moved that Bill C-212, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act (prohibited provision in a collective agreement), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-212, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
What this long title means in fact is that Bill C-212 would render any provision in a collective agreement concluded under these acts, excluding a provision based on the seniority principle, of no force or effect where employees hired after a specific date do not receive the same employee benefits, wages or conditions of employment as those received by other employees covered by the collective agreement.
Thus, if such a provision is contained in a collective agreement signed on or after the coming into force of the act, it will be declared of no force or effect.
Also, if such a provision is contained in a collective agreement signed before the coming into force of this enactment, it will be of no force or effect on a day that is two years after the day on which this enactment comes into force.
In short, as a responsible political party, the Bloc Quebecois would like to do away with orphan clauses, or discriminatory clauses if you prefer, in all collective agreements under federal jurisdiction.
Let us be clear. The labour minister and the federal government absolutely refuse to admit there are orphan clauses in a number of collective agreements under their jurisdiction. But, later on in my remarks, I will prove that there are some.
Before going any further, we should agree on a definition of orphan clauses. These are clauses in collective agreements under which employees hired after a specified date do not receive the same employee benefits, wages, or conditions of employment as those received by other employees who have been hired before that date.
Let us examine the direct and indirect impact of such clauses on our society.
In Ottawa, the Bloc Quebecois has always been the only party to care about this issue. But just in Quebec, we have over 100,000 workers who come under federal labour legislation, and are not covered under the Quebec labour code. This is true not only for Quebec workers, but for all workers in the rest of Canada.
Discriminatory clauses are the source of a lot of frustration and create a rift between older and younger employees, generating tensions within businesses where they are in use.
They greatly contribute to social inequality. Several studies have shown that income inequalities in Canada are linked to salary inequalities between young workers and more experienced ones.
Between 1981 and 1993, the salaries of men aged 18 to 24 dropped by 20%, while the salaries of men in the 45 to 54 age group increased by 20%.
The orphan clauses are a problem that must be fixed. They prevent young couples from providing their children with decent living conditions from a very early age. The Canadian Institute of Child Health explains the financial difficulties young families are facing, and I quote:
Economically, today's young families with children are worse off than were those of their parents' generation. In 1976, a single parent with one child needed to work 41 hours a week at minimum wage to bring the family up to the poverty line; in 1993, this had increased to 73 hours per week.
The federal government, especially the Minister of Labour, must recognize the long term effects of this kind of short term solution, which badly penalizes young people.
What is even more absurd, is that the labour minister and the federal government do not recognize that these provisions are discriminatory. A hundred thousand workers from Quebec who are subject to the Canada Labour Code are not protected against these discriminatory provisions.
When will the government understand that the opposition to these orphan clauses has nothing to do with a generation gap, but rather that these discriminatory provisions are what divide the generations?
Discriminatory provisions hurt the younger workers and that has significant social consequences on our society. The goal here is not to make victims out of our youth, but to take the time to consider the facts that seem to go against the values of solidarity and fairness which are necessary to social cohesion.
Orphan clauses in collective agreements can make members of some generations feel they are being treated unfairly. Unfairness at a time when people are not as wealthy as they used to be is totally unacceptable. In this period of austerity, we have to stick together.
In order to decry and fight against the unfair treatment handed out to the poor, the young, the elderly and so on, generations absolutely have to stand united.
Why does the federal government not do as the province of Quebec did and create a parliamentary committee to consider the issue of discriminatory provisions in federal collective agreements?
Are the labour minister and the federal government scared of facing the truth? Why not give the various stakeholders and parliamentarians the opportunity to go before a parliamentary committee and discuss this issue? Holding a social debate throughout Canada, would that not be a healthy and democratic way to address such an important issue as the orphan clauses?
The federal government would rather stay mute, turn a deaf ear and not take responsibility for a social problem that is all too real.
In Quebec there is a strong consensus among a number of different stakeholders against the so-called orphan clauses. Opponents include the Bloc Quebecois, the national executive of the Forum Jeunesse du Bloc Quebecois, the Conseil national du Parti Quebecois, the Conseil des jeunes du PQ, the Jeunes libéraux du Québec, the CSN, the FTQ, the CERQ, to name but a few.
Moreover, a Sondagem survey carried out from March 20 to 24 found that 59.6% of the population of Quebec was opposed to unions signing collective agreements which imposed working conditions and salaries on new employees that were less advantageous than those of existing employees, and 41.7% of respondents reported that they would accept a cut in salary in order to make it easier for young people to enter the work force.
Given these survey findings, it is inconceivable that the federal government continues to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. If it really intends to put an end to these orphan clauses, let it pass legislation along the lines of my Bill C-212.
When will the federal government finally have the courage to speak out against orphan clauses as the people of Quebec have?
I can assure hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois will keep on the federal government's case until it abolishes these clauses.
As I have said, certain federal collective agreements do indeed contain discriminatory clauses. I will give some examples.
Let me start with the CBC. The Syndicat des techniciens et artisans du réseau français de Radio-Canada has negotiated an agreement with an orphan clause. Article 31.1 of that agreement reads as follows, and I quote:
Job guarantees, employees hired prior to December 1983.
When the Corporation makes a decision to significantly reduce operations at a given location, there will be no layoffs, terminations or salary reductions for STRF and NABET employees who were on strength as of December 31, 1983 and who are still employed on the date of signature of this collective agreement, provided they have completed their probationary period.
And article 31.2 reads as follows, and I quote:
Unprotected employee (hired after December 1983).
An employee who has completed a probationary period but is not personally protected under article 30.1.1 above or article 31.1 below, may be laid off, have his employment terminated or have his salary reduced if the workforce reduction is for reasons other than those set out in article 29 (section 9), pursuant to article 33 (section 9).
Obviously, a worker who joined the CBC after December 1, 1983 may be laid off, have his employment terminated or have his salary reduced.
But workers who joined before December 1 have job and pay guarantees.
Here is concrete proof that there are indeed orphan clauses in federal government agreements. So the minister should stop telling us otherwise, because it is not true.
Orphan clauses are not restricted to collective agreements. They are probably one of the most discriminatory clauses in Canada and can be found in the EI legislation.
The EI clause, introduced in 1993, goes a long way towards explaining why the rate of coverage for young people between the ages of 20 and 24 has dropped from 49.1% in 1993 to 26.6% in 1998.
This provision affects approximately 56,000 young people annually. The clause that discriminates against young people can be found in section 7, Part 1, of the Act.
The eligibility criteria for new entrants and re-entrants to the labour force are different. This is a clause similar in every respect to the one found in certain collective agreements. But, in this case, we are talking about the federal government's most important social safety net. This clause potentially affects every young person in Canada. Not only does it create two classes of workers, but it also creates two classes of citizens.
Bill C-212 seeks to put a stop, by eliminating any legal loophole, to any form of discrimination based on the use of orphan clauses, and should thus punish any violation of the principle governing intergenerational solidarity, without which a just and fair society cannot exist.
The fight of the Bloc Quebecois against discriminatory clauses is a quest for equity. All workers in Quebec and in Canada are entitled to the protection that will be provided by Bill C-212. This fight is about ensuring a more just and fair society.
On February 9, the hon. member for Charlesbourg introduced Bill C-470 which, like Bill C-212, sought to prohibit discriminatory clauses.
At the time, the federal government refused to debate the proposed measure. Today, I am coming back with Bill C-212. I do hope that the government will finally open its eyes and recognize that the use of orphan clauses creates social inequalities, something which must be condemned.
I hope the other opposition parties will support the Bloc Quebecois legislation. We should not engage in petty politics, as the Liberals really enjoy doing, when we are dealing with such an issue.
I also ask those Liberal members who have a social conscience to break ranks with their party and to support my bill.
The evolution of society must not be viewed strictly with the present generation in mind. We must look further ahead and think about the future generations that will ensure our social, economic, political and cultural development.
Bill C-212 seeks to give hope to young workers in Quebec and in Canada who work in a federally legislated business, and who are entitled to the same benefits as their elders.
With its Bill C-212, the Bloc Quebecois wants to send to the rest of Canada a clear message that young workers, and those who are trying to join the workforce or are preparing to do so, must be considered full-fledged citizens, like all the other citizens of Canada.