in the federal sector, including the dispute at Giant Mines in Yellowknife with its tragic circumstances and Canada Post's use of replacement workers in 1991 which resulted in several confrontations, as examples of how dangerous the situation is when replacement workers are used.

The government had the opportunity to end confrontations in strikes and lockouts with the passage of such an amendment but it failed to grasp that opportunity when given it in the House.

Obviously 20 years of history of such legislation in the province of Quebec provides the necessary information we need to assess the worthiness of such a clause. It is time the federal government took the necessary steps to ban replacement workers from disputes within its own jurisdiction and my amendment provided the government with the opportunity to do just that.

Bill C-66 falls short of the kind of comprehensive successor rights protection required in the present economic and political environment as well. As was discussed in committee, the phenomena of economic restructuring, privatization and devolution are combining to render the code inadequate for the task of ensuring the continuity of bargaining rights and collective agreement protection for workers who have chosen to join a union.

In the view of the Canadian Labour Congress, a view that my NDP colleagues and I share, the code should be updated to account for several situations regardless of whether the operation by another is moving into or out of its jurisdiction.

The CLC recognizes that to be fully effective this would require interjurisdictional reciprocity. There are other situations that should be included, for example contracted work that is subsequently put up for tender and awarded to a different contractor, operations that are franchised, operations that fall into the hands of bankruptcy trustees or receivers, and operations that move from the coverage of the PSSRA to the code.

Essentially what is needed here is reform that will shield workers from having without their participation or consent their bargaining rights extinguished by decisions made by others. These rights should be respected and regarded as part and parcel of an operation by another. This would be entirely consistent within the preamble and section 8 of part I of the code.

I also make a special note of the section in Bill C-66 dealing with grain handling because I am a rural member of Parliament with a lot of constituents who make their living from farming or whose livelihoods are dependent on the success of their farming neighbours. This is an area of interest to me.

I have always felt that farmers and workers have a lot in common which they seldom recognize. Both groups have been or are being exploited by an economy organized above them. Both groups have had to fight multinational interests to increase or preserve their incomes. When one group goes to battle against their common enemy they should all work together to achieve their common goal. Sadly when it comes to the movement of grain this has seldom been the case. However changes in the legislation makes the prospect more likely in the future.

When we look at the recent disputes involving the stoppage of grain movement, we notice that a good percentage of the cases of stoppage have been the results of a lockout rather than a strike. We notice that the federal government has been called upon to bring in back to work legislation to get things moving again. When we see this we cannot help but wonder if the parties, particularly the employers at the ports, are not just looking for the government to intervene and settle their differences for them. I acknowledge that this is wrong.

In previous instances when the longshoremen's union has been involved in a work stoppage that prevented grain from being loaded on the ships it has agreed to load the grain but it has been prevented from doing so by the employers.

The legislation before us today is a tribute to the longshoremen who recognized the value of grain movement over the years. The legislation before us today makes it possible, indeed mandatory, for grain to be loaded in the case of a dispute between port employers

and the longshoremen's union. My colleagues and I support this clause out of respect for the ILWU, the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, and for the farmers of western Canada.

As is evident from my question in the House today, I am most concerned about the movement of grain and the way in which the government has been handling the latest case of the railroad's poor performance in this regard. In recent weeks the minister of agriculture talked about his concern about the performance of railways which may have cost western farmers $65 million in demurrage costs and in lost revenues due to cramped sales.

Just this week the agency that regulates freight rates supported by the government allowed a further increase in freight rates of what could be $15 million. The railways have been given higher freight rates. The farmers have had their costs increased. The railways have been rewarded for poor performance. The farmers once again have to pay. We must ensure that matters like this one are dealt with.

In conclusion, Bill C-66 is a major piece of legislation. There is simply not enough time to discuss all of its aspects today. I wish the government had gone further in amending key aspects of the Canada Labour Code, especially the section on replacement workers.

Given the progress that has been made today, at some time in the future we will get an opportunity to deal with this important matter. On a scale of one to ten the legislation probably ranks as an eight. On that basis I suspect that New Democrats in the House will be supporting the legislation.

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5:25 p.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague. Does he think the legislation has achieved a balance? I heard him talk about a balance and the Sims report was entitled "Seeking a Balance". He quoted extensively from Rodrigue Blouin who also talked about seeking a balance.

We heard the member give the bill 8.0 rating. In the figure skating world that is a pretty high rating. Does he feel that the entrenchment of anti-replacement worker legislation in the bill would have strengthened labour's hand or would have gone along the road of seeking a balance?

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5:30 p.m.


Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, I realize there is not enough time to answer the question fully but I do believe that anti-scab provisions in the bill would strengthen the balance. The legislation has done a lot to achieve balance, although it could have gone further.

The balance is the ability to pursue the collective bargaining process. As long as employers have the ability to upset that balance by bringing replacement workers into the workplace, the collective bargaining process remains unbalanced. As a result I think the legislation should have dealt with that.

The House resumed from March 10, 1997, consideration of the motion that this House recognize that the families of murder victims are subjected to reliving the pain and fear of their experience as a result of the potential release of the victims' murderers allowed under section 745 of the Criminal Code, and as a consequence, this House urge the Liberal government to formally apologize to those families for repeatedly refusing to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code; and of the amendment.

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March 11th, 1997 / 5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed with the deferred recorded division on the amendment relating the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

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5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the amendment lost.

The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members