Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise on this motion in support of anti-scab legislation, or at least a bill that proposes anti-scab legislation. My background as a trade unionist means that I come with a certain bias, but I come with it very proudly and I wear it on my lapel. I have been involved in bargaining over the years and I understand when we have legislation that prohibits scabs from entering a workplace and when it does not.
I can say this from fact, because at one point in my life I negotiated with police forces around what one would call strike protocol. When one does that, it is really about ensuring the safety of everyone: the managers who want to go into that particular facility, the workers who are on strike or a lockout, and the general public as a whole, to make sure that they are going to be safe when they are around that particular situation. It can indeed affect the public, and not just from the business perspective of selling a product or not. It may be close to a street that is busy.
When an employer decides to use scabs to enter a workforce that is being either locked out or struck, the potential for violence is set up. The police will say they know that is what will happen. Consequently, it escalates a situation and takes it away from the bargaining process.
It is really about bargaining. While the two entities are apart in their desires and how they intend to get there, they are nonetheless in a process where they are going to sit down and try to find an amenable situation where they can come to some sort of an agreement.
When this third force, or third leg, is entered into the process, it makes the water murky and prohibits the bargaining process from going forward and concluding. The employer thinks it has the additional leg up and can exact what it needs from its employees through this third leg when it comes to introducing scabs into the workplace.
History has shown us what it has done. It has made strikes last longer. It has caused undue violence and hardship to all the parties concerned. Not only are those scabs ostracized and perhaps violence inflicted on them, unfortunately, but we see violence on the picket line when legitimate picketers are run down by vehicles driven by those intent on getting scabs into a workplace.
My hon. colleague from the Bloc and I have absolute proof of that. Not so many years ago, in Chatham, a gentleman on a picket line was run over by a van driven by a security force hired by that company to try to get scabs into the workplace. It never succeeded in doing that. The company likes to call them “replacement” workers, because that sounds like a really nice word; if folks do not want to work, they will just replace them with someone else. What they really are in the vernacular are scabs. They are taking work and taking the bread and food off the tables of those hard workers who have been there for a long time.
That man was run over and seriously injured. To this day, he has not been able, and will probably never be able, to return to his work as an electrician. All he was doing was participating in a legal strike, no more and no less. He was not perpetrating violence on anyone. He was not doing what we would consider to be illegal, nor did the law see it to be illegal. He was involved in a legitimate picket. Yet that group of individuals working for that security force took it upon themselves to drive that van through a group of people.
They did not drive through a barricade or the picket line barrels used to keep people warm in the winter. They drove through a group of people as if the van were a bowling ball and the people were the pins. They knocked this gentleman down and critically injured him, almost killing him. Unfortunately for him and his family, he has obviously not been able to return to work. He has suffered many operations over the years because of a situation in Ontario where the use of scabs and replacement workers was permitted.
If we were to pass this and get back to truly bargaining, the parties would actually understand that they had to bargain and that they had to get to a conclusion. What we have learned in the bargaining process, those of us who have intimate knowledge of it, those of us who have done it, is that we eventually get to the end of that process. We get it resolved. We never win everything we want, but neither do we lose everything we think we are going to lose. At the end, we actually have an agreement between the parties that allows those parties to continue forward, that company to flourish, and those workers to be rewarded in the sense that they feel is justified.
However, when we have replacement workers, what enters into that process makes it very difficult. In fact, it is poison. After everything gets resolved, we have a poisoned atmosphere when the workers who went strike or got locked out eventually return to work.
I will use my Conservative colleagues across the way as an example. We will still be in the same place at the end of the day. What that means is that we will still have to work together.
If we poison the atmosphere because we bring in scabs, that atmosphere remains poisoned for years, in some situations, because folks do not forgive that easily when they have been left out not just necessarily in the cold but have been left in poverty because they have not been able to get back to work when indeed a bargaining process could have enabled that to happen.
So we end up with a situation that is avoidable. That is the real dilemma in all of this. It is an unnatural thing that gets brought into the bargaining process. The times we see replacement workers, in nearly every instance, it is in a unionized workplace. I do not know of any other circumstances, and I will allow other members to perhaps teach me some history that I may not know of where we see replacement scab workers coming into a workplace that is non-unionized. It is only targeted at those workplaces where the workers themselves, in a democratic process, have chosen to be organized and have chosen the union to represent them. They have said to that employer that this is the group they wish to have speak for them. Yet we as a government have the ability to make sure that level playing field happens again and that we do not have that third intrusion, which really is this gap.
When we talk about democratic rights, about human rights, and about the right to organize and bargain, this is a fundamental principle. If memory serves me correctly, there was an appeal to the charter about the right to organize a union for a specific sector of workers, and the charter spoke to that and said they had the absolute right.
I would suggest that what we need to see is the absolute right for the bargaining process to be allowed to continue to its fruition. Again, as I say, it will not always be perfect. The bargaining process never is, because it is with opposing parties, having opposing views, and trying to find resolution. However, what I do know is that the parties, especially when it comes to organized labour, understand and take their responsibility very seriously. They understand that taking their members out on strike will indeed cause great hardship on their members. They do not do it lightly.
I think if we had the ability to make sure that the process was not interrupted by replacement workers, we would absolutely find that process moved more quickly, came to better results, gave us more harmonious labour relations, and indeed, at the end of it, made sure that we did not see another gentleman like the one we saw in Chatham, who is maimed for life.
I think that is why we need to have this done. We need to support this bill. I would encourage all members in the House to support it because it really is about protecting workers, and I think that is what we all stand for.