Mr. Speaker, Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers) is intended as a humanistic reflection of our society. That is why we ask all members of the 39th Parliament to vote in favour of this bill in principle.
Its aim is to encourage civilized negotiations during labour disputes—during strikes or lockouts—and to reduce picket line violence and the social and psychological problems caused by the stress of labour disputes. It would diminish the resentment that employees feel upon returning to work and foster a just balance and greater transparency in the negotiations between employers and employees.
This bill will ensure that the management and union parties negotiate under the same constraints in order to facilitate a quick and fairer solution.
The bill has several objectives: reduce the number of legal proceedings resulting from strikes and lockouts, shorten the duration of these strikes and lockouts, and reduce the lost income of workers and lost profits of employers.
Here are few figures on this point that are worth considering. Quebec workers whose employer is under federal jurisdiction almost always have a higher number of lost work days.
So although they make up less than 8% of the labour force in Quebec, they accounted for 18% of lost person-days in 2004 and 22.6% of lost person-days in 2003.
This reached a peak in 2002, when 7.3% of Quebec workers were employed in organizations under federal jurisdiction. They were responsible for 48% of the work days lost because of labour disputes.
The number of work days lost because of labour disputes drops when there is anti-strikebreaker legislation. Here are a few figures: the average number of work days in 1976, before the anti-strikebreaker law in Quebec, was 39.4; afterward, it fell to 32.8 in 1979 and 27.4 in 2001.
In British Columbia, which enacted an anti-strikebreaker law in 1993, the ratio of lost time fell by 50% from 1992 to 1993.
Workers who are subject to the Quebec Labour Code averaged 15.9 lost work days from 1992 to 2002. Workers who were subject to the Canada Labour Code averaged 31.1. For every 1,000 employees subject to the Quebec Labour Code there were 121 lost work days from 1992 to 2002; for workers subject to the Canada Labour Code there were 266.3.
The 10-month dispute at Vidéotron alone resulted in a loss of 355 work days in Quebec in 2002. This was more than a third of all work days lost because of a strike or lockout in Quebec in 2002.
The year 2002 was a record one in terms of person-days lost. It is important to note that this unfortunate record is largely attributable to strikes in organizations under federal jurisdiction. Those strikes last much longer.
If a majority of the House of Commons votes for this bill, this will be an opportunity for parliamentarians and every actor in civil society to take a position on this kind of legislation to amend the Canada Labour Code in the course of a debate on its merits.
Witnesses from every background will be able to express their views to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities of Canada, right here in this institution.
By voting for this bill, members of the House of Commons will ensure, for the first time in the 10 attempts that have been made since the early 1990s to have this bill enacted, that a debate that can only be beneficial to labour relations makes it onto the agenda.
In so doing, we will together be engaged in the worthy cause of recognizing the exceptional contribution made by everyone who goes out to work every day to build our societies.