Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning to this important bill to foster more harmonious labour relations between workers and employers under federal jurisdiction.
First, I want to congratulate my colleague from Shefford for his speech, which, in my opinion, put the entire issue into context quite well, and my colleague from Gatineau who agreed to champion this important bill. He did so with much dedication and skill. Since I represent the neighbouring riding, I have the honour of rubbing shoulders with my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who also championed this bill. She did so not just during the debate, but she also contributed to preparing it and ensuring that all parliamentarians were well aware of the extent of the problem.
Today, some are still against this bill, but not for lack of trying by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to make them understand. In my opinion they are against it because they did not want to understand.
We are dealing with a situation that is unacceptable on many levels. First, we are repeating what is happening in a number of other jurisdictions when it comes to sharing power between the provincial, Quebec and federal governments. We see what an imbalance this causes. We have seen this with the fiscal imbalance and with various positions on health, education and national defence. In that sense, a certain number of provinces, but Quebec in particular, have values and principles that often differ from those that are defended in this House and that do not represent what the public wants in any way.
We know that the Bloc Québécois circulated a petition to support Bill C-257. Some 46,000 people signed it in order to call on the House of Commons to pass this bill. It is therefore surprising today, after trying 10 times to get a similar bill passed, that the hon. members of this House are still opposed to it.
The purpose of this bill is to civilize labour relations among a certain number of employers because employers in businesses operating under federal jurisdiction do not all act accordingly. On several occasions, my colleague has mentioned a number of conflicts that have dragged on for a very long time but that should not have lasted for such a prolonged period. She has spoken of the conflicts at Vidéotron, Sécur, Cargill, and Radio-Nord Communications—which lasted 10, 3, 38 and 20 months respectively—and we could add others.
These conflicts were marked not only by their duration but also by the events that took place during the conflicts. The use of scabs—or replacement workers for the purists—leads to deep animosity, not only between the replacement workers and the strikers but also between the strikers and their employers. We must remember that, once the conflict is over, the parties that make the company function must resume harmonious labour relations and contribute to the profitable operation of the company.
Some employers give little thought to this. They are the employers who habitually use an iron hand, ruling by decree, and who rely on the fact that, once the strike is over, they will succeed—through the governance structure or even by outside means and often by long legal disputes and proceedings—in imposing their will even though labour relations remain strained.
In this House, worst case scenarios were described in an effort to get parliamentarians to vote against the bill. But none of those related to actual events. They remain hypothetical situations.
At the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, of which I am a member, we studied this bill and heard from 13 or 15 unions and other organizations which support the bill. Three times as many people appeared before us to oppose it; they did so at the request of the Conservatives to try and justify maintaining the status quo.
We heard the same bunch of examples that do not hold water, like the one about banks no longer being able to operate. The fact of the matter is that less than 1% of bank employees are unionized, and there has never been a single dispute.
We also heard the one about railways. Even without anti-scab legislation, locomotive operators and railway employees, who are skilled workers, could not be replaced in the event of a work stoppage.
We saw it recently. There was a labour dispute that lasted two weeks. The employer could have replaced these employees with replacement workers. The problem was that, in fact, there were no specialized workers with similar skills to do the job. This resulted in a shorter conflict. But had replacement workers been available, and considering that the act still allows the use of such workers, the CN labour dispute would still not be settled, based on the examples that I mentioned earlier.
They are also giving us the example of telecommunications, including the 911 line, which comes under provincial jurisdiction. That is not a good example. During the debate, when they saw that the testimonies given by these companies and organizations were not going anywhere, they talked about the mines that could stop operating. We were given the example of a diamond mine in the far north. They gave us a spiel about how tragic it would be if we did not manage to get the diamonds out of there at the same pace. It would not be possible to use winter roads, because these diamonds can only be transported over ice bridges.
They never cared about the people living there. They never used these people as an example. Yet, when it comes to essential services, the provisions of the Canada Labour Code, particularly section 87.4, do provide such measures. The legislator included these measures to help those who could become more vulnerable following a dispute. The Canada Labour Code already provides that.
I find it unfortunate that they invoke the fact that it was not possible to insert a provision on essential services into Bill C-257 and say this prevents the provision of essential services. But such a clause already exists. It would be better for those members who are opposing the bill on the grounds that it does not include a provision on essential services to say openly that in fact they oppose the principle of anti-scab legislation. Their position in this debate would be clearer for everyone, and also more honest.
Like all my fellow Bloc members, I will support Bill C-257, and I invite other members—