Mr. Speaker, it is West Kootenay—Okanagan. A number of MPs have a bill in to amend the names of ridings. By the time you have got it, it is going to change again. I just thought I would put you on warning.
I am very pleased to rise speak to Bill C-19. There is a lot to be said about it and I believe a lot of people in the House will be speaking about it today.
It is interesting that the Liberal member who just spoke said it was neither fish nor fowl. They like to sit in the middle. They have not really done a lot for this side or that side. They have done a bit here and a bit there. Sometimes that works and other times it does not. This is an example of when that type of approach to things simply does not work. Instead of fixing the problems, they make it a little bad for both sides. In other words, they reduce the problem to the lowest common denominator of a problem.
It is appropriate that I lead off with a reiteration of the Reform Party's written policy on labour, the right of workers to organize democratically, bargain collectively and strike peacefully.
I would like to break that down into three separate parts so we can deal with exactly how the bill relates to our written policy on these things. The first one is the right to organize democratically.
Democracy can refer to the right of an individual or it can refer to the right of a group. In the case of the bill it allows the renamed CIRB to certify a union without the support of a majority of the employees. The bill also allows the CIRB to order an employer to release to the union the name and addresses of employees who work off site without requiring the employees' permission. Both these provisions totally ignore the rights of individual employees and ignore the rights of employee groups.
How can it possibly be said that democracy is being upheld, the question of organizing democratically, if the majority of the bargaining unit or the employee group has not said they want to be part of this union but this new CIRB can go ahead and establish it anyway? That is hardly organizing democratically. It is basically one person or a small group of people making an arbitrary decision for a very large group of people. That is something that flies in the face of democracy.
Likewise, to say that an off site employee, a contracted employee, can have his name and address applied to a union without his permission is also undemocratic. If the Liberal Party is looking for balance, this thing that says we do not want to go too far this way or too far that way, how about making a requirement that the employer pass on to these individuals materials supplied by the unions? These individuals would have an opportunity to see what the union is proposing, what it wants to do and a way of contacting it if that is what they choose to do.
However, to arbitrarily hand out names of non-union people to the union so that they can take whatever action they choose to take, I do not think meets the test of democracy at all.
The second part of our written policy deals with collective bargaining, the right to bargain collectively. Here is where I differ from the member who just spoke and the NDP member who intervened in questions and comments. I do not see taking away the right to strike in certain situations as ending collective bargaining. I do not understand the concept of thinking or lack thereof that goes through someone's head when they say that strikes are what collective bargaining is all about.
Strikes are an indicator of the failure of the collective bargaining system. That is all it is. Collective bargaining involves three things. I have told hon. members this before. Maybe if I tell them enough it will start to sink in. There are three components to collective bargaining: negotiation, conciliation and mediation. Those are the tools of collective bargaining.
When collective bargaining fails we have a strike by the employees or a lockout by the employer. It is pure and simple. Even then that strike or that lockout does not solve the impasse. It drives them back to the other point where either an offer comes through negotiation or they go back to mediation and conciliation. Strikes and lockouts do not solve problems. They are a form of coercion that is used to drive the other side back to one of the three steps of collective bargaining.
Consider the taking away of the right to strike of workers in certain situations, essential services. Let us use an example that everybody accepts. Would we expect to see the police standing on the sidewalk watching someone being beaten, mugged, raped or killed and doing nothing because they were on strike? Of course we would not. We understand that in the public interest we must have the police on duty. Even the NDP accepts that.
Have we done away with collective bargaining? Why can we not allow them to negotiate, to have conciliation, and to have mediation? If all those things broke down, the only difference would be that rather than go on strike and get into the scenario I have just described we would have a dispute settlement mechanism that is as fair as possible.
We will talk a little later, as I am sure many members expect, about final offer arbitration. The point is that during the kind of collective bargaining where the right to strike is not an end result, if something goes wrong we still have the collective bargaining process. During that process any method of settlement could be agreed upon. Right now we can still do that.
When someone is negotiating and things are not going well, if they have the right to strike the decision can be to go on strike or to lock the employees out. They can mutually agree to binding arbitration. They can agree to flipping a coin. They can agree to just about anything. Under what we have proposed they could still do that.
Final offer arbitration is a dispute settlement mechanism that is used to prevent work disruption that has a catastrophic impact on Canadians, our economy, our business and our international reputation. They can still settle on whatever other method they want. All we want is to have some dispute settlement mechanism that can be used if all else fails and they cannot agree on anything else.
The third part is to strike peacefully. We believe in the right of unions under normal circumstances to strike peacefully if things have not gone well. It is a very inefficient way to settle the problems, but in the normal run of things we agree that under the present process they can strike if they cannot reach a settlement and this is the route they choose to go, as long as it is a peaceful strike.
Maybe the question of what is and what is not peaceful needs to be examined. Peaceful does not necessarily refer only to the lack of violence. A strike, for example in the port of Vancouver, impacts on business and industry across British Columbia because they need products coming in through the port The strike could involve towns and communities being shut down and workers being laid off.
This could happen in certain small towns in my riding. In one town the principal employer is a smelter. In another town the principal employer is a pulp mill. If they cannot export their products or bring in ore or the different supplies and materials they need to run their plants, they shut down entire towns. It affects farmers right across the prairies.
Is that peaceful? Is it peaceful when the entire economy of a town is thrown into turmoil and some people lose their businesses or their livelihoods? Maybe they have mortgaged their homes to put money into their businesses and they risk losing them. They are not even part of the negotiation process. They are an example of what happens when it goes wrong.
Over the past few years we have had national port strikes and national rail strike. I had the same problem in my riding during the national rail strike. We reached a point where it was almost a shutdown of the economies of entire communities.
We have just had a Canada Post strike, the fourth strike in 10 years. Each time it ends up in legislation. Is this a good process? Should we let them go on strike? Should we say “Yes, you have the right to strike, but when you go out we will legislate you back”, or should we come up with something that meaningfully deals with some form of dispute settlement mechanism? It would ensure that workers would not lose their wages and the company would not lose its revenue and ultimately some of its business, which means jobs for the employees. What about all the people who are impacted by mail dependent businesses?
Maybe we need to look at this situation collectively. I realize that each party has different political philosophies and points of view. Instead of standing on our own little hills and saying I am right, maybe we need to sit down together to find some way to address all the problems.
The bill, by singling out the grain industry for special consideration, is acknowledging the need to make special provisions. Why do we not do it across the board? The bill recognizes that there should be some certainty in the ability of farmers to ship grain and in our fulfilling international grain contracts.
In this case we are talking of the ports. What about all the other things that go through ports? A tremendous amount of potash from Saskatchewan used to be shipped internationally through the port of Vancouver. The port was so unreliable that the Saskatchewan potash industry made a deal with the port of Portland, Oregon, to build new facilities. It is shipped by rail down there. It is felt to be a much more certain method of shipment. The port of Vancouver has lost that business.
Workers have lost work because of strikes which have resulted in shippers being concerned about the reliability of that port. That business has gone. They cannot come back and sign a 10 year contract. Those facilities have been built and the contracts have been made down there. That is business lost to Canada. That is revenue lost to Canada. Those are jobs lost to Canadians.
When we start questioning the right to strike, we are not only doing it for business, for taxes, or for things of that nature. We are doing it for jobs, about which I am sure the other parties feel very strongly. They want more jobs for Canadians. They want better jobs for Canadians. We cannot have better jobs for Canadians if Canadians lose their jobs because the people who use the services do not feel confident about them.
Strikes and lockouts hit absolutely everyone. They hit the businesses, employees and jobs I have just described. Everybody is impacted. It is an old, archaic way of dealing with a problem. We have to find a new way.
I would like to touch on one aspect of the bill on which I admit that I differ from my own party's position. Who says at any time that everything is right or everything is wrong? There are always different colours. I want to address the fact that I differ for a very specific reason on the point of replacement workers. I happen not to like the concept of replacement workers. From my point of view I would be quite happy if there were no replacement workers. I know this is at odds with my party. The strength of our party is the fact that we do not all have to stand and sing off the same song sheet.
The whole concept of strikes is stupid. It has to be changed and I have already addressed that at length. Replacement workers tilt the scales to one side. If there is a strike or a lockout employees cannot replace the company. They cannot replace management and go back to work while management stays out because they did not co-operate. How can there be an offset of balance on the other side? They cannot replace the company but the company can replace them.
The collective bargaining system needs to be amended so that we have a better dispute settlement mechanism and there are no strikes. Then the question of replacement workers will not even come up. While it is there, all we are doing is trying to soften some of the impacts of strikes to make like it is not as bad as it is. It is bad.
Some people might find this humorous, but I recently saw a rerun of an old episode of the original Star Trek program. A planet had been at war for 300 years. In order to get rid of the carnage and the destruction of its civilization, buildings and everything else, it agreed to fight the war by computer. What happened was another world mounted an attack by computer. The computer decided how effective the attack would be and how many people would have to be killed. Then they just marched 125,000, or however many there were, into destruction chambers. Nice and clean, no carnage, no destruction of their buildings or anything. And because they had done it in this clean way to soften the impact of the real horrors of war, the war had gone on for 300 years.
Good old Captain Kirk went in and destroyed all the destruction chambers so they could not meet their quota and then the real war started. He said that was what was necessary to solve the war because as long as you keep putting band-aids on something, you are never going to have the real impact of problems and consequently you are not going to deal with the real problems.
In this case it is strikes and lockouts. We cannot keep putting in things that tilt the balance of the real horrors of strikes and lockouts. Let it get to its absolute worst and then maybe finally people will realize we have to find a better way to resolve these things.
For the Reform Party the better way is final offer arbitration. I have spoken to union groups and business groups all over the country on this particularly in my own riding. One of the things I say is if there is something better that does not result in a work disruption, I am all for it. If they would rather do something else as long as it does not end up in a work disruption, then I think that is great. But until such time as someone comes forward with a better idea, and given that I am totally opposed to work disruptions because they are bad for absolutely everybody, then I think this is a viable alternative.
Final offer arbitration is something designed first of all to bring the employer and the employee as close together as possible. Hopefully that 95% becomes 96%, 97%, 98%, as close to 100% as can humanly be brought. There are always going to be some difficulties where employees and employers simply will not settle.
Let us talk about wages. Simplistically put if it is a wage item and all the economic indicators in the marketplace suggest that a rightful raise is $1.50 and the company offers $1 and the union says it wants $5, the union is going to end up getting 50 cents less than it would reasonably be entitled to because it was unreasonable in its demands. Likewise if the union says it wants $2 and the employer says “We do not think you deserve anything and we are not offering anything”, the employees are going to get 50 cents more than they were reasonably entitled to. Each side knows it. And if they want to roll the dice and say `We are going to try for $5 just in case the arbitrator is sleeping and lets this slide through', it is not going to work.
There are suggestions that it is still a roll of the dice. It depends on how the actual mechanism is designed. It can be designed in such a way so that it cannot be an arbitrary decision of either this package or that package. Rather it has to be weighed against a whole number of economic indicators, the cost of living, past raises, the ability of the company to pay, comparability as to what other industries in comparable workplaces are paying, all of these different factors.
That can be designed into it. There can be a requirement that the arbitrator or arbitration panel, if that is the way it is designed, has to make a decision as to which one is closest to meeting all of the requirements. Then when the arbitrator is finished a report has to be prepared justifying the package that has been chosen against each of those indicators.
We can design something that will work. It will work for both sides. It will work for the employer and it will work for the employee, but every bit as important if not more so, it works for everybody else in Canada who is impacted by these strikes.
A small strike that deals with a store and its employees in a small group and there are alternatives for customers and there is no major impact is one thing. However when there are strikes that shut down the industry of this entire country, we have to recognize that we have globally grown to the point where it is no longer feasible to have work disruptions in certain industries.
This bill recognizes that in the grain industry. Why stop there? If it is recognized that the problems in the grain industry are too overwhelming, then why can it not be seen that this needs to be expanded to others as well, to the mining industry, to the forestry industry, to all of the other industries so that Canada can once again have a reputation of being reliable.