House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employees.


Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says that it is not a problem. It is not a problem for him because he represents an area in Ontario. It is not a problem for him when these job postings are not available to everyone else in Canada. However I can assure him that it is a real problem for the people in eastern Canada and western Canada.

As I said a few minutes ago, all it really takes to solve this problem is political will. The hon. member says that this would require a computerized approach. Well, I am sure the Public Service Commission does not use slide rules when it is trying to fill jobs. It uses computers. A computerized approach in the 21st century is not really too much to ask, and if it takes a computerized approach, then fine.

I think what it takes most of all, by the government, is the political will to really do something about it. However I do not believe the government has the political will to do anything about making all parts of the country equal when it comes to access to employment opportunities.

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5:10 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, how much time is there?

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5:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Two minutes; one for the question and one for the answer.

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5:10 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, here is the question I wish to ask of the hon. member for St. John's East.

At the beginning of his speech, the member for St-John's East mentioned that not much weight had been given to the issues raised by the public service unions.

I would like to know the position of the members from the Progressive Conservative Party. They surely are familiar with the recommendations in the Fryer report and those of all the committees that have been established since 1998, that co-determination or joint management should be used to establish classification criteria and achieve staffing in which the unions, union officials and the employer would participate.

The preamble of this bill expresses a desire for better relations between unions and management in the workplace. Why, then, are they completely absent from this bill, and is no mention made of co-determination? I would like to hear the position of the Progressive Conservatives on this.

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5:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, I find it difficult to comment on the member's question because I am really not all that familiar with the bill. I am not the critic for this portfolio. I am speaking today and making these remarks on behalf of my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants.

I believe it is very important that unions be consulted and made a part of this process right from the very beginning. I will make my colleague aware of the hon. member's concerns, and he probably will talk to him on that.

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5:15 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act.

Those who may have had the chance to flip through the bill have no doubt noticed how thick it is, with its 279 pages. This is an incredibly thick bill. The least we can say is that what the government is seeking to do constitutes an ambitious undertaking. Change may have been due for 35 years, as the minister said, but there are pros and cons in this bill, and we are going to discuss its various aspects.

It is important to mention that the federal government has been taking steps to reform the public service for quite a long time. In the 2001 Speech from the Throne, the government stated, and I quote:

The Government is committed to the reforms needed for the Public Service of Canada to continue evolving and adapting. These reforms will ensure that the Public Service is innovative, dynamic and reflective of the diversity of the country—able to attract and develop the talent needed to serve Canadians in the 21st century.

Here we are, as parliamentarians, discussing a bill with which the federal government is seeking to achieve the objectives stated in that throne speech.

Bill C-25 was referred to the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates for consideration and to hear witnesses on the subject. The NDP had an opportunity to attend. The NDP heard various witnesses state their positions on this bill.

Since February 27, the committee has been meeting regularly to further consider this bill, and mainly to assess its scope. The great number of witnesses who appeared before the committee is a clear indication of the importance of the bill. And the committee submitted to the government the amendments it felt were necessary. I must say that while valid, these amendments do not reflect all the concerns of public service employees.

When we read the bill, we note that the employer did not put any constraint upon itself, especially since it was the main drafter of the bill. It has set its own rules regarding labour relations without consulting its employees much at all.

The NDP raised several important points that can be found in the bill but remain vague or hard to justify.

Where are public service employees' interests at this stage? We understood, as did the federal government, that providing the best service to Canadians is important to public service employees. However, we do not feel this should be done on the backs of workers.

It is important to remember that since the early 1990s, public service employees have been under a lot of pressure at work. Salaries were frozen for seven years. Program review resulted in the laying off of civil servants, which increased the workload for others.

I would like to make a point. Last week in my riding, the government announced it would lay off public service employees, who had almost reached three years of employment and therefore entitlement to government benefits. It did this to get around the system and to save money. Again, this was done on the backs of the workers.

Seventeen people were laid off without justification, in my view, since we need services. When people call offices, they cannot get service and are connected to answering machines. No service is provided, and the government is still laying people off.

It is odd that the people who are close to three years of service, on the verge of becoming unionized and being entitled to benefits, finally being able to live a normal life—like all workers in Canada—are the ones the government lays off. The same thing happened in Chatham, New Brunswick. Just before people reached three years of service, the government let them go.

I am certain—and time will tell—that, within six months, we will be hearing, “Oh, we are short of services. We are going to do more hiring”. That is the way this government operates.

About the pension fund surplus, that $30 billion that has been removed—I would like to say stolen but I know you would catch me on it—this is money that has been taken from the workers. The $30 billion comes from the pension fund. It represents pressure and stress the workers have to cope with. Yet this bill is touted as intended to help public servants.

It seems to me that employees in the public service have plenty of worry and stress, yet here comes a bill that will only add to their headaches. For whose benefit? For the people of Canada?

It is true that the committee did propose some amendments, but their scope is restricted to certain terms or reworking of content.

I want to congratulate the Bloc Quebecois in this connection, because it proposed 120 amendments to the committee. The government, however, accepted only one. We said to ourselves, “Maybe the Bloc Quebecois was not reasonable to bring in 120 amendments, so we will propose 10”, but none was accepted. As a result, no opposition amendments were accepted.

Does this mean that, in reality, we cannot think for ourselves, we cannot represent the people in our ridings, cannot represent the workers? Is that what it means? Does it mean that we are not smart enough? Is that the message the Liberal government wants to send to Canadians? I find it shameful that the committee was working ever since February, and yet the government adopted only those amendments it wanted to see adopted, in its own interests, not the interests of the workers. There is absolutely nothing in it for them. I will address this further later on in my speech.

The committee made no major amendments. What happened to the existing bargaining table and right of recourse? The federal government had the opportunity extend the deadline for giving a notice to negotiate to four months when a collective agreement or arbitral award is in force. Yet, it did not take advantage of this opportunity.

As for two-tier bargaining, it is not very clear.

What happened to merit-based staffing and classification? The amendments contained in the bill would allow managers to consider only one candidate who has the skills essential for the position. It refers to essential skills. Why set up a satffing process when the employer plans to hire based on such a limited number of candidates?

I was surprised earlier to hear my colleague, the member for St. John's East—and I want to underscore this part—say, “We have some concerns about this bill, but there are some good points”.

There is a question I would have liked to ask him, but due to a lack of time I was not able to do so. My question is this: What is the position of the Progressive Conservative Party on this? With respect to the bill's good points, he said, “Now the government has more powers when it comes to hiring”. Does the Progressive Conservative Party accept hiring based on the merits of one single person?

In the past, in Canada, we have experienced the situation whereby if you do not vote Conservative, you will not get a government job, or if you do not vote Liberal, you will not get a government job. And the same holds true today. This provision in the bill puts senior officials in a position whereby a government member can phone them up and say to them, “Now I want you to hire my aunt's daughter, or my uncle's daughter. She is the one I want you to hire. She worked on my election campaign. I want you to hire her”. This sets up a process that will make this type of hiring easier.

This bill eliminates the democratic process that would give every Canadian a chance for a job. This is shameful. I thought that in 2003 we had finally gotten beyond this. I thought that at the federal level, we were above this. I apologize for what I am about to say, but at the provincial level, people come and see me and they say, “Yvon, the only way for me to get a job is to work on the Conservative or Liberal campaign, in case they win the election”. I thought that we were through with this type of situation in Canada, in this so-called best country in the world.

The provisions on essential services in this bill are very punitive and retrograde.

How can it be justified on the basis of improved labour relations when, instead, it is going to widen the chasm between the employer and the unions?

And what about the basic right to strike all unionized employees have? Imposing limits and barriers on the union is an attempt to wipe out this right.

There have been a lot of discussions. Our hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois talked about them. It is in his speech. Once again, something is being taken away from workers' rights.

As a former union representative, I can assure you that taking away any part of this right from a union member is of no benefit to the employer. I have learned that through experience.

The bill on the modernization of the public service was a promise made by the Liberal government, and the New Democratic Party thinks that this promise has not been completely met. Simply bringing in a bill, declaring publicly that the government is proud of keeping its word, is worthless. It is a misrepresentation, as far as I know, because I can see no value at all in this commitment as it is expressed in Bill C-25.

The 297 pages of complicated legal terminology will not, in the end, improve labour relations between the two parties.

Should we be sorry for the thousands of Canadians employed in the public service who were hoping that this modernization would make a positive change in their workplace and would establish close cooperation between union and management?

Yes, I can do something other than being sorry for all those people, including some in my riding. The government talked about wonderful goodies, but in the end, they just got crumbs.

Now, it is up to the members of this House to represent the interests of these thousands of employees and to tell the government that Bill C-25 is nowhere near what public servants need. Why wait until everything is in place to realize that Bill C-25 is not adequate? We must act now if we want to make it adequate.

In the beginning, Bill C-25 was well received by my party. We believed that things had taken a turn for the better and that the public service would get what it deserved.

It is with heavy hearts that we are concluding consideration of this bill. It seems that the federal government does not want to modernize the public service. Instead, it wants to use it to its own advantage and for its own interests. I doubt that the federal government can build a modern-day public service with Bill C-25. Too many elements were amended in the interests of a single party. This will not allow Canada to boast about providing Canadians with the best services.

I would like to give other examples with regard to protecting whistleblowers, which was the subject of one of our amendments. How can a government refuse something so logical? It is as if I told my children, “If you notice one of your brothers or sisters stealing from one of your siblings, do not tell me”. It is like saying, “I do not want to hear about it if a senior official does something wrong”. There must be a reason for this.

The only reason has to do with what happened to Groupaction. Things unfolded, and public servants could have blown the whistle, but they did not because they were afraid of losing their jobs. That is the only reason this bill and these amendments were not adopted.

It is disgusting to see that the government is protecting the unacceptable. I said and I am going to say it again that it is like telling your child, “If you see your sister stealing in a store, I do not want to know about it, because I do not want to have to punish her”. That is the simplest and most logical way of putting it that I can find.

It is as though the government is telling its employees, “If you denounce someone in a senior position because he did something improper, you will be fired”.

That is why I take issue with this legislation, because we put forward amendments for the well-being of Canadians. I know the Liberals think that the government has belonged to them for 100 years, but the government does not belong to the Liberals. It belongs to Canadians. There should be provisions in the bill to protect our workers.

I worked for a company where I told the boss, “I am sure you hate the union”. He said he did not hate the union because if anyone in management did something wrong, the union would tell him about it and he would have to correct the situation.

At the time, I thought my employer had a good attitude. I did not always agree with my employer but on that occasion I said, “That makes sense”. I thought my boss was anti-union, but he was not. He said it was good to have a union because the union would report any shenanigans bosses got up to that the big boss did not know about.

The Liberal government does not want its employees to denounce senior officials. It does not want its employees to denounce the deputy minister if he does a favour for Groupaction, for instance, or for the owner of Auberge Grand-Mère. I am not saying he did that. No, it does not want public servants to inform it of this type of thing.

I think it is because it would have to punish people who have handed out goodies, those who have given out money during election campaigns. Is that the problem? What do the Liberals have to hide? I do not understand what the Liberals have to hide that they would say to employees, “Don't make these problems public”. I have a hard time understanding any of this.

Then there are the job openings for the National Capital Region. People from New Brunswick for example cannot get a job in Ottawa unless they have an apartment, an address in Ottawa. People from British Columbia cannot get a job in the capital of the country, in Ottawa, where almost all of the buildings house public servants. They cannot work for their government, for the taxpayers—since the public service belongs to the taxpayers, to all the people of Canada—unless they rent an apartment in Ottawa.

Now, renting an apartment takes money. The candidate is required to provide a home or business address in Ottawa. This means that a person who has a company address in Ottawa, but does not live there himself, can get a job.

But the poor unemployed young person who has been looking for a job within his or her province for six months and has all the qualifications for a job in Ottawa has to acquire an address in Ottawa or west Quebec—which certainly is just another way of saying the Gatineau region. To get that address, the young person must pay for an apartment. How can a young person be given a chance at a job?

It is so ridiculous that a person from Bathurst cannot get a job in Fredericton, but someone from Halifax or Newfoundland can, because of the kind of employment posters they have. I hope the commission is listening to what I have to say this evening, not just the government, and will find some solutions for this, because it is the commission that does the hiring.

I could give a lot more examples, because I have plenty. A francophone from Shippagan needs to speak English. He has to know both languages in order to get a job on a fishing boat. Well, I never knew fish spoke only English, so the workers on the boat needed to as well. His application is rejected because he does not speak English.

However, in Halifax, jobs are posted in English only. Anglophones can get a job in Halifax, but francophones in Shippagan have to have two languages. There are all sorts of injustices like this in the public service which will have to be resolved because it is completely unacceptable.

As Canadians and as taxpayers, they should have the opportunity for employment with Canada's public service, across the country.

I only have one minute left, so I would like to come back to the fisher I was talking about, a man who had a contract with the federal government for six months, aboard the Opilio at sea. There was a competition and he won it. After being given his assignment, he decided to try the bilingualism exam. He was told, “If you fail your bilingualism exam, you will lose your job as ship's captain”.

I spoke with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and they told me, “No, a francophone from Shippagan should be able to operate a boat; we will give him a job”. After I spoke to the minister, they said, “Now the second candidate had accepted a position in Saint John, but he decided to come back to Shippagan”.

This was unheard of in the public sector and in the public service. However, once again, given the power that the government has, with the power that senior officials have, they completely abused it. I find this unfortunate.

I hope that this bill is not passed. We will not be supporting it because it does not do enough for workers.

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5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member did not really give an explanation, but I suppose quite a passionate presentation.

The member's closing point is interesting. I am glad to hear that he is coming around to the Canadian Alliance position on some of the problems with the Official Languages Act. When necessary, of course, positions should be bilingual, but when it is not necessary he and I would agree. That is the problem that we have at times with some of the postings in the Canadian public service where the bilingual portion of it is abused. That is exactly the same position. However, I must say that some of the member's other comments were a little over the top.

I appreciate the efforts of the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby who has worked in committee, with the minister, and other colleagues to improve the bill. Although it is not perfect, we must decide if it is an improvement on the status quo. I believe it is. The member was able to improve things such as the whistleblowing portion. I wish to congratulate him and others who accepted that amendment.

When I listened to the member talk about accessibility and opportunity for workers throughout the country, I wondered whether he and his party would agree that the story this week in the Vancouver Sun about a worker who was denied accessibility to a job because he was white is also a travesty?

A guy applied for a job and was told that he was not allowed to apply for the job because the job had been designated for someone of an ethnic minority. The job was with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the guy was fully qualified. The first qualification was--and this is not a francophone thing this time, c'est un autre problème avec le gouvernement--that the person had to fit a certain ethnic profile before applying for the job.

We have had a lot of discussion about geographic equality. I would like to get this member's opinion because as far as I know the NDP is solidly behind the Employment Equity Act and the way it is administered to the public service. I would like to know whether he thinks that the worker out on the west coast, who fully qualified for this job and should have a shot at it, was ripped off? I think he was.

I think a guy who is qualified should be allowed to apply. I would like to know whether the NDP agrees with that or whether it supports the idea of quotas in the civil service based on ethnicity?

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5:35 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question. First of all, I am very proud that our country has decided not to be represented by the Canadian Alliance.

Second, the only reason why members of the Canadian Alliance support the bill is because many things in the bill are against unions. The Alliance members are against unions because unions represent the people and they feel that people should not be represented.

If one wants to talk about language, I have, for example, job postings from Ottawa, Dartmouth and other areas that require only English. There were no English-French or French job postings. They were either all English or all bilingual. That means that one either has to be English or both, but there are no postings for francophones only. I do not want to start a debate on that as we could debate it all day.

We are talking about the white person who did not get a job. There are similar issues with francophones and anglophones. Why would one ask a fisherman to be bilingual? I can assure everyone that codfish have not learned to speak either language yet. Crab have never learned to speak. Even when we had big problems with the crab industry, the crab never learned to speak.

Canadian Alliance members would like to be treated like Americans. They would like to live in the United States and have all the same rules. Everything would be for “me, myself and no one else, and look out for yourself only”.

I am proud to live in our country. I am proud to be a member of the NDP and able to represent many people in our society, whether they are black, aboriginals, or part of a minority. We have rules so people can have jobs in this country, but the Canadian Alliance does not believe in that.

I am very proud to be a member of the NDP. No one will believe how proud I am to be a member of the NDP. I hope to be here for a long time to represent Canadians in the way they believe they should be treated in our multicultural society. That is what I really believe in.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It being 5:42 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 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-419, An Act to amend the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (members' staff), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2003 / 5:40 p.m.


Joe Peschisolido Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to take part in today's debate on Bill C-419, an act to amend the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.

It is fitting that we are considering this bill as part of private members' business. The bill would directly affect all members in the way we conduct our work and organize our offices, so it is appropriate that we are able to consider these issues in a non-partisan and thoughtful manner.

The government has considered many issues raised in the bill since the enactment of the original act in 1986. The government has not acted on these issues since there has been no agreement among parliamentarians, among ourselves, on how to proceed.

Let me now go through various aspects of Bill C-419. Bill C-419 proposes three main changes to the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.

First, the bill would amend part I of the act to allow the staff of each MP and senator to negotiate collective agreements. These provisions would apply to parliamentary staff, constituency staff and caucus staff. Each MP and senator would be considered as an employer in relation to their staff. Parliamentary staff would therefore be covered by the same legislation as the employees of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament. By including parliamentary staff under part one of the act, employees would have recourse through the Public Service Staff Relations Board arbitration and grievance procedures.

Second, the bill would add a new provision to the act to forbid employers to lock out their employees. This prohibition would apply to the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library of Parliament, and each member of Parliament and senator in their role as employers. The bill also includes penalties for employers who cause lockouts.

Third, the bill would bring into force parts II and III of the act. Part II of the act provides for labour standards such as hours of work, wages and leave, et cetera, and incorporates part III of the Canada Labour Code. Part III of the act provides for occupational health and safety standards by incorporating part II of the Canada Labour Code. Parts II and III of the act apply to the staff of MPs, senators, the House of Commons, the Senate and the Library of Parliament.

As I mentioned earlier, although the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act was enacted on June 27, 1986, parts II and III of the act covering labour and health and safety standards have never been brought into force, given concerns among members that these provisions should not apply to parliamentary staff. One concern has been the financial and operational implications that these provisions would have on members of Parliament and senators.

Bill C-419 could result in significant costs to MPs and senators as a result of the labour and health and safety standards under parts II and III. The new provisions in Bill C-419 for collective bargaining for parliamentary staff could also have significant financial implications for individual members of Parliament and senators.

Another concern raised by parts II and III of the act is that they could interfere with the independence of members of Parliament and senators and their parliamentary privileges. For instance, staff could refuse to perform work they considered dangerous, which could prevent the House from sitting or could interfere with the operation of the offices of members of Parliament. In addition, government inspectors would have access to parliamentary premises, including the offices of members of Parliament. I am sure we would all agree that as parliamentarians we must be careful to ensure that our privileges are not unduly constrained so that we can perform our duties and our functions as members of Parliament, as representatives of the people of Canada.

We must therefore find the correct balance between maintaining our privileges while obviously ensuring that the interests of our employees are properly and carefully addressed.

The House of Commons, the Senate and the Library of Parliament have effectively addressed labour issues through other informal ways and means. The House, Senate and Library of Parliament employees have coverage similar to that provided under the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act without interfering--and this is the key point--they have the same coverage and protections without interfering with parliamentary privilege.

I believe that as parliamentarians we should always strive to uphold our duties in our roles as members of Parliament to our constituents, but also importantly as employers, to ensure that our own parliamentary staff have proper working arrangements and proper working conditions.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate for the Board of Internal Economy to create a parallel non-legislative structure to achieve the objectives of the act without the difficulties raised in a more rigid statutory approach.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to address the House on Bill C-419 introduced by the New Democratic Party member for Halifax. It is time that this bill came to the House for us to debate.

Bill C-419 will show us which political party in Canada truly supports unions and which party is truly opposed to them. The test will take place when it is time to vote.

The Liberal Party will certainly say, “Ah, the workers and the unions support us”. Finally, this bill will give the members' employees an opportunity to unionize, but now they will come to say they are not ready to give that opportunity to the employees. In fact, they say that if there are risks at work they can refuse to work.

Imagine that. In the private sector this has been a topic of negotiation for many years, and any worker who thinks his or her life is in danger has the right to refuse to work and can initiate an investigation of his or her workplace.

And the Liberals are afraid that people could refuse a task if they believe it could be a threat to their health and well-being. This is unheard of, and I never thought I would hear any such thing from the government.

Governments should leaders, both nationally and provincially. And this kind of bill scares the government. Just think of the message it is sending to private sector companies.

The private sector is opposed to unions because they negotiate good benefits for their members and that affects the bottom line. Today, in the House of Commons, the government is telling us basically the same thing: the way it operates must not change, must not be questioned, must not allow representation.

The remark that gets to me the most is the one just made by the Liberal member who said, “Imagine, staff could refuse to perform work they consider dangerous to their health or safety. We can't have that”.

God forbid that someone from outside Parliament should come and check whether jobs are safe. Incredible. The Liberals are to be thanked. On behalf of the workers, I wish to thank the Liberals for being so supportive of workers when they say, “We do not want anyone to represent you, but we want you to work for us”. As some would say, the same way that you have good companies and bad ones, you have good bosses and bad ones. Normally, when a union is formed it is because the workers want one, because there are bad bosses and bad companies. That is when the workers seek to unionize. Something has to happen to set that process in motion, something like abuse by the employer. That is when workers want to unionize.

Are the Liberals in this House this evening telling us that, as far as they are concerned, they want to continue abusing their employees in this day and age? Since they contend that they are not abusing their employees, they should have nothing to fear from unionization. Are they afraid of collective bargaining and free bargaining?

There are even some surprising questions in the speech by the Bloc Quebecois member for Laurentides. She too had some questions relating to the union. We will wait for their speech this evening, but I have heard there is a possibility of their supporting the bill. They wondered how they could manage to negotiate salaries when the budget comes from Parliament and they have no control over the money.

It is like a company, with no control. If it makes a profit it has money, if it does not, it has no money. The two parties negotiate. As for the NDP, I am proud to represent them here; it will be six years on June 2. We have had a union for our staff, and I have experience with that. We have had collective agreements. We accepted a union for our staff and it did not kill us. In fact, our relationship is a really good one.

Another point that was raised by the Bloc Quebecois member for Laurentides is that it must not be the same union, because of the risk of conflict of interest. I have always thought that it was not up to the employer to decide on the union, but rather that it was the workers' choice that determined the union that would represent them. That is not up to the employer. It is like having a company or an employer decide which chamber of commerce will represent it, it is not up to the population to tell it which one to go with.

I have a problem when such things are said in the House of Commons, particularly when it is something to do with workers. In this bill, all that is being asked is for workers to have the right to unionize and for this to be accepted by Parliament.

Once again, the Bloc asked a question, “Will we be forced to do it? Will employees be forced to unionize?” No, only if they want to. We cannot turn up at some workplace today, Tim Hortons for example, and tell the workers, ”From now on, by law, you may unionize and in fact you have to unionize”. It is up to the employees to decide.

I would just like to reassure the members of the Bloc Quebecois that they need not worry, our employees have been unionized for years. We think we have a good collective agreement with them—that is what our employees tell us—and we have free bargaining. The union that represents them is the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. We have established good relations and employees seem happy.

However, I can say one thing. I do not know if there are members who are afraid, whether they are Liberal members, or members of the Canadian Alliance, or members of any other party who want to vote against the bill. I do not know how they treat their employees. Perhaps when Parliament adjourns, they lay off their employees and these people have to go on employment insurance. Perhaps they are afraid of trying to negotiate that in their collective agreement.

I think that with the office budgets we are given, we can support employees and do constituent work. We are in a better situation than private sector employers when it comes to our budgets, for the simple reason that the private sector may or may not make a profit.

We have to be honest. As members of Parliament, we have a fixed budget. It does not grow or shrink. We can adjust, with our budget. We are able to negotiate collective agreements and adjust. We have to give our employees some credit. They know that if members do not do their job, if they are not able to work for their constituents, they will lose their job.

The Bloc Quebecois raised another question. They asked what happens if out of 50 members, 25 of them do not get re-elected? If 25 members are not re-elected, the employees are laid off, as is the case with members of Parliament. This is in the collective agreement. You cannot give someone a job if there is no employer. The member of Parliament is the employer, and if the employer no longer exists, the employees no longer exist. We negotiated all of this. We negotiated collective agreements and the employees seem satisfied with all of it. They say so openly.

Moreover, if there is something that is not going well, they are not embarrassed to come and see the employer to say so. They are not shy about raising issues with us. They are protected. Our employees are subjected to a great deal of pressure. There is pressure from the riding and its issues. Sometimes, perhaps, we are not very tolerant toward our employees. I can guarantee that it gives us some structure, and it says to us, “Take the time to sit down and talk. Sort out your problems by using a negotiated collective agreement”.

In a collective agreement, there are all kinds of rules and situations described. If an employee does not do his work, there are provisions for a first, oral warning, a written warning and, in the end, dismissal. There are also provisions related to arbitration.

I just want to tell the Liberals not to worry. You are telling the workers that you support them, and if that is the case, vote for this bill. The only time you support the workers is when you want their votes, but when it is time to protect them, you are ready to say no to this bill. I think it is very sad to see the Liberals taking such a position—

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry I have to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has expired. The hon. member for Mercier.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate, even if my time is limited. I have a great deal of sympathy for my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst. When I was already a sitting member of Parliament and he was still a unionist, we had the opportunity to work together. Later on, he was elected as a member of Parliament. I would have liked him to understand that the Bloc has made a decision to support the principle of this bill. He seemed to negotiate a bit like an employer would, continuing to argue even when an agreement has been reached. But that is the way he is, and we like him that way.

First, I have been in the CSN for 15 years. The unions and the need for unionization is something which touches an important cord with me. But I must also say that in the CSN I experienced at least one major dispute between unions. This means that organized labour is about power. It is by no means without impact. It can be adversarial, and oppositions are clearly stated. In this instance, two groups were fighting to represent the interests of grassroots members. This can happen, just like it does with political parties. People fight over the way the rights of citizens should be defended.

This bill, proposed by my hon. colleague from Halifax, whom I salute, stresses the conditions in which our assistants are working, because this is the issue. I want to say that, yes, when the hon. member for Laurentides raised these issues with the Bloc's caucus, she concluded the last time by saying, “we must ensure that our employees are well paid and well treated on the Hill”. There is consensus on this.

Giving MPs' or ministers' assistants the right to unionize, or recognizing that right I should say, does not automatically mean that there will be unionization, but this lets us consider the conditions in which our employees are working.

First, I want to say that the Bloc has fiercely defended Canadian workers, as it did during the railway strike. At the time, I was my party's transport critic and the House had to sit over an entire weekend. Many times, the Bloc Quebecois has introduced anti-scab bills, since the Bloc is very sensitive and committed to fighting for workers' rights. So, it is obvious that the Bloc supports the principle of this bill.

This does not mean that the members are not entitled to ask questions, such as the one that the hon. member for Acadie-Bathurst sought to answer. In fact, in this matter, it seems that we must hold true to our beliefs. Those unfamiliar with unionization may well be fearful; it is a matter of laying to rest the fears raised.

I want to add that, obviously, as members, our roles are different.

We have ridings of various sizes. A number of practical problems would no doubt arise if our staff was to unionize, which is only a possibility.

It must be recognized that it is sometimes necessary to form a union. It may not always seem necessary as long as our assistants feel that their working conditions and their relationship with what would become their employer under the bill put forward by my hon. colleague from Halifax are satisfactory. That is provided that they feel—that is a judgment call—they are treated well and do not need to be represented.

I do not know what the situation is in the other parties, but I know what it is in my party. I could pay tribute to my own assistants, who work very hard, I know, to the point where sometimes I feel guilty seeing them work so hard. I know that the situation is the same for many other members and perhaps all of them. However, it is also obvious that the fact that we are talking about these conditions will put the focus on the conditions offered to each member of Parliament to fulfill his job. I would add—because time is running out—that we must talk about the need to do so anyway. At this point, there is a maximum salary. This is the only rule that exists and it protects the assistants. But presently, there is no minimum condition. In fact, there is nothing.

This right to unionize will force us to examine together the working conditions, our true needs, what we can offer and what can be asked of the men and women who work for us, but also and more to the point, with us.

I thank my colleague from Halifax for introducing this bill. I hope that it will move us forward collectively to ensure not only that we treat our employees in a humane, just and fair manner, and within our means, but also to ensure that all members of Parliament say, “We need more resources so that the assistants who work so hard can be treated in a satisfactory manner”. Because at this time, for many, these jobs are real killers.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, we always stand up and say we are happy to have the opportunity to speak to a bill. That is really true this time as opposed to most of the other times when we are dealing with diplomacy and diplomatic speech. I am very happy to support Bill C-419 by the member for Halifax.

It was rather interesting when I was first elected because I felt to some degree like I was going through a repeat of one of my earlier historical periods. I am not that old, but that is what I felt like. The reason for that was I was appointed to help carry on negotiations between our caucus and the staff who worked for us. As I got familiar with the situation in the House and in preparation for those negotiations, I felt to some degree like I was going back through some history of mine.

Two incidents in particular come to mind. One was I had only been practising law in private practice for about a year when I had cause to hire a staff person, a secretary, who had attempted to organize a union in the city of Windsor in the legal profession. She had been locked out for the better part of a year, and eventually lost her position. She was looking for work at the time I needed staff, and I hired her.

I remember some of the discussions we had about the attitude of the legal profession, what I will call the very archaic attitude of the legal profession at that period of time toward collective bargaining and unions. I cannot help but think, when I hear some of the speeches in response to this bill, of a similar type of attitude.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Nineteenth century.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Nineteenth century, thanks very much.

It is interesting because it is never put in terms of people being afraid that somehow they will lose a little of their power. The lawyers did not talk that way, and the members of Parliament do not talk that way. They talk of some other greater good. With the lawyers it was that it may somehow infringe on their solicitor-client relationship with confidentiality. Those were the kinds of arguments we heard. They were hogwash, and so are the arguments from the members of Parliament who classify their opposition to collective bargaining with their staff by stating it is an historical privilege that we have had.

If it is a privilege and if they think history would justify that, there are times when we have to move beyond. We had the divine right of kings too at one time. It was obvious that at some stage the general population would not accept that, whether it was kings and queens having their heads cut off or there simply being a coup d'état, power being usurped and a more democratic government put into place. It is the same type of thing.

What this is really about is justice and fairness. Will we deal with our staff in a relationship that is fair and just or will we stand on some historical privilege that in effect oftentimes leads to abuse and certainly does not contribute to a fair and just relationship between the employers, in this case the members of Parliament, and their staff?

The second point in my history that I want to talk about, which was brought back as I was entering into these negotiations, was the process I went through in my last place of employment before I was elected. In that case I was the manager of an office of a prepaid legal plan, a plan that had been set up in cooperation between the auto companies and the CAW union. Early on we unionized. We recognized the union, and we did not have to go through a process of the vote and all the rest of that.

It was the first I had the opportunity to work in a management position where I had to on a regular basis deal with collective bargaining and a collective bargaining unit in the workplace. It taught me very clearly that when there was that type of structure, it was much easier to manage because there were built-in procedures to which the employee, in this case the union member, and the employer had agreed. Oftentimes they work collectively on establishing those procedures.

My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst a few moments ago made reference to how a discipline problem would be handled. That procedure is established and because it is established by way of bargaining, it is generally much easier to apply because both parties have accepted that it is a fair process, whether one is the employer or the employee.

I worked under that system for 13 to 14 years. It was a comfortable system to work under. I would not suggest that we did not have difficulties. We always did at negotiations but as in any other equal relationship, we hammered them out by way of negotiations, came to a satisfactory resolution to both sides and then used that agreement to base our relationship on for the next number of years until the negotiations came up again.

I have had exactly the same experience working in the situation I have here in the House as I did in my professional life as a lawyer in that legal plan. In the last round of bargaining I can remember a few heated arguments between our team and their team but we hammered it out. We improved the relationship in fact, and that has shown to be the case over the last two and a half years. It has worked reasonably well. It is not perfect but it is a major improvement over the types of relationships that we see between staff and other members of Parliament who belong to other political parties.

One final point, because I know my time is just about up, is the role that we have as members of Parliament to provide leadership in this country. That is true in a whole bunch of ways, and this is one of them. If we say we expect employers across Canada to treat their employees fairly, we have to do the same thing. We also have to recognize that the labour movement is a fundamental infrastructure for our democracy. Therefore we have again a role as leaders in the country to say that we can work within that setting and that we expect most other employers to do the same thing. If we are not prepared to do that, we are abandoning our role as leaders in this country.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties, as well as the member for Halifax, concerning the last hour of debate on Bill C-419. I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on Bill C-419, all necessary questions to dispose of the motion for second reading be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3, 2003.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see we will have an opportunity on Tuesday to test the interest of the House of Commons in the bill put forward by the member for Halifax, Bill C-419, which would amend the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act to give the right to organize and unionize to our Parliament Hill employees.

Other representatives from the NDP have spoken about the importance of the bill. It is something to which we are ideologically committed. The NDP is very proud to say that we are the only political party in the House of Commons today that has a unionized workforce, represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 232. We can speak from experience and can give some comfort and solace to those members from other parties who are apprehensive about the idea of extending the right to organize to Hill staff.

I do not really think we should have to have this debate in this day and age. Frankly, the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively and even the right to withhold services in the event of an impasse are basic tenets of any modern democracy, certainly basic tenets of any western civilization. That much is not in question.

The only reservations we have heard put forward by members are perhaps that they may lose some of the flexibility they believe they need because of the unique workplace in which we all work. I believe we can provide some comfort or solace to those people who are apprehensive by looking at our own experience.

We have a unionized workforce. Our staff have the same challenges that the staff of any member of Parliament may have. They need flexibility in our workplace, but nothing in our collective agreement precludes that flexibility if someone has to work through lunch or stay late. What our collective agreement does preclude is the exploitation of those same workers by members of Parliament who may get too busy to pay due attention to workplace conditions in their office, which is their workplace.

This place has a terrible reputation for its treatment of employees, and this goes back many years. A lot of members of Parliament tell employees that it is a privilege for them to work on Parliament Hill, and it is, but they use that as justification to pay them terribly. We pay our employees a living wage, a fair wage. It is our belief that fair wages benefit the whole community and that there are many good reasons to provide fair compensation, obviously above and beyond any moral and ethical reasons. However we do hear horror stories from other offices.

I was not surprised when our employees felt they needed protection from this exploitation. As members of Parliament get so busy and so caught up in their work, they often forget the human aspects of the employees who work for them and the fact that these people have lives and deserve fair compensation, fair working conditions, fair working rules, fair benefits, fair holidays, et cetera. That is the point here.

I am very proud that the member for Halifax has brought this issue to the forefront. I know the history of this issue has been outlined by other speakers and I will not spend a lot of time on it other than to say that since 1986 all the elements have been in place. It has just been up to the ruling party to give royal assent to phase two and phase three of the Parliamentary Employment Staff Relations Act.

I do not want to be critical in the time I have but I notice the Minister of Labour is listening to the debate, and I am pleased to see she is giving her time to listen to it. However the Liberal Party in another example, with the rural route mail couriers, has seen fit to deny the basic right to organize to that group of workers as well.

There is very little justification, although we do hear people standing up and saying it, for not allowing our employees to unionize. We cannot really make the case that it would grind Parliament to a halt and therefore do a disservice to the country, because in other situations, for instance, firemen or policemen, they do have the right to organize and they do have the right to bargain collectively. In those instances they do not have the right to withhold their services. There is some other type of binding third party arbitration that takes the place of a strike or a lockout.

That is something that can be dealt with if the case can be made that Parliament, especially during times of war, et cetera, cannot be stopped because of labour unrest, but it is certainly no excuse for not allowing these basic freedoms to the many hardworking Canadians who work on Parliament Hill.

In my own experience as a labour leader for the carpenters' union, I had the opportunity to organize many workplaces, speaking with workers and employees in their kitchens. We had to sneak around many times in order to organize a workplace. I do not think the employees on Parliament Hill deserve to be treated that way when their employer is the Government of Canada, the Parliament of Canada, the members of Parliament, who surely accept that Canadians believe in the right to free collective bargaining.

The rigidity that some members fear in a collective agreement, as I said before, is no excuse. I am holding a recent Hill Times article in which some staff employees of members of Parliament were interviewed. One individual works for one of our members of Parliament and he points out that it is not unusual for him and his colleagues to have to be very flexible in their working rules. He also points out the benefit of having an avenue of recourse if there are disagreements with an employer, whether it is about holiday time or working conditions or working rules.

Being a unionized employee is not all about money. Frankly, negotiating the actual salary and wage is something that happens once every two or three years when people bargain the terms of their collective agreement. Being unionized employees means knowing they have an avenue of recourse that does not put their jobs in jeopardy if they do have a comment or a criticism to make of the work rules, or a simple avenue to air their views and their opinions.

We believe it is wrong to deny these basic freedoms. I can point out some recent examples on the Hill when Hill employees have had difficulties when they were laid off without cause, for instance. Their only avenue of recourse was going to the courts or, I suppose, asking for an audience with the Speaker and asking him to intervene. That system cannot be relied on. We need a better process than that.

We heard about one member of Parliament not too long ago who laid off one of his staff because she became pregnant. The woman had no avenue of recourse. She was not covered by the Canada Labour Code nor was she covered by employment standards legislation. She could not go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. This woman had no one to advocate on her behalf other than going to the courts, and that is ridiculous. That is why employment situations need a process by which grieved employees can seek justice. Surely in a case like that it is terribly unjust treatment.

There is another example. Some members of Parliament lay off their staff over the summer months because they do not need them. Some of these individuals are long term employees. It is a terribly unfair thing to do in order to save a few dollars in their budgets.

I will end by saying that I am very proud to be involved with this initiative. I again compliment the member for Halifax for tirelessly bringing this issue forward again and again. Hopefully it is starting to resonate with enough other members of Parliament so they will see that fair wages benefit the whole community and Canadian workers have a right to be represented by the union of their choice. It is our duty to be an example to the public in that way.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be able to participate in the debate and to join with my colleagues in the New Democratic Party in supporting this initiative by the member for Halifax.

At the outset I want to join with my colleagues in congratulating the member for Halifax in bringing this legislative proposal to the House. We are talking about a basic element of civil society. We are talking about the right of all workers to join a union, to bargain collectively, to refuse work in unsafe, unhealthy conditions, and to go on strike if necessary.

We need to acknowledge the conviction of the member for Halifax in bringing forward this matter. It is a matter that is long overdue and is an issue that has been raised many times before and does take commitment, conviction and persistence. The member for Halifax has shown all three qualities, particularly persistence in bringing the bill back to the House for the third time to try to convince members from all political parties to support this very important initiative.

I hope that members today are listening to the arguments and recognizing a fundamental principle here. That is, to paraphrase a former leader and founder of the CCF-NDP, J.S. Woodsworth: What we desire for ourselves we wish for all; the kinds of rights and privileges we want for ourselves in this place, we wish for all in our society. Extending that concept in this place, the House of Commons, the rights and privileges of members must be extended to all the staff who work so hard in the pursuit of democracy on behalf of elected representatives and for the continuation of this great institution.

This is a matter of unfinished business before us. As has been pointed out in the debate, it was in 1986 that the legislation dealing with parliamentary employment and staff relations was first introduced and passed. However, two parts of that legislation were not proclaimed. It is the purpose today on the part of the member for Halifax to see those parts proclaimed and to ensure that all staff working for members of Parliament, working for Senators and working in the Library of Parliament are able to enjoy the rights we wish for all, the right to join a union, the right to bargain collectively, the right to refuse work in unsafe conditions--

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member


Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

--and the dignity, as my colleague from Windsor says, to have the power and control over one's day to day life in the workplace.

This is about unfinished business and it is also about being consistent with the recent court ruling referenced in the debate. That of course was the decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in November 2002 which ruled that members of Parliament are required to abide by basic human rights legislation. It was a unanimous decision. The court rejected the argument put forward by the House of Commons that parliamentary privilege somehow exempted MPs from the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

It is certainly accurate to say that Bill C-419, the matter before us today, would complement that important court ruling by providing the vast majority of Parliament Hill employees with some protection in their workplaces.

Staff members who have worked for the NDP over the years have provided a very important pioneering effort in this regard. The proposal before us today dates back some 10, 15 or 20 years ago when NDP members of Parliament pooled their efforts and resources to form the Parliamentary Association of Support Staff. That became the first initiative in this place for a collective association, for cooperative efforts on the part of staff in order to advance the needs and concerns of workers in this place.

We owe a debt a debt of gratitude to those individuals back in the mid-1970s to the late 1970s who actually planted the seed that led to an active union on the part of staff working for NDP members of Parliament and forms the basis for this legislative proposal today.

We are talking, as many have said, about the fundamental rights of a civil society. The rights to join a union, to bargain collectively, to pursue one's rights in the workplace and to be able to refuse to work in unsafe, unhealthy conditions are fundamental to our notion of civil society.

Today we urge all members who have turned away from this initiative before, who have said no in the past when this matter was before the House, to reconsider and give their support and their blessing to this legislative proposal, because it means a great deal to workers in this place and it means that we have provided the kind of leadership that is so necessary and that people turn to us for.

I urge all members to support Bill C-419 to ensure that all staff working for members of Parliament, for senators and for the Library of Parliament are able to enjoy this matter of simple justice.

Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to wrap up the debate on my Bill C-419.

I want to thank my colleagues for the incredible support that they have given. I want to also thank other members who have spoken in this debate and even some who have not spoken but who have been here attentively listening, if I may say, including the Minister of Labour. I think that is a positive sign and is very welcome.

I acknowledge without any hesitation that when I introduced Bill C-419 with the unanimous support of my colleagues, there were some members who expressed quite strong reservations. They had the courage and the commitment to participate in the debate. They raised some questions about how this would work or expressed reservations about how it could work to have employees on the Hill exercising their right to organize and collectively bargain.

I suppose this is the whole point about private members' bills and private members' debates. As a result of the debate that has taken place in the House and as a result of the dialogue that was stimulated by the introduction of this bill, I am pleased that a number of members who started out with some reservations have now indicated their full support to move ahead.

Let us be clear that all we are talking about is the fundamental right to organize if employees so choose in their workplace and to have the opportunity to bargain collectively. After all, it is a fundamental democratic right.

When parliamentarians recognize that not only is this an important principle but that in practice it now exists with the employees of one caucus, surely it would be unthinkable to deny that it is time to extend those benefits to all employees of members of Parliament, ministers, senators, et cetera, on the Hill. What possible argument could there be that only some employees on the Hill would have the opportunity to exercise those very fundamental democratic rights?

Not only has there been good discussion back and forth between members of the NDP caucus who have been living with collective agreements and organized staff for many years, but discussion has actually taken place between members and their employees. Understandably their employees are asking how is it that the NDP staff have the benefits of a collective agreement and they do not. That is very encouraging.

I want to take the last moment or two to pay tribute to our employees on Parliament Hill who chose through a democratic vote to be represented by CEP 232. That is their union local. They have chosen to associate with an outstanding union that has a wonderful reputation. They could have made another choice and they would have been well represented by other unions as well, but that was their choice. I have to say from the perspective of the employers, and I know I speak on behalf of all of my colleagues when I say this, that this relationship has been exceedingly important not just because it respects fundamental rights, but because it is about respect. It is about dignity.

I want to be really clear and this is like a moment of truth. It might even be like a true confession to stand here and say this. We are not saying either on our own behalf or on behalf of our employees that it is heaven on earth to work for the New Democratic Party caucus. Our staff work exceedingly hard.

There is some irony in the fact that other employees on the Hill are not permitted to organize in the way our staff is. Our employees enjoy better wages and have somewhat better control over their working conditions but they also work under more adverse conditions in some respects. Because other staff are underpaid in many cases and their rights are not fully respected, this means that more dollars and cents are used to provide various support services, whether they are in the form of equipment or expense moneys to be used to improve their ability to get the job done. There is a discriminatory aspect toward our employees that we should recognize. We appreciate that that makes their job even more difficult.

I want to conclude by saying how much we appreciate the genuine engagement of many members in trying to understand more about how this works. I want to say clearly to all members of Parliament staff that our staff, the proud members of local CEP 232, have indicated that they stand ready to answer questions that employees of other caucuses may have about how this works. This is understandable. The employees, the staff members of other caucuses, of ministers, of the Senate and of the Library of Parliament may say that they are not interested in hearing what the member for Halifax or any of the other NDP members of Parliament have to say. They may be interested in talking with employees who have chosen to organize, to avail themselves of their basic right to join a union and bargain collectively. They may want to hear from them how this actually works. At the end of the day it is a question of people making an informed choice about whether they would want to join a union.

As parliamentarians, when we vote on this matter next week, it will be an opportunity for all members of Parliament to speak with one voice in saying that we acknowledge the rights of our employees to organize and that we do so by way of expressing our respect and appreciation for the work they do. That is a very important signal for us as employers and parliamentarians to send to all employees in this country of ours to say the same kind of respect, dignity and rights should be extended and accorded to all working people in this country.