Mr. Speaker, I should tell you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans. I will therefore be making a 10-minute speech.
We are debating Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, Part I. This bill stems from another bill, Bill C-66, which died on the Order Paper last spring because, six months before the end of the traditional four-year mandate, the current Prime Minister decided to call an election, thus taking some opposition parties unawares. He saw what was happening in the maritimes and, sensing that the Employment Insurance Act was not going down too well, he chose to take the other political parties by surprise. Many bills, including this one, died on the Order Paper as a result.
He probably made the right decision from an election point of view, since he kept his majority, although the actual number of Liberal members is lower.
Despite this delay, the problem with Bill C-19 is the same as with calling an election early: it leaves some unfinished business.
In many respects, as our critic on this issue, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, indicated, there are many improvements, many positives. But there are also serious deficiencies.
What are these main deficiencies? First, RCMP employees are not included. The bill does not address their expressed wish to become subject to the labour code, to be unionized.
It also falls short of the expectations of federal employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Government employees are subject to the Public Service Staff Relations Act instead of the Labour Code.
Incidentally, federal public service employees do not enjoy the same kind of job security as their Quebec counterparts. There is not as much job security in the federal public service. One only has to look, for example, at the cuts being made in the Quebec City region by the defence department, which are affecting large numbers of people. Many federal public servants are left to fend for themselves, because these cuts have been made over a three-year period that will end at the end of March, with no replacement program and no early retirement program in place.
What is the federal government doing? It is in the process of privatizing its public service. The public service has been trying to continue to provide government services by contracting out, which is a strange way of doing things. This is not the object of today's debate. I just wanted to say that, unfortunately, the Canada Labour Code does not apply to these public servants.
The Bloc Quebecois opposes some of the proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code because they do not meet Quebeckers' needs. I do not know if they meet the needs of people in the other regions of the country—I will leave it to the other parties to judge—but we want to protect Quebeckers' interests, even if the Canada Labour Code affects only 10% of unionized workers in Quebec.
There are three groups of workers in Quebec. First, there are those who are not unionized and who, of course, are not protected by collective agreements. Nothing will change for these workers. Then there are those who are regulated by the Quebec labour code, which includes provisions prohibiting the use of replacement workers, commonly called scabs. Finally, the third and last group is those 10% of Quebeckers who are subject to the Canada Labour Code.
Who are they? They are people working in banks, in interprovincial and international transportation, airports obviously and all the airport transportation companies, all the airlines, broadcasting, telecommunications, harbour operations, longshoremen and grain handlers.
I would like to take a closer look at the last two categories, because in the Quebec City region right now there is a strike that, for a number of reasons, has dragged on in the Port of Quebec. The same parties may not always be at fault, but it is recognized that, since the introduction of anti-scab legislation in Quebec, strikes—and this is important—are 35% shorter than before. Anti-scab legislation is therefore one way of limiting the length of strikes. It does not increase, but decreases, the length of strikes, a very important point.
I was listening to what the Reform member had to say. Although he is opposed, he said that strikes should not go on too long. The very benefit of anti-scab legislation is that it prevents strikes from dragging on longer than necessary. I remember some long strikes in Quebec, for instance that of the Ogilvie workers, because they are in the grain sector.
This brings me to another point. Why grain and not potatoes? Why not butter? Why not other food products considered essential, such as milk? Why grain? We Quebeckers import grain because we do not produce enough of our own. We import, or receive I should say, western grain and then ship it to international markets through our ports, particularly those along the St. Lawrence Seaway, but we also use it to raise hogs, cattle, and so on.
So, what has been the result in Quebec City? There have been cases of violence. The absence of anti-scab legislation affects not just the length of strikes, but the incidence of violence. I am not condoning violence. I do not think violence should be condoned. But the fact remains that, when a strike drags on and scabs might be or are used, the result is almost always violence in labour relations. When violence occurs before a strike ends, there can be physical effects and problems in terms of labour relations.
It is not a matter of just settling a labour dispute, but of settling it well. The parties, and this is the advantage of a negotiated settlement, must reach a collective agreement that they both will honour following negotiations. The resulting work atmosphere is better as is productivity. The company is better off in terms of profits, and the workers are better off, because greater profits mean better benefits and collective agreements for the workers.
This should be the aim of the Canada Labour Code. Instead, measures in these areas remain for the most part unchanged and a practice that even Quebec employers have shunned since 1977, that is the use of replacement workers, will be allowed to continue.