House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.


Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to refer Bill C-38 to a committee before second reading.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill referred to a committee)

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:18 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion that BillC-328, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, be now read a second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2003 / 6:15 p.m.


Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today in the House, because of the great work that was done by my colleague, the member for Laurentides. Indeed, I accompanied her on a tour throughout Quebec. This tour proved to be a very important democratic exercise; we met workers and thus received some input throughout this exercise.

At the end of my speech, I will bring some arguments that will speak to the experience of these workers, those who are mainly concerned, not only in Quebec, but also throughout Canada. I remind—

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Madam Speaker, I will resume. Talking about these exercises, it is important to note that a tour of Quebec was organized. There was also a demonstration on May 1 and another one on October 17. Today, my colleague, the member for Laurentides, presented a petition containing some 46,000 signatures that demonstrates the will of Canadians and Quebeckers.

As I was saying, it was an extraordinary tour during which we felt a general sense of unanimity. At the end of this all, there will be a vote tomorrow in the House. All members should be aware of the problem and should participate in this vote.

Allow me to provide some background. The Canada Labour Code has to be amended to be more in line with the Quebec Labour Code. Since 1977, there is such a procedure in the Quebec Labour Code, which allows for harmonization, or standardization of relations between workers and organizations, but above all which makes the relationships between the different parties more human.

Why do we need anti-scab measures? Because they foster and maintain civilized negotiations during labour disputes and promote industrial peace between the two parties. They are the cornerstone that ensures a level playing field for employers and employees. These provisions will also put an end to the existence of two separate categories of workers in Quebec, those who are covered by the Canada Labour Code and those who are covered by the Quebec Labour Code.

To resume briefly, similar legislation exists in Quebec since 1977. It was passed by René Levesque's government. Labour relations have been modernized in Quebec and the members of this House are asked to harmonize labour relations for all Canadians. Other provinces have also passed similar legislation.

Members on the government side will tell us that the Canada Labour Code does contain a prohibition relating to replacement workers, but only if an employer uses them for the purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity. In other words, if an employer refuses to negotiate and then uses scabs, the Canada Industrial Relations Board can forbid their use. All that is necessary, however, is for an employer to negotiate, or pretend to negotiate, with the union for it to get around this prohibition and continue to use scabs. It can be seen, therefore, that this measure is ridiculous and opens the door to the use of scabs.

When I talk about a consensus, it comes from unions and workers. Again, employers in Quebec do not think about using scabs because their use is legislated.

What are the negative consequences of the use of scabs? It causes a decrease in local or global economic productivity. It also lowers the revenues of businesses and governments. There is a drop in earnings, and, consequently, a drop in the purchasing power of workers directly or indirectly affected. In some cases, this can even lead to social problems, force affected households into debt and cause stress-related psychological problems.

Beyond the procedures and the disputes, we have to look at the human side of this issue. We had the opportunity to go to Baie-Comeau, among other places, where Cargill workers went through a three-year labour dispute. For three years, they were without any income, spending their time on the picket line watching friends, neighbours and other employees go to work instead of them. It has far-reaching consequences.

I learned a lot about these labour disputes. For example, frustrated workers pointed the finger at persons identified as grandchildren of scabs, people in the community, neighbours. It was a source of conflict in the community.

Later, I was made aware of the existence of a silent majority. I value this majority greatly. I think of the worker who proudly performs his work every day for 20 or 30 years. When he goes out with friends or colleagues, he is proud of belonging to this industry. But suddenly, after 20 or 25 years of service, he is told that his friend was hired because of a labour dispute.

Respect and dignity must be preserved. It is difficult to predict the impact this will have on these individuals. Even after the dispute is resolved, deep scars remain. The sense of belonging this worker may have had in the beginning is compromised, and it will remain so until he retires. Why? Because he lost his dignity and his trust in his employer, who failed to negotiate with him on an equal footing.

Here are some figures to think about concerning this bill. As I indicated, there has been anti-scab legislation in Quebec since 1977. There are statistics and figures, and these are tangible figures. In 1976, the average number of working days lost was 39.4. In 1979, it fell to 32.8 and, in 2001, it was 27.4 days. One can see the difference such legislation makes.

British Columbia has had anti-scab legislation since 1993. Since 1993, the amount of time lost to strikes dropped by 50%. I have more figures that speak for themselves. From 1992 to 2002, the average number of days of work lost under the Quebec Labour Code was 15.9. Under the Canada Labour Code, the figure is 31.1 days. That is twice as many.

The dispute at Vidéotron alone, which lasted 10 months, resulted in 355,340 days of work lost in Quebec in 2002. That is one third of all days of work lost because of a strike or lock-out in Quebec in 2002. Productivity is tangible stuff.

At Sécur, 43,400 days of work were lost. These figures do not tell the whole story, but they are troubling enough to force the government to seriously consider this important issue.

Coming back to Vidéotron, we have heard testimony from workers who were affected by the dispute. Once the dispute was over, workers went back to work and told me it was not over in their hearts; they told me they would never be able to regain their former productivity because they had lost this feeling of pride.

There was another dispute at Secur. As I said earlier, the dispute at Cargill lasted three years. Workers at Radio-Nord Communications also went on strike. All of these disputes lasted a long time and had a negative impact on Quebec society, but also on the personal lives of the workers.

Members will remember that the minister tried to find arguments to demonstrate that the employers did not want anti-scab legislation. She even said that the unions were also against such legislation.

We met with the president of the FTQ, Mr. Massé, and told him what the minister had said. He sent a letter to the minister in which he asked for an apology, but I guess she forgot all about that.

As we can tell by all the work that was done, the tour and the 46,000 signatures that were gathered, people in Quebec really want anti-scab legislation. We also have the support of the Canadian Labour Congress and all of the unions in Canada. They are all unanimous.

Lastly, I want to say that the people in my riding of Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay are hard workers. Solidarity is a big issue for them.

I also want to remind everyone that the member opposite voted against the proposal and the workers will not soon forget it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to join the debate on this bill.

The issue of replacement workers is a controversial one and one that can be guaranteed to generate debate wherever it is introduced. However, anyone who knows the labour policy file, knows that it is virtually impossible to achieve consensus on this issue. Typically, employers and their representatives have one point of view and just as typically, employees and the unions have an opposing point of view. That is only natural.

Bill C-328 represents only one of these points of view, and that is the union side. However, I feel the government has to bring a balanced perspective to this issue, such as it did when it made the changes to the Canada Labour Code in 1999. At that time, the government consulted widely with representatives of employees and employers as well as many professional consultants who were familiar with labour policy issues. It was clear then that there were two opposing points of view on the question of prohibiting the use of replacement workers under the Canada Labour Code.

It is clear that no consensus position or compromise looks likely today. Therefore, the balanced approach to a legislative solution, which the government introduced in 1999, is still the right approach to deal with this issue today.

The current provisions of part I of the Canada Labour Code mean that the employers in the federal jurisdiction are not strictly prohibited from using replacement workers during times of work stoppage, but rather that their use of such workers is subject to clear constraints. For example, replacement workers cannot be used to thwart the legitimate bargaining objectives of a union during a legal strike or lockout. Thus, employers are provided with some flexibility to use replacement workers to continue operating, but they cannot engage in unfair labour practices.

This balanced approach to the issue of replacement worker legislation was debated actively, with great vim and vitality, and agreed to finally by this House in 1999. Since then it has been accepted as a practical reality by most parties governed by the Canada Labour Code, not everyone but most.

By advocating for a prohibition on the use of replacement workers during work stoppages, Bill C-328 would upset this balanced approach. It would reopen a divisive debate that took place during the time leading up to amendments in the Canada Labour Code in 1999. We do not think that is the way to go.

As it is now, well over 90% of the workplace disputes under the Canada Labour Code are settled without a strike or lockout. Therefore, in the overwhelming majority of cases the question of replacement workers is not even an issue because there is no work stoppage and no need to replace striking or locked out workers. As well, most employers that fall under federal jurisdiction would not use outside replacement workers during strikes or lockouts, in any case, because they would use members from the non-bargaining units or management.

Thus, for the over 700,000 workers under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code, the question of replacement workers is not likely to be a major concern. Of course, there are many other employees in Canada who are not subject to the Canada Labour Code.

I think it is important to remind members of the House that jurisdiction for labour legislation in Canada is shared between the federal and provincial governments.

This is extremely important. Close to 90% of Canadian workers, for example, are governed by provincial labour legislation and some provinces do have a legislated ban on the use of replacement workers. For instance, we know Quebec has had such legislation in place since the 1970s and British Columbia since 1993. Ontario brought in replacement worker legislation in 1993, but it was repealed in 1995.

Even though the Canadian way is to share jurisdiction for labour legislation between federal and provincial governments, we all share a common vision. That shared vision is to promote fair, safe, healthy, stable, cooperative and productive work environments, work environments that contribute to the social and economic well-being of all.

On a personal note I must say that I know the value of unions. Through the negotiating process they have played a major role in uplifting the quality of life and enhancing the lifestyles of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I have had the experience. I have been on the picket line. I know what it means to be in a position to fight for one's rights.

A study on the impact of the ban on replacement workers in these provincial jurisdictions was performed in 1999. It provides us with some interesting findings to consider in the context of this debate.

The researchers found that legislation prohibiting the use of replacement workers could actually prolong work shortages. In the study for example, they show the effect of a ban on replacement workers was to prolong strikes by 31.6 days. They also found that prohibition on replacement workers correlated to an increase in the incidence of strikes. Let me say that a different way. This study found that a ban on the use of replacement workers meant not only longer strikes, but also more of them.

Findings like these raise challenging questions for those who hold the view that a ban on the use of replacement workers will improve the labour management relations climate. In fact, this study on replacement worker legislation suggests the opposite might be true. By the way, the study was done for the September 1999 issue of the “Labour Law Journal” and is entitled “The impacts of strike and replacement bans in Canada”.

The point is that there are different opinions on this question. That is why the compromise approach that we currently have in place under part I of the Canada Labour Code is the right one. It does not support one side or the other as Bill C-328 does. It works to balance the rights of workers to protect their interests during legal work stoppages. At the same time, it allows employers some flexibility to continue to operate.

This is an issue that the government has considered very carefully on a number of occasions. It is one that remains of ongoing interest. It is not a matter that the government believes requires specific new legislative action at this time. Therefore, we do not support Bill C-328.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which is a bill to ban the use of replacement workers. I will not support the bill because it deals with only one very small problem area to do with the much broader workplace disruption problem. We have to look at the whole issue. I will do that in my presentation.

I heard the passionate speech from the Bloc MP. The use of replacement workers is a very emotional issue. I can understand why that kind of emotion is there. However, we should look at and deal with the broader problem.

The member of the Liberal government who just spoke talked about the balanced approach. The balanced approach that he talked about has not solved any problems. In fact that so-called balanced approach is only tinkering with a system that simply does not work.

I would like the House to take a look at the whole system of strikes and lockouts. That system itself is flawed. The system of work stoppages quite frankly causes too much pain and human suffering. That pain and human suffering was talked about by the Bloc member who spoke about the use of replacement workers, so-called scab workers, and what it can do to a community. That is very real. That is why the system has to be replaced with something that does work much better and which leads to much less pain and human suffering.

A strike, a lockout or a labour disruption of any kind is extremely hard on workers. I have been very fortunate in my life in that I have never been out of work for a very long time at all. I have known people who have been and I know how difficult it is to live through a time of unemployment. It is extremely difficult. The families of the workers suffer immeasurably in some cases, particularly if it is a strike of the length mentioned by the Bloc member of Parliament, three years. I have seen strikes go on for that long as well. It can lead to deep divisions and untold suffering within a family.

I have also seen strikes that have led to the destruction of whole communities. In some cases they have actually led to whole communities being closed down. They never are revived. It is the end of those communities. That has happened on many occasions across the country when it is a one industry small community. It is extremely unfortunate.

There are also the unintended consequences of strikes and lockouts. I come from a grain farm background. When I grew up on the farm we had cattle and various other types of livestock as well. After university I bought a grain farm. I still have the grain farm but someone else is farming it obviously. It is done on a crop share basis, so I still pay very close attention to the industry.

Coming from that background I saw time after time where farmers paid a dear price as a result of a strike or a lockout involving 20 to 30 workers. Most often those 20 to 30 workers were at the terminal where the ships were loaded. Time after time farmers had no say at the bargaining table. They were completely left out. They were truly captive shippers. They suffered. Many of them lost their farms as a result of a strike or a lockout of those 20 to 30 people. A system like that quite frankly is not working.

There is a better system. Over the years the Canadian Alliance has proposed a system of final offer selection arbitration. Under that system there would never be a work stoppage. The collective bargaining process would truly be allowed to go on to a successful conclusion in every case without having a strike or a lockout. Labour certainly would not lose any power under that system. The companies would not lose any power under that system. Everybody would win under the system. I will try to explain the system in the couple of minutes I have.

When it is approaching a year or six months before the end of a contract, labour and management each present their offers. Negotiation goes on in these offers. The negotiations may have been taking place all along, since the time of the last agreement. When it comes down to the crunch time, the last year to six months before the deadline when the agreement will no longer be in place, the arbiter would become involved.

The arbiter would ask for a final best offer from each group. Labour would put forth its final offer and management, the company, would put forth its final offer. The job of the arbiter is not to mix and match. It has caused a lot of problems when an arbiter or a mediator gets involved and tries to mix and match. Often no one ends up with a very acceptable solution.

When a final offer is given by each group, they know that the whole thing will either be accepted or rejected. Labour on the one hand and management on the other hand know that their offers will be either completely accepted or rejected. Offers usually will be very close together. The arbiter's job is to choose all of one or all of the other.

Under that system there is never a strike or a lockout. There is never the pain that goes along with a work stoppage, with a three year strike. There would never be the destruction of a community coming from a work stoppage which allows that kind of devastation and really forces a company to close down or forces labour to give up and go somewhere else.

This system truly respects the concept and the process of collective bargaining. At the same time issues, like the use of scab workers, are no longer issues. The kind of pain that has been talked about tonight by the Bloc member and before by other members resulting from the use of scab workers is eliminated. It simply is not an issue. That is a much better and much more sensible way of dealing with the problem.

I encourage the member who produced the bill to present another bill to the House of Commons proposing the use of final offer selection arbitration. I know that bill would be supported by this party because we proposed it in the past. It is something that many people in the unions, and even union leaders who hesitate, say that in reality it would make good sense. Many even in the labour union leadership say that it is a much more practical way of dealing with these very difficult situations.

I will not be supporting the bill, but if the member is serious about wanting to end the serious and unacceptable situations that arise from work stoppages, I encourage the member to bring forth a bill outlining a proposal for final offer selection arbitration. I along with many in my caucus certainly would be willing to work with the member if there are modifications needed. We could come up with a solution that would put to bed forever the kind of ugly strikes and lockouts that have occurred so often across the country.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the Bloc member for Laurentides on her work. She has made us aware of the need for balanced labour relations, not only in Quebec but in Canada. This balance must be achieved.

Quebec's experience should serve as an example. Once again, Quebec is a model for labour relations in Canada.

My Progressive Conservative colleague, the hon. member for St. John's East and our party's critic on the Canada Labour Code, made a speech in the House in support of the Bloc member's efforts. I support this, and the Progressive Conservative Party supports this interesting, constructive and positive bill.

Perhaps I am not objective when it comes to this bill; my hon. colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador was more objective than I. I am from Asbestos. Those who know their history, particularly Quebec history, will remember that 1949 was the asbestos strike in Asbestos. A lot of things happened during that strike.

The Jean Marchands and the Pierre Trudeaus of this world intervened, particularly the latter; he started to be visible because it could be good publicity. He did not do much, unlike Mr. Marchand, but in any case, he came to tour Asbestos.

The scabs were the main problem during the strike of 1949 in Asbestos. I am not going to call them “strikebreakers” or “replacement workers”; they were scabs. There were fights, and the provincial police were there. People suffered. It took years to strike a balance between the workers and the employers. Several laws were adopted in Quebec, but in 1977, a balance was achieved.

Things evolved on the federal scene, as my hon. Liberal colleague said too, but not enough. The principle behind labour relations is bargaining power. The employer and the worker both have to participate. Any interference between these two powers is illegitimate in my view.

The possibility of using replacement workers or scabs creates interference between the partners. The worst thing I heard this evening was from my Alliance colleague. He said that, ultimately, there is no need for unions or even employers, since an adjudicator will decide. Where is the bargaining power?

It would be like an election campaign, but without an election. We have a list of candidates from the left, from the right, from the centre, from above and from below, and an arbitrator will decide who will be the member of Parliament. There must be bargaining power, there must be a way to prove that workers are being had. Even the employer must prove to these workers that he is in a difficult situation and that there needs to be compromise.

This bill has been introduced several times in the House. Perhaps we should ensure that any interference is removed in the Canada Labour Code. I know that there would be concerns about the reaction if there was a debate on the Labour Code. My Liberal colleague said so. I understand that, when there is a debate on an issue, everything is open for discussion. I understand that.

However, a scab interferes with labour relations. This leads to absolutely nothing except animosity. Some will say that the company maintains production elements that are necessary to its revival and competitiveness. I am sorry, but I did not read the report that my Liberal colleague talked about. I will read it quickly, but if I look at the Quebec experience, this is absolutely not the case.

Some will say that, in the cities, plants have closed because of strikes. I would presume that they would still have closed, but to the detriment of workers.

The other important element when we remove the interference is that we ensure that things function well.

Take the example of the essential services council. It makes sure that the employer and workers provide basic services to the public and clients. It is not a perfect system, but it keeps labour relations clean, while at the same time protecting collective interests during negotiations. It works well.

Of course there are consequences for the company's clients and for the public. That is bargaining power; without it, what is the point? Consequently, the bill before us gives us an opportunity to refine the Canada Labour Code and to send a message to the provinces that there is no room for scabs in Canada.

I would like to digress a little. In Asbestos, the strike took place in 1949. The only people who got married during the asbestos strike in Asbestos were scabs, because everyone else was starving.

In mining towns like mine, we celebrate what we call jubilees. When someone has worked at the mine for 25 years they receive a watch. There is a party with all their friends and the company, which is often American, picks up the beer tab. In Asbestos, as elsewhere, we celebrate 25 years of marriage. Vows are renewed and there is a big party at the church. It is a big celebration. Twenty five years after the strike of 1949, there were no celebrations because they were all scabs.

Still today, when a scab passes away, the only people at the funeral home are the priest and a few members of the Knights of Columbus to pray for the scab's soul. This shows that the wounds run deep. There was also interference at the time. There was also Maurice Duplessis, but that is another issue.

The bill states that we will be cleaning up, but at the same time, if we want to introduce other elements relating to essential services, we can do so. There is no problem. However, the ultimate objective is really to clean up labour relations and to maintain the existing bargaining power, the lock-outs and the strikes. No advantage will be given to one side over the other. We will rather remove an advantage from the employer by prohibiting scabs. I agree with that. Labour relations will improve. Quebec's experience is there to prove it.

I come from a unionized city. I am a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. There is a good balance. I applaud the work that has been done and I congratulate my caucus. We all know that this is not easy to do. In our caucus, people say “Yes, but we have to pay attention to how things are perceived.” The idea is simply to standardize labour relations that come under federal jurisdiction. I do not see why we would hesitate to review legislation if there are elements in it that need to be improved.

I had a small discussion with the minister of Labour. I certainly do not want to make her feel uncomfortable, but her colleague from the government party was also repeating the same arguments. I believe that we should not be afraid of a confrontation or an discussion between the various stakeholders concerning the Canada Labour Code. We still have to challenge some ideas to be able to choose the best ones. As for the bill being debated today, I urge all members to support it. This will send a very clear message to those who need it and who work in companies under federal jurisdiction. It will also reassure the companies under federal jurisdiction, by letting them know that this bill will ensure the balance so sought after by the government.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, on behalf of working people everywhere I wish to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to the member for Laurentides for the work that she has done in bringing this issue to the floor of the House of Commons today. Let me also recognize the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for his very sensitive remarks and for his keen understanding of this complex issue.

It may come as no surprise that I, as a member of the NDP caucus, fully support anti-scab legislation and fully support the work that the member for Laurentides has done over the years to bring this issue forward. In my own personal background, I too worked in the asbestos mines as a young man and went on to become the leader of the carpenters union for the Province of Manitoba. I have negotiated dozens of collective agreements over the years and I know something about the issues of collective bargaining, work stoppages and the right to strike.

My colleague with me today, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, is a former business manager for the United Steelworkers of America, representing the largest mine in his region of New Brunswick. The two of us understand this issue thoroughly, passionately, and we understand the need for this legislation because we have witnessed the result of not having anti-scab legislation.

There are some fundamental issues regarding working people that we can all hopefully agree on. Workers have the right to organize into unions. I do not think there is any disagreement there.

Workers have the right to free collective bargaining as the only way to elevate their working and living conditions. Workers have the right to withhold their services when that collective bargaining process reaches an impasse. It is the most civilized, non-violent way to exert some economic pressure on the employer in order to benefit the employees.

I would like to add a fourth issue, which is that workers have the right to withhold their services and not have to worry about some other scabs eating their lunch while they are exercising their right to withhold their services. That is the fundamental issue that the member from the Bloc is bringing to our attention today.

There are good and compelling reasons why there should be anti-scab legislation. First, empirical evidence shows that there are fewer days lost to strikes and lockouts when there is ant-scab legislation because employees can apply economic pressure on the employer. Strikes go on and on when scabs do the work and keep the plant running, even running at half speed.

Second, there is less and almost no likelihood of violence breaking out in the case of a work stoppage. Violence occurs in a strike or lockout when people cross the picket line to take the lunch away from the workers who have undertaken a work stoppage, to take their jobs away, and to take food off their families' tables. That is when tempers burst out.

As my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst and I have both witnessed and been in the middle of, that is when fists start flying and violence breaks out. That does not happen with anti-scab legislation. It turns a picket line into an information picket line because there is no risk of scabs or non-union workers taking the jobs of employees during the middle of a work stoppage.

There are good moral and ethical reasons why we should pass laws to prohibit strikebreakers, non-union workers and scabs from taking the jobs of workers when they are out on strike.

There are also good economic reasons. It reduces the number of days lost to work stoppages and reduces the incidents of violence during those work stoppages. Those are two good compelling reasons.

The only argument I heard from the Liberal side is that we do not want to reopen the Canada Labour Code again because we just went through that exercise with Bill C-19 in 1999. I agree, but we did not finish the job during that process.

All the players involved in amending the Canada Labour Code in 1999 are fully aware that we left the anti-scab provisions only partially finished. Yes, we introduced the concept of anti-scab legislation into the Canada Labour Code in 1999, but it is painfully weak. It puts the onus on the employees to prove that the company is using scabs to undermine their union and their bargaining rights. The onus, the burden of proof, is on the employees. That is 180 degrees wrong. This bill seeks to remedy that.

I do not accept those fears as an argument. The arguments from the Canadian Alliance are entirely specious and indicate that its members simply do not understand modern industrial labour relations.

We have had a grain farmer lecture us on industrial labour relations in regard to final offer selection. I have lived in a jurisdiction where final offer selection was the law. As a union leader, I have used final offer selection a number of times.

FOS exists as an option. It is a form of third party binding arbitration that the two parties can enter into at any time they want. They do not need legislative changes to do that. But it is riddled with flaws. It is fundamentally useless when it comes to dealing with work rules and non-monetary issues. How would we ever get a day care centre in a workplace as a negotiated benefit using FOS? It is not a practical solution to the complex work rules that exist in most workplaces today and it tells me that somebody on that side has never really seen a collective bargaining process in action.

Madam Speaker, I know I only have a few minutes. Let me just close by saying I fully appreciate the sincere work that the member from the Bloc, the member for Laurentides, has done. She has done hard work for many years. It is to our benefit to have her fighting on behalf of working people in this country.

What works in Quebec will work in the rest of Canada. There is no good reason why the people in the federal jurisdiction of Quebec should not have the same benefits as people working in the federal jurisdiction elsewhere. We should share those same standards of fairness and we should all have modern anti-scab legislation.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this bill. It a subject that is very dear to my heart, both as a member of Parliament as an activist in an area where major strikes have disrupted the social and economic life of an entire region.

In a technologically and socially advanced society like ours, an anti-scab law is a necessity. It is not a luxury. The bill before us concerning labour relations in conflict situations is of the utmost importance not only to many workers in my riding, of course, but also to all workers in Quebec and in Canada.

Work is the foundation of society. Thus, workers deserve our full respect. In the minds of everyone, the right to strike is very important. It is their last resort in order to achieve better working conditions, job security and improved living conditions. When workers have got to the point where they go on strike and voluntarily deprive themselves of income, there is a serious problem in labour relations. Because it has been admitted that employers are often the cause of these problems, the right to strike has been recognized and the rights involved must protect the employee, not just the employer.

Having been a union president for close to ten years—of the labour council—I have seen all manner of labour disputes. Ordinary hard-working citizens fought a tough battle for the right to strike, but common sense finally prevailed and that right is now one of the advantages of the democracy we have heard so much about in recent months.

The labour code recognizes that right, as does the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Who then has the right to do away with it? Do we parliamentarians have the right to do away with something so precious, the only weapon workers have to ensure they can work in dignity? Yet this is something that happens frequently, because there is a legal void in the law. Provisions are needed to prevent employers from making use of replacement workers, who are essentially outlaws as far as I am concerned. The only way to remedy this shortcoming, in my opinion, is to have anti-scab legislation.

It is not a matter of holding a gun to employers' heads, far from it. It is a tool to ensure compliance with the law. Nor is it a luxury in a society such as ours. Once again, it is a necessity. Labour cannot be held up as valuable with the one hand, and then hampered in its progress by the other. History has proven this, in a number of Canadian provinces as well as in Quebec. Shocking things have happened because of this void. My colleagues have made reference to such events throughout this debate. Many examples have been given, including the recent situation with Vidéotron. How many such problems could have been avoided with anti-scab legislation? How much worry, suffering, and financial loss could have been avoided?

When I think of my own region, I think of something my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay has already mentioned: the pointless strike at Cargill which lasted 36 months. Imagine. Replacement workers are not a solution, they are a calamity. It is unrealistic to see them as any protection for employers.

A strike that is gotten around by the use of replacement workers is a strike that drags on for a very long time. It is a situation that takes a heavy toll on both parties, when they ought to be concentrating on making peace, not war.

I believe that it causes a lot of trouble. In my region, I have seen brothers who stopped talking to each other. I have seen families on the verge of collapsing and I have been a society go from harmony to chaos because of this legal vacuum that should have been filled a long time ago.

In my riding, I have the case of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador, QNS & L railway, and the Iron Ore company. Iron Ore employees are protected by the Quebec code; I believe they are very well protected. Workers of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador are protected by the Canada Labour Code. Thus, there is a huge legal vacuum.

I will try to conclude quickly in the three minutes I have left.

I will thus recommend the Quebec legislation, which has a good track record; there is also the Ontario or the British Columbia legislation. I think that my colleagues mentioned them. The legislation in effect in these three provinces has proven, beyond any doubt, that the tendency to incorporate the principle of banning the use of replacement workers to do the job of people on strike is gaining ground, both at the management and the union level. Where this principle is in effect, it is well accepted and well integrated.

I must insist and draw the attention of the House to the fact that, tomorrow, we will be called to vote, and show dignity and respect for and recognition of the workers.

Will the members of this House be able to leave with their heads held high, if they violate this right of workers. Tomorrow will be a historic day, not only for Quebec, but for all workers in this country. It is a very important day for society, and I thank my colleague, the hon. member for Laurentides, for having done such a great job.

I want to ask all the members to vote in favour of this bill tomorrow, because not doing so would be a slap in the face of the workers and an indication that they come second.

I trust that tomorrow the members will vote in favour of this anti-scab legislation.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, I will take the five minutes available to me because I still have a lot of things to say about this bill.

First, I must thank all those who will be supporting this bill and have said so in the House today. I want to thank them and tell them how happy I am that they have understood the need and usefulness of anti-scab legislation.

I heard comments tonight that made my ears turn red, as we would say in Quebec. I heard people say that it is an emotional debate. Of course it is an emotional debate, but there is more to it than that. When people lose their jobs for ten months and are without income, it certainly becomes an emotional debate. But it is also a debate about fairness and logic.

What my bill is trying to achieve is to give employees an opportunity to negotiate fairly with their employers. There must be a balance between the two sides, one that currently does not exist. Everyone knows that there are no real anti-scab provisions in the Canada Labour Code.

It is not strictly an emotional debate, therefore, but a debate on fairness and economics. Imagine being one of 1,000 employees at a major company to lose your job. Most companies under federal jurisdiction are large companies. These people do not help the economy, because they are unable to spend. They end up in poverty and, at the end of the day, the government has to support them when they are penniless. They go on welfare, end up in poverty and their health declines. These are immeasurable social costs and that is important. There are economic problems and problems of fairness.

I would like to point out that I have been the labour critic for my party since 1999. This is the third time I have opened this debate. This time, we will vote on the bill and we will do so tomorrow. Tomorrow we will see who has compassion and respect for workers. Tomorrow we will see which members have the courage to vote in favour of anti-scab legislation.

We are not talking about the economic costs. I know the labour minister has written to all Liberal members asking them not to support this anti-scab bill. She said that part I of the Canada Labour Code has already been reviewed in 1999 and that the unions were pleased with the outcome.

The President of the FTQ wrote personally to the minister to ask her to withdraw her remarks and apologize. It is not true that we do not want an anti-scab legislation, on the contrary.

It is not because part I of the Canada Labour Code was reviewed in 1999 that we should say the matter is closed, and we should not talk about it any more. Come on. We are here to change things. Our role as parliamentarians is to improve legislation, improve the Canada Labour Code, improve the lot of Canadians, Quebeckers, and workers. They are the ones who support the government, and they should benefit from their government. I feel the current situation is unfair.

Earlier, my Liberal colleague said something that upset me again. He said this is not that important, because not too many people are under the Canada Labour Code. He should be ashamed to say such a thing.

The issue is much bigger than this. It is a matter of respect, and the time has come for that. In Quebec, the issue was settled 25 years ago. We respect our workers. What I am striving to do, as a Quebecker, is to allow people in Quebec and the rest of Canada who work for businesses under federal jurisdiction to get this respect and to negotiate fairly with their employers. It is that simple. The government will not have to spend a single penny. All that is needed from it is a strong political desire to do this.

I hope that when we vote tomorrow, we will find out that the hon. members do have the political desire to do so and support this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 7:17 p.m., the time reserved for this debate has expired. Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

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

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

All those in favour of the motion. will please say yea.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakapanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Wednesday, October 22, 2003, at the end of government orders.

It being 7:17 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:17 p.m.)