Mr. Speaker, I count it a privilege every time I have the opportunity to speak in the House on behalf of the people of the constituency Kootenay—Columbia.
In my constituency I have quite a mix of people in terms of who they work for and what their jobs are. I would dare guess that approximately 20% to 25% of my workforce works in a unionized workforce. It is therefore important to put on record for them exactly how I see the bill and exactly how I see the impact there will be on workers.
There are companies and unions in my constituency. Most important, there are the people who live and work in my constituency. I am concerned primarily about the effect of this kind of legislation on the people in the unionized workforce.
There is deep concern about the fact that clause 50 of Bill C-19 allows the board to ignore the privacy interests of workers and to order an employer to disclose the names and addresses of “employees whose normal workplace is not on premises owned or controlled by the employer” if a trade union needs the information to solicit trade union membership. The Canada Industrial Relations Board should not be allowed to do this. Clause 50 should be repealed.
We have an issue in Canada of privacy of information. It is not right that unions should be able to exercise their ability under clause 50 to access private mailing information of workers. Why? Because we are not just talking about a union versus management situation. We are really talking about, to a very great extent, a union versus union situation or a recertification process that might be undertaken. The invasion of the privacy of the workers in my constituency is absolutely unacceptable.
The board is prepared to rely on the inherently unreliable and undemocratic card based system, even though in union raid cases the board has said:
Excellence has taught us in cases of union raids, a vote should be ordered so that the employees may choose freely, within the privacy of the polling booth, which union they wish to have as their representative.
That comes from a case between the Communication Workers of Canada and the Communications Union of Canada. One would think that the board would realize a vote should be ordered in all cases and not just in the case of a fight between trade unions.
The statement of Professor Paul Weiler of Harvard University is compelling. He states:
A secret ballot vote has a symbolic value that a card check can never have. It clears the air of any doubts about the union's majority and also confers a measure of legitimacy on the union's bargaining authority, especially among pockets of employees who were never contacted in the initial organizational drive.
A secret ballot, particularly in something as critical as whom the union will be representing or whether it should be certified or decertified, must be behind the curtain of a private ballot where each employee can make a choice without fear of coercion.
I am not suggesting that there are any unions or union organizers in my constituency who would do that. However we are talking about the entire country of Canada. We are talking about a very large workforce. Surely at some point there will be unfair, undue coercion.
Furthermore, we are in a democratic country where we can make choices about who will be elected to represent constituents in the chamber. By the same token workers must have an uncoerced right to make the choice of who will represent them in the workplace or indeed if they are to be represented.
Probably the most onerous part of the proposed legislation is that the Canada Industrial Relations Board will be able to override the vote should a vote take place. I submit that neither the Canada Industrial Relations Board nor any other body should have the capacity to rationally discharge a task which involves nothing more than wild speculation.
This section of legislation is targeted against employers who may become involved in an unfair labour practice. Again, nobody is without fault. Knives have a tendency to cut going in both directions. If some union organizers can get off base, surely from time to time some employers can get off base. But what is the remedy proposed?
The remedy proposed is that the board would override the democratically expressed will of the workers. For example, the dangers associated with this type of law were demonstrated when the Ontario Labour Relations Board, ignoring the will of the workers, certified the United Steelworkers of America as bargaining agents for workers in a Wal-Mart of Canada store in Windsor.
The House should know that the workers voted 151 to 43 against union representation. The Ontario Labour Relations Board, having determined to its satisfaction that there had been unfair labour practices, then simply overrode the will of the workers. This kind of law is very dangerous.
In the time I have had the privilege of being the Member of Parliament for Kootenay—Columbia, I have received many excellent representations from employers, from employees, from unions and from their workers. I have one such representation in my hand from some of the workers who are working with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. In the last labour dispute that was settled by back to work legislation, they have pointed out in a fair amount of detail exactly where they ended up getting the short end of the stick.
As a matter of fact, they have made the point that during the course of a year the locomotive engineers will actually be negative $8,700 of income as a result of that settlement.
I take this kind of representation from them, particularly when I receive it from individual members, very seriously. I recognize that in the back to work legislation that was cobbled together at the last minute by the Liberals there were areas that gave disadvantages to the workers in my constituency.
The Reform Party is simply proposing that rather than going into the band-aid approach and once again lurching forward to a point where there will be work stoppages, and unfortunately there will be work stoppages on the railway, with grain handling and other areas that are actually under the jurisdiction of this federal legislation, we recognize there will be work stoppages and we are saying that this legislation is grossly inadequate, does not answer the question and comes up with the problems that I have already detailed.
The Reform Party supports the concept of final offer selection arbitration. This is a preferred method of binding arbitration.
In taking a look at this proposal, it brings a new fresh approach to this very contentious problem. It puts the workers and the companies on an even plane but, most important, it deals with the issue of the tremendous national negative economic impact should a work stoppage occur.
I implore the government to set aside Bill C-19 at this point or at least if it gets through the House and gets into the committee to seriously take a look at Reform's idea of final offer selection arbitration. It would be good for the workers. It would be good for the companies. The most important thing is it would be good for Canada.