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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Brampton Centre Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons I am pleased to present today, in both official languages, the government's response to the first report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled “The Safe Third Country Regulations”.

National Defence ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-35, an act to amend the National Defence Act (remuneration of military judges).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Health.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 28th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning the membership and associate membership of committees of the House, and I should like to move concurrence at this time.

(Motion agreed to)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

moved:

That this House recognize the urgency of amending the Canada Labour Code to ban the use of strikebreakers.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that, on this important opposition day, the members of the Bloc Quebecois will be splitting their time.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak today on a motion that is dear to the hearts of all of us in the Bloc Quebecois.

First, I would like to greet all workers, especially the workers of Quebec. This day is dedicated to them. We are thinking of them and have decided that this day would be their day.

Hon. members are aware of my interest in anti-scab measures. Last Tuesday, moreover, my bill was before the House and I sensed a certain support for it. I am anxious to see what the reaction will be on second reading. I am also anxious to hear my colleagues in the House of Commons share their visions or perceptions of this motion, and to have some idea of what interest this matter raises.

In the riding of each member of this Parliament, there are workers who are covered by the Canada Labour Code, so each MP has a concern in this bill.

As hon. members know, it is important for collective bargaining to be carried out in a civilized manner. Anti-scab legislation would make collective bargaining between employers, employees and unions possible . Obviously, giving workers some power to bargain with their employers often means shorter strikes and less bargaining time, and ensures that both parties are satisfied at the end of the day. Therefore, it is necessary to bargain in a civilized manner.

Having seen how some disputes degenerate, I know industrial peace is important. It is always sad to see strikebreaking. People have just about had it after 10 or 12 months of bargaining. The Cargill workers have been locked out for nearly four years now. One can well imagine their state of mind: imagine how they feel every day when they want to picket and see replacement workers taking their place, doing their job in their workplace. It is absolutely unacceptable that this is still going on in 2003.

In Quebec, we have had an anti-strikebreaking law since 1977. Here are some figures from Statistics Canada, which therefore are reliable. Just prior to Quebec's legislation, in 1976, the average number of working days lost was 39.4. In 1979, it fell to 32.8. In 2001, it was 27.4 days. Imagine that. After all, 27 days is quite reasonable. It is certainly better than 10 months.

It has taken 10 months at Vidéotron; 10 months during which mothers could not buy Christmas presents for their children, because they were getting a meagre $200 a week to be able to bargain. You know that the purpose of the situation at Vidéotron was to have some employees reinstated. It was to ensure that workers did not lose their jobs. The people who demonstrated did so in order to protect their fellow workers, and rightly so. It took 10 months. That is unacceptable. Therefore, we are talking about industrial peace.

With respect to the balance of bargaining power between employers and employees, it is certain that if an employer decides it does not want to bargain with its employees and, by roundabout means, succeeds in hiring replacement workers and shuts the door on bargaining, the dispute can last forever. Obviously, if there is a balance of power, the two parties will sit down at the bargaining table and the return to work will be much more peaceful.

It is also time to put an end to the existence of two categories of workers in Quebec: those who already have this right under the Quebec labour code and those under federal jurisdiction who do not. This must end.

British Columbia also has anti-scab legislation. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, because they saw that it works well in Quebec and has been successful, are now holding discussions and negotiating to introduce anti-scab legislation too.

I would also like to congratulate my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois who, for the past ten years, having been trying to introduce anti-scab legislation here, in this Parliament. I cannot name them all because they are many, but they have all worked hard. They almost succeeded on several occasions. The last time, it was 104 against 114. I hope that, this time, all the members of Parliament here today and during the vote will think hard before voting and will ensure that they are truly representing their constituents and workers in their ridings, and that they will vote the way these people want them to, and not the way they are told to vote. It is essential that members consult their constituents.

I am going to read the following letter because it deserves to be read, and I was deeply moved by it. A woman in Verdun who works for Vidéotron sent me a copy of her letter to the Prime Minister. I am going to quote from it. She says:

On May 8, I will have been unemployed for one year. One reason it has been so long is simple: my federal government has let me down. By refusing to protect the right of workers to strike, your government has left me high and dry. If jobs and the economy of your country were important to you, you would react by implementing serious legislation protecting the right of Canadian workers to strike. By letting companies rule the state for a minority's benefit, the government is openly allowing the pauperization of a growing number of workers. By closing its eyes to never-ending labour disputes and the harsh reality faced by these workers, the government is favouring business leaders over workers.

This is from an e-mail message sent to me by a woman. She was very happy to see that we had taken this initiative to introduce anti-strikebreaking legislation. There are also a great number of unions who have expressed their support, who have written us and who are doing an incredible job organizing their members to get them to sign a petition that I presented, and that is circulating across Canada and Quebec. This is important. In the coming weeks we will see just how many people really are concerned, want the government to understand that we need anti-scab legislation and will sign this petition.

I would be remiss if I did not mention some recent cases. As I said earlier, in the case of Vidéotron, the dispute lasted ten long months. That has an impact on all of the economy. It does not hurt just one business, but the entire economy of a region. Employees who do not have any money no longer function in the system. Often, they go into debt. They no longer have the means to pay their rent or their electricity bill. That is not good for society. Ten months is terribly long. These people suffered because there was no anti-scab legislation to help them.

The Secur case is also incredible. We know that there was also strikebreaking in the case of Secur. We cannot approve of this, but we know that when it happens, it is because people are at the end of their rope and there are no other resources. For this reason, we need to have anti-scab legislation.

There is the case of Radio Nord Communications, where employees are currently on strike. These people need this legislation to get their employer to bargain with them in good faith, which is not the case at present.

I would like to tell all the workers of Quebec and Canada that this is a serious issue for us, that this is not the first time that I have introduced legislation of this type. We have chosen this for our opposition day because it is an issue that is a priority for us. I again want to applaud workers. I invite them to demonstrate their support for this bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my previous professional life, that is before I was a member of Parliament, I worked for 16 years in the field of labour relations. I must confess that I always worked on the employer's side, and that employer was a pulp and paper company.

I commend the member for Laurentides for her speech, which, unfortunately, was very short. She should have asked for the unanimous consent of the House to continue for another 30 minutes. In short, I will put my question to her as quickly as possible so that she can make her views known.

The reason Quebec's anti-scab legislation was passed during the review of Quebec's labour code in 1977 was to eliminate all the violence in labour disputes.

You will recall that in Quebec, in 1973, there was a labour dispute in Longueuil, at United Aircraft, now known as Pratt & Whitney. That dispute led to confrontations. We must put ourselves in the shoes of the workers, who were exercising democratically their right to go on strike and who, every morning, saw buses go by, with darkened windows covered with wire mesh, filled with people coming to take their jobs. We can imagine how frustrated they were.

I would like to hear the comments of the member for Laurentides on this. If she has enough time, she could also talk about the human consequences of a labour dispute on the women, children and young people who are also affected, unfortunately.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague. I know that he cares deeply about the well-being of workers in his area. It is an issue that he and I often discuss.

It is obvious that a protracted labour dispute has severe consequences on families. We know that the number of single-parent families is growing. In fact, a news report on Vidéotron employees showed that some of these employees were single women living with several children, and they had to tighten their belts and even go into debt just to pay for the bare necessities of life.

This is unacceptable in today's society. It puts more pressure on our health care system, and we certainly do not need that. Indeed, these people become nervous, and they fall sick. We must also consider costs related to indebtedness and the negative impact that it has on the economy.

This has to stop. Anti-scab legislation would solve all these problems and ensure that bargaining was quick and in good faith. The average of 27.4 working days lost in 2001 in Quebec is a record. If we do not have such legislation at the federal level, labour disputes will get longer and longer over time, which will cause even more problems in Quebec and in Canada.

There are no costs associated with this kind of measure, but the government must have the political courage to do it. I would like to see this political courage, when the bill reaches second reading stage and members opposite do not hesitate to vote for it. In fact, several of them did so before, and I hope that they will do so again.

In any case, they will be held accountable by their constituents in the next elections. They will go to see workers and ask them to vote for them. If they did not support the anti-scab bill, workers will certainly remember.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in this House today. I would like to congratulate my colleague from Laurentides for her initiative and commitment to workers.

This day is also a unique opportunity to salute the exceptional contribution of all those who, day after day, are helping build our society. It is worth mentioning. We must also pay tribute to all those workers who, through the years, have fought an epic struggle to have their rights recognized and respected.

For parliamentarians, this special day is a special opportunity to take stock of our contribution as legislators to the working world and more specifically to the important issue of labour relations. In this regard one of our major responsibilities is to facilitate the exercise of healthy and fair labour relations in our businesses and public agencies in order to optimize economic development and minimize the chances of labour disputes, strikes or lockouts, as well as their negative impacts on society especially for those involved in such disputes.

I would like to mention some of those negative impacts: a drop in productivity both locally and globally, especially in small ridings or in smaller areas such as Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, for instance, in my riding; a drop in revenue for businesses and public agencies; a drop in income resulting in lower buying power for workers involved in the dispute; the possibility of major social unrest as a result of the dispute, and a higher debt load for the families concerned. I could keep on going, with even greater eloquence, but I would run out of time.

The list of negative impacts could be a lot longer, but these few examples are enough to illustrate the harm caused by these disputes and show the importance of doing everything possible to keep them to a minimum.

Among the major factors that can contribute to the prevention of disputes, or at least greatly limit their negative impacts, for a number of years the Bloc Quebecois has been pushing a bill that has been consistently blocked by the Liberal government. I am talking about Bill C-328, which is aimed at eliminating the regressive use of scabs during strikes or lockouts in businesses governed by the Canada Labour Code.

The Bloc Quebecois' first attempt to get the Canadian government to introduce this legislation prohibiting the use of scabs was in 1989 and targeted only Crown corporations. This bill was debated at second reading, but it is important to note that the Liberal Party, which was then in the opposition, voted in favour.

All of the Bloc Quebecois' subsequent attempts were flatly rejected by the Liberal Party, which has since been in power in the House of Commons. This was the case in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2001, as well as five times in 2002. Today, we are debating Bill C-328 at second reading.

It is also important to note that meanwhile, the Liberal government introduced, in 1988, Bill C-19 amending Part I of the Canadian Labour Code governing staff relations, but this legislation contained no provision prohibiting the use of strikebreakers. It met with strong opposition from several Quebec unions and the Bloc Quebecois categorically refused to support the bill.

Why is the government so set against the introduction of such measures, when we know that similar legislation has existed in Quebec since December 1977 and that it has had very conclusive positive effects? One need only mention a few of these positive effects. For instance, the number of working days lost from 1992 to 2002 averaged 15.9 under the Quebec Labour Code, compared to 31.1 under the Canada Labour Code. This is a difference of 95.6%.

Here is another example: the number of days lost for every 1,000 employees between 1992 and 2002 was 121.3 under the Quebec Labour Code compared to 266.3 under the Canada Labour Code, a difference of 119.5%.

Of course, figures do not tell the whole story, but they are revealing enough to require the government to do a serious study of the issue, a course I urge it to take. If these data are not persuasive enough, allow me to mention a few more examples of major disputes in Quebec companies governed by the Canada Labour Code, some of which are still dragging on. There is reason for concern.

Among others, there was the Vidéotron case. That dispute lasted 10 months and caused the loss of 355,340 workdays in Quebec. More than one third of all workdays lost in Quebec in 2002 were lost because of labour disputes.

There was the case of Secur, a dispute that caused the loss of 43,400 workdays. There is Cargill, where the lockout has been going on for over three years, affecting 43 employees in Baie-Comeau. There is also the case of Radio-Nord Communications, on strike since October 25, 2002, involving the employees of three television stations and two radio stations in northwestern Quebec.

In my view, these cases illustrate the urgent need for the Liberal government to amend the federal legislation and put an end to the use of strikebreakers, and thus encourage the fair and civilized settlement of labour disputes in Quebec. Amending the legislation would also make it possible to put an end to the absurd situation by which there are two classes of worker in Quebec—those governed by the Quebec Labour Code and the unlucky ones governed by the Canada Labour Code.

It is a question of equity, justice and social harmony. I also hope that this May 1, Workers' Day in most of the world, will be an opportunity for the federal Liberal government to think seriously about the damaging effects of its inaction with respect to the use of strikebreakers, and that it will make a positive gesture toward the working men and women of Quebec and Canada by supporting Bill C-328 introduced by my hon. friend from Laurentides.

Workers' Day is a fine occasion for the Liberal government to send a clear signal about its intentions with respect to this bill.

This is an issue about which I care deeply. I spoke earlier about my riding. We are all concerned about everyday problems and the fact that businesses and organizations are going through such disputes.

I am pleased to know that we have the support of three Bloc members in the Saguenay—Lac Saint Jean area. I invite my hon. friend, the Liberal member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, to join with us as well.

I am happy to have had the opportunity to express myself on this matter in this House, and I wish the hon. member for Laurentides great success with her bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay on his speech.

I have seen the employees of Cargill picketing along the shore in Baie-Comeau. That labour dispute has dragged on for three years and is about to be resolved, because the people have approved the report of the conciliator. However, it is important to note that a three-year strike is totally unacceptable. Such an example shows how, in the absence of anti-scab legislation, workers are at the mercy of their employers in areas where the use of strikebreakers is a well-established practice. We need to put a stop to that and what we have here is a very telling example.

Radio Nord Communications is another case in point in a totally different area, the telecommunications sector, but still in Quebec, in the Abitibi—Témiscamingue region to be more specific. It raises the issue of the information made available in a region facing the same problems. For instance, in my riding, I have seen workers of Vidéotron picketing on Lafontaine Street. These people wanted the labour dispute resolved, but they also told me, “What we are hoping for ultimately is anti-scab legislation that would give us the same rights the rest of Quebec workers are enjoying”.

Would the proposal brought forward by my hon. colleague from Laurentides not in fact significantly reduce the length of some strikes? It would improve labour relations and ensure better living conditions for many families.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed important to have such measures. We have to do everything necessary to get this bill passed. Thus, we encourage all our parliamentary colleagues to support this bill. It would enable us to resolve many of the current labour disputes facing businesses.

It is also important to think about all the workers who are affected. We talked about statistics and cited specific cases. However, we should not forget the dignity of the people who are used to going to work every day and who are being denied the pride of contributing to the development of our society. This is why this bill must be supported, as is already the case.

We are aware that there are dedicated people. We must think about and strongly support all those who participate in the development of our society.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian parliamentarians are aware that Quebec is an advanced society, including in the agricultural sector. We have the privilege today to welcome UPA representatives, egg, chicken and milk producers. Quebec is one of the most advanced societies in the world when it comes to supply management, a concept which originated in Quebec. It has been a model for many countries in this area.

We have a similar situation as far as labour relations go. Quebec broke new ground many years ago when it passed anti-scab legislation. The result is that the balance of bargaining power is maintained, and, more often than not, the parties feel like settling the dispute quickly, since they are more or less equal in power. But if the employer can hire strikebreakers, disputes last much longer, as we have seen recently with federally regulated companies.

The end result is that we have two classes of workers. One enjoys the protection of anti-scab legislation in Quebec, but the other, the unprotected workers, suffers because of the traditional indifference of the federal government in this great country.

What is my colleague's position on the disadvantages, for Quebec workers, of working in a federally regulated sector as opposed to one regulated by Quebec?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, in reply to my colleague, yes, there is indeed a difference. I believe this difference has negative repercussions.

As I mentioned before, since 1977 Quebec has had effective legislation in place. This legislation was passed in December of 1977. Earlier, I mentioned the positive results of this legislation, pointing out that, when it comes to economic productivity and benefits, Quebec had an average of 15.9 workdays lost to labour disputes between 1992 and 2002. This is different from the rate for industries that are governed by the Canada Labour Code, where the average was 31.9 workdays lost. This is a substantial difference.

It is also important to understand that Quebec workers are penalized when compared to workers who are governed by a different system.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw LiberalMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is very appropriate that we are discussing this motion on replacement workers on May 1, a day that organized labour has traditionally used to celebrate the role and importance of workers in our society.

People who know me know that I am an advocate of fair treatment. I have devoted most of my life to making sure that all Canadians are treated fairly by our society.

I have brought that same commitment to my job as Minister of Labour. I think it is very important that the rights of workers are protected under the Canada Labour Code and I have worked very hard to ensure that they are. But I also understand the importance of bringing a balanced perspective to labour policy issues. That is why I cannot support the motion of the Bloc Quebecois

The motion is seeking a ban on the use of replacement workers. However, this motion represents only one side of a very complicated issue. Indeed, anyone who follows this issue knows how complicated and divisive it can be. This is because there are two clearly divided sets of opinions on the use of replacement workers during times of work stoppage.

Employers typically see the issue one way and employees and their unions typically see it from an opposite point of view. This lack of consensus became very clear in the period of consultation that the government engaged in prior to making amendments to part 1 of the Canada Labour Code a few years ago.

At that time a broad range of labour management issues was up for discussion as the government sought stakeholders views on how the Canada Labour Code could be made to work more effectively for both employers and employees. On almost every issue the stakeholders were able to arrive at some degree of consensus on how they wanted the law to be changed. However on the issue of replacement workers, consensus was not possible. I do not think a consensus would be possible today.

Even across the different labour jurisdictions within Canada there is no common position on the issue of banning replacement workers by law. Quebec has had a ban on the user replacement workers in organizations under provincial jurisdiction since 1977. British Columbia has a similar ban, although it was introduced more recently.

Ten years ago the government of the day in Ontario brought in legislation banning replacement workers but a subsequent government repealed the law a few years later in 1995. No other provinces have legislation banning the use of replacement workers.

When the opposition members propose a ban on the use of replacement workers, they are proposing a change that does not have a clear consensus of support throughout Canada. When it comes to both workers and employers, they would clearly not have the support of both the sides that would be directly affected.

I believe that the balanced approach we brought to the legislation concerning the use of replacement workers when we amended part 1 of the Canada Labour Code in 1999 is still the right approach to follow today.

When the code was amended in 1999, it struck a balance between protecting the interests of workers on the one hand and employers on the other. Thus the existing legislation does not prohibit the use of replacement workers outright, as this motion seeks to do, but it does put clear restraints on their use.

At the same time, the legislation allows employers some flexibility to use replacement workers to meet their operating responsibilities. And remember, in the case of some large national organizations falling within the application of the Canada Labour Code, such as utilities or transportation companies, for example, those operating responsibilities might be of critical importance to the well-being of individual people, not to mention the country

What would happen, for example, if a major telecommunications company was forbidden to maintain service by using substitute personnel during a work stoppage? How many homes would be without phone service? Or how many other jobs would be affected if the commercial telecommunications infrastructure was shut down?

In some cases, it is critical that organizations be able to continue to operate during times of work stoppages. But that does not mean that replacement workers should be used to interfere with the legitimate bargaining objectives of a union on behalf of its members.

So the existing law allows employers some flexibility to meet their operating responsibilities, but it specifically prevents them from using replacement workers to undermine a union's legitimate bargaining objectives.

In effect, the changes governing the use of replacement workers made to the Canada Labour Code in 1999 represented a compromise between the position of employees and unions on the one hand and the position of the employers on the other. It is a balanced approach that also reflects the majority recommendation of an expert task force that reviewed the issue, consulted with stakeholders and provided a comprehensive report that helped guide the legislation.

In practical terms, most of the parties who engage in collective bargaining under part I of the code have accepted this balanced approach as a reasonable compromise in the real world. Because, as a practical matter, the issue of replacement workers comes up in only a very small number of cases under the Canada Labour Code. Over 90% of labour disputes in the federal jurisdiction are settled without a work stoppage. In the vast majority of cases replacement workers are not an issue.

Nevertheless, there are still cases where the issue does come up and part I of the code provides for measures to deal with these cases. Section 94(2.1) of the code states the following:

No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use, for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives, the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit on the date on which notice to bargain collectively was given and was hired or assigned after that date to perform all or part of the duties of an employee in the bargaining unit on strike or locked out.

In other words, the federal law now prohibits the use of replacement workers to undermine legitimate bargaining activities. If a union believes an employer is using replacement workers in a manner contrary to the provisions of section 94(2.1), it can bring the case before the Canadian Industrial Relations Board under section 97(1) of the code.

Since the code was amended, only a handful of cases have been referred to the board under section 97(1). A few of these have attracted particular attention, but in the vast majority of situations under the Canada Labour Code the existing balanced approach to the difficult issue of replacement workers is working.

By proposing a prohibition on replacement workers today, the Bloc is trying to reopen the debate on this contentious issue, but the Bloc is advocating only one side of the argument. The government has to take a broader perspective: We have to look at the issue from both sides.

As minister responsible for the Canada Labour Code, I have to take into account the competing values and interests of both employers and employees and their unions, not just one side.

Based on the advice the government received during a broad process of consultation in the period leading up to the amendments to the Canada Labour Code in 1999, we made changes to the Canada Labour Code that took both sides into account. And I believe that is still the right approach today.

It is too soon to conclude that the replacement workers provision in part I of the code is not working in the broad public interest. It is too soon to disturb the practical balance that has been achieved and to say the law needs to be changed, and especially to be changed on an urgent basis, as the opposition motion suggests. But it is an issue that I, as Minister of Labour, will continue to monitor with great interest.

One thing is clear to me: This is not a simple issue. It is an issue that can elicit strong opposing views like those we are going to hear all day today. It is being strongly expressed on Parliament Hill, so we know that this issue can divide business and labour.

It can also divide experts within the labour relations community. When the Sims task force looked into this issue a few years ago, it was the only item in a broad range of labour management issues that evoked a minority written report.

As I have already mentioned, across Canada where the jurisdiction for labour law is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial levels of government, there are different approaches to the use of replacement workers in these different jurisdictions.

So there is no clear consensus position on the use of replacement workers in this country. Clearly, each province can deal with the issue in the way it believes is best for the needs and interests of the workers and employers in its jurisdiction.

Those jurisdictions represent some 90% of workers in this country. But at the federal level we have to be concerned for the approximately 800,000 workers who come under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code. We know that most federally regulated employers do not hire replacement workers in any case, although they might reassign management and other non-bargaining unit personnel to maintain operations.

So, on balance, I do not think it would be advisable at this time to change the provisions of the Canada Labour Code governing the use of replacement workers. Therefore, I am not in favour of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my friend the Minister of Labour, a full-blooded Acadian, if I may say so, for whom I have a great deal of respect, particularly in this regard.

I would first like to make a comment. In 1993, British Columbia signed, as Quebec has done, a ban on strikebreakers or scabs. That same year, the work time lost fell by 50%, which is almost a record.

That being said, there are a few things that I would like to ask the minister on behalf of the people of New Brunswick. What does she have to say to the New Brunswick members of the Canadian national council? What does she have to say to the New Brunswick members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees? What does she have to say to the New Brunswick members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada? What does she have to say to the members of the New Brunswick Brotherhood of Engineers, Division 162, when all those people ask her to include anti-scab legislation in the Labour Code? Is the minister not moved by those people? Is she not interested in what her fellow New Brunswickers have to say?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, unions in New Brunswick, as elsewhere in the country, know quite well that I spend a lot of time with them. They have had more meetings than ever with a Minister of Labour, as was the case last October.

I often meet with my friend and colleague to discuss different things. He must understand that, as the federal Minister of Labour, I saw what was done during the six years that led to the implementation of the Canada Labour Code. The Canada Labour Code works quite well in a labour dispute because we were able to work together with employees and employers and we listened to both parties. In my speech, I explained clearly that, when the issue of replacement workers was raised, we had to discuss this at length, because some people did not agree and we had to reach a compromise.

This is the answer that I would give my union friends in New Brunswick or elsewhere. As the federal minister, I worked very hard with employees and employers to get both sides to reach a compromise.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak about this issue in the House today. I want to question the minister directly on the issue of consensus. I can understand that the government does want to build that, not only on this issue but on others. But we know from history that on issues dealing with anti-racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, all those different things, there often was not consensus. Even currently we have issues in the House all the time that do not involve consensus, but we do it because it is the right thing to do.

Here is what I want to know from the minister. When is that point when we have to make a decision? We cannot always have consensus. If we just wait for that moment it may never happen, but it is the right thing to do. When will she act on this?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the right thing to do is take the Canada Labour Code seriously, as we did with part I, which had to do with strikes. Then we did it with part II, which had to do with health and security. When we take that seriously and say to both employees and employers that this code belongs to them, we cannot make an amendment on one part by listening only to the employer and then on another part by listening only to the employee and then saying, “I am the Minister of Labour. I know best. You are going to win this one and you are going to win that one”.

That is why it worked in this country: because we took both sides equally seriously. We did not do the consensus ourselves. The Sims report worked on it and the staff worked on it with both the employees and the employers. It was not done pie in the sky and that is why, when there is a conflict and a collective agreement is being negotiated, in this country 90% of the conflicts are resolved without a strike or lockout: because we did not say that on this one we will listen to the employer and on that one we will listen to the employee. We made sure. And when we came up with a compromise, it was done with the employees and the employers.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Labour not realize that, by her lack of leadership, she is siding with management?

The minister says that she cannot do anything because both parties do not agree. She could take another position and say that anti-scab legislation is a good idea, that she will hold consultations with both employers and workers and try to have this concept included in the Canada Labour Code, that she will negotiate with both parties to reach that goal.

In the end, we would no longer have labour disputes such as those at Cargill, which lasted three years, at Vidéotron, which lasted one year, and at Radio-Nord, a dispute that has not been settled yet and has lasted several months.

Is it not true that, by her lack of leadership, the minister is siding with management? Ultimately, she is the one not accepting her responsibilities at this time. If she were, employers would accept anti-scab legislation and would get something in return. That is what we are expecting her to do today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, being a leader means being able to listen to what everyone has to say. Being a leader is not going to just one person and saying, “I will be there for you”. Being a leader means saying that the Canada Labour Code belongs to employees and employers. And this House can be proud of parts I and II of the Canada Labour Code. We can be proud of the fact that we have had leaders who made the right decision because they listened.

I want to commend the hon. member for the extensive work she has done. I might add that when I met with employees and employers last October, I asked them, “What do you think? Do you feel we should consider some compromises?” If representatives of labour and management told me they wanted to look into it, because the code belongs to them, I would be prepared to listen to them. We are talking about their tools for resolving labour disputes. What the people I met with in October told me is that they did not think they could come up with a better compromise than the one they had.

Let me assure the House and the Bloc Quebecois that, based on the work I have done in my community during all the years I was involved, if the employees and employers told me they wanted to work on it, that is how it would be. But when I ask them, they tell me, “We have worked so much on this issue that we have worked out a compromise”.

This came into force only in 1999. Time will tell how well it works. I can assure the Bloc Quebecois, and indeed the House, today that I will be monitoring this very closely. If changes can be made to improve on what is there, we are certainly prepared to consider them.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring a case to the attention of the minister.

What is the minister currently doing for employees at Noranda Mineral-Horne Division in Rouyn-Noranda? They have been on strike for more than a year. They are losing their houses and may well end up on the street. What were you doing when the Noranda mine—