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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cards.

Topics

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my comment is directed as much to the previous Conservative questioner as it is to the member who just spoke.

A number of years ago I remember being in the United States and putting a number of charges on my credit card, only to find out, when I got my bill, there were some extra charges that were not spelled out and seemed to be excessively high. When I contacted the credit company, I found out that there was an extra charge for currency conversion. I do not know whether anyone is aware of that.

That is an issue, and I am still not certain it has been resolved as far as information is concerned. Whenever I go to the United States, it is still never spelled out on my credit card statement that there is an extra hidden fee of what I believe is 1%, 2% or 3% for conversion. Everyone should be aware that this is a practice that credit card companies have been doing for a long time. Nobody knows about it. I contacted the company, and it did admit that there is a fee for conversion--

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I must stop the hon. member there to allow time for a response.

The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, credit card companies are real pros when it comes to hidden fees. Technically, these fees are explained in tiny, pale grey characters on a white background on the back of the contract, but nobody actually understands them. Here is another classic example: if someone misses a—

Opposition Motion--FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It being 5:23 p.m. pursuant to an order made earlier today all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Monday, April 27 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:38 p.m.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:38 p.m.?

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:38 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 March 11 consideration of the motion.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak to Motion No. 294, which is a very important motion. This is not the first time that we have seen this motion in the House of Commons. This has come to the House of Commons almost a dozen times.

The last time it came to the House for a vote I was proud to stand and support this issue. When I stood in the House, basically I wanted to keep in mind that we have a fair balance. On the one hand we want to make sure that the rights of the workers are protected. On the other hand we have to make sure that we keep the economy moving and we have the essential services moving as well.

I can give a perfect example. During the 2004 election when I was going door to door in my riding of Newton—North Delta, I had heard many concerns from the Telus workers who were on strike for many months. Those families were going through very tough times at that time.

When we look at that perspective, we have to make sure that their rights are protected. Even during the hard economic times that we are going through now, we have to respect the rights of workers.

On the other hand we have to be certain that we are competitive globally. In these tough economic times it is very clear, and it is known, that the government has failed to protect those workers and Canadians. When we look at surplus budgets, budget after budget we had a surplus, but the government brought us down and it has driven us into a tough situation where we have to make decisions on how these workers can protect themselves. They are all worried about their jobs.

Last week I met with the police association. Their members are also worried because the government brought in a pay cut for those police officers. They are the first responders and if they do not have the right to protect themselves, that is a shame. That is why they had to go to the court to protect themselves and ensure that they could form unions.

Last month I was travelling through western Canada. I was in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I saw one thing in common. When we talked to the people in research and development, all the cuts that have come from the government have affected that workplace as well programs for women.

I was visiting women's entrepreneur programs and they are saying the same thing. In my role as critic on western economic diversification I have seen that the minister on that file has failed totally as well.

When it comes to this motion, Motion No. 294, workers must ensure that their right to strike is protected. On the other hand when I say we have to remain competitive, we have to protect the essential services as well.

If we cannot do that, then certainly this will not work in these tough economic times. I personally think that we have to make sure that when the motion comes to the House of Commons for a vote, that we have to see the pros and cons.

I also met with bigger companies too, CN Rail and CP Rail. They have concerns as well. They are already going through a tough competitive global economy. They are worried about workers striking. What are the consequences? What is the ultimatum?

Certainly, the government can chip in and Parliament can vote for back-to-work legislation. On the other hand, the way I see it today, it is not feasible for us to take a hard line one way or the other when it comes to making sure that we keep a balance between the rights of workers and businesses.

That is where I stand, and I would ask all members in the House to do a comparative study to see how we can achieve that, making sure that this legislation is given due consideration.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

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.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour and pleasure to talk about Motion No. 294 to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers, thus relegating them to a chapter in history, and a dark one at that.

On 11 separate occasions, the Bloc Québécois has introduced bills to harmonize the Canada Labour Code with the Quebec Labour Code. On 11 separate occasions, the Liberals and the Conservatives have worked together to defeat those bills. We came closest to passing a bill on the subject at hand during the last government. Unfortunately, when it reached report stage, the Liberals listened to their leader, the one who replaced Paul Martin, because they were so worried about Bay Street.

The day after they realized that our bill would not make it past second reading to third reading and then to the Senate before being passed into law, the Liberals introduced a very similar bill in which they changed just two words to try to save face. However, when the time came to place it on the orders of the day for debate in the House of Commons, it was delayed for so long that the sponsor, the labour critic, was replaced by another member who was strongly opposed to the bill. They saved face and remained true to form. Dark blue or red, they are cut from the same cloth and they all have it in for workers.

It is also important to remember that the first time the Bloc Québécois introduced this bill, the NDP voted against it because the nasty separatists were introducing a bill. Fortunately, they saw the light, which I hope the Liberals and Conservatives will do one day, and they supported us the other 10 times. We want people to know that. We must avoid repeating the ignominy of violating the rights of striking or locked-out workers who are out picketing while people are taking their jobs so that the employer keeps turning a profit while the workers are forced to live on the meagre strike pay they get, if they get any at all. When this happens, the two sides are not negotiating on a level playing field.

We must also remember that when the previous government was in power, 19 Conservatives voted to refer the bill to committee. But when the time came to take a formal stand, only one stood up and the other 18 toed the party line and voted against workers.

In Quebec, 7% of workers are likely to fall victim to strikebreakers, because they are governed by the Canada Labour Code. In 1977, during the first term of the PQ government of René Lévesque, a sovereigntist government that cared about Quebec and its workers, the National Assembly passed an anti-scab law, which is still in effect today. It is still in effect, and it has shortened strikes. During negotiations, it has become imperative to find a way to avoid a strike. But in sectors under federal jurisdiction, strikes took place after 1977, and they were often extremely violent. People crossed the picket lines and took food out of the mouths of the strikers' children. The strikers negotiated in good faith while these people took away their livelihood.

And all under the eyes of the federal government. That is completely unacceptable. Harmony is needed and the Bloc Québécois is the party of Quebeckers. Since 1993 we have held a majority of the seats in the House of Commons because the people of Quebec trust the Bloc Québécois, because we fight so that Quebeckers will have better living conditions and to make sure that the money sent to the federal government, as long as we are in this federation, comes back to us so that it respects the consensus in the National Assembly of Quebec.

Anti-scab legislation is essential if we are to have civilized bargaining when disputes occur. In fact, there is no real, full recognition of the right to strike unless the use of scabs, the people who take away workers’ jobs during a strike, is prohibited.

In October 2003, the Bloc Québécois introduced a petition with 46,000 signatures supporting the position of workers and calling on the government to enact anti-scab legislation.

Under the last Conservative government—you were there, Mr. Speaker—we will recall what the Minister of Labour at the time, the member for Jonquière—Alma, had to say. In 1990 he supported an anti-scab bill, when he was an MP in the Mulroney government. He voted in favour of that legislation. And then, when he became a minister, he turned his back on workers.

I was the sponsor of Bill C-257, to introduce anti-scab legislation. In the Human Resources Committee I heard apocalyptic tales, things that simply could not be believed. My stars, it was worthy of a B-grade horror movie. He said that if the baggage handlers at an airport went on strike, Canada’s economy would be paralyzed. Any more and he would have said that the earth would stop rotating on its axis. There was a provision for maintaining essential services.

For a minister to say things like that amounts to saying just anything at all. He said that if telephone operators went on strike, 911 would cease to function. Any more and he would have had the crime rate quintupling or more, because that falls under telecommunications, and that is under federal jurisdiction.

He did go farther. He spoke directly to the Liberals in committee and told them that when they returned to power—and that indicates just how much confidence he has in his government—recess would be over because of the separatists in the Bloc and the New Democrats and they would have labour relations problems, and that is completely false.

British Columbia has also had anti-scab legislation since 1993, and Quebec has had it since 1977. I hope that Quebeckers who fly the red or dark blue colours today remember that this bill has brought about a much healthier labour relations climate in Quebec and much less violence in labour relations situations under Quebec’s jurisdiction. It covers 93% of workers in Quebec.

I hope that members will have their hearts in the right place and will allow the other 7% of workers in Quebec to enjoy the benefits of anti-scab legislation. At the same time, and as fallout from that, I am proud to say that Canadians throughout Canada will benefit from it as well.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

5:50 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, today we are again debating the issue of replacement workers.

On several occasions, the members of the opposition have tried to persuade this House to pass measures that would prohibit federal employers from using replacement workers during a work stoppage.

Our government has opposed various bills in the past, and today we continue to oppose this new motion presented to the members of this House, that is, motion No. 294.

I would give the Bloc Québécois members a perfect score for the persistence they show in raising this question, and I know this persistence stems from their passionate conviction that they are right about this issue.

The essence of this motion brings us back once again to previous bills that have already been debated in this House. Indeed, the principle of this motion is no different than the objectives of the last bill on the matter, Bill C-415.

It is important to note that the Canada Labour Code is already very specific on the matter of responsibility of federal employers and unions in the event of a strike or lockout.

At present, the code does not impose a complete ban on the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage. However, the use of replacement workers with a view to undermining the union’s representational capacity, rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives, is prohibited and constitutes an unfair labour practice.

In addition, it requires the parties to maintain the services necessary to prevent immediate and serious risk to public health or safety. This applies to all employers under federal jurisdiction.

The opposition members go on about the fact that two provinces, Quebec—my home province—and British Columbia, have had a ban on replacement workers for some time.

They claim that labour relations are more harmonious in those provinces than in others or in areas under federal jurisdiction when it comes to strikes and lockouts. Like most generalizations, I doubt that claim would withstand closer scrutiny.

Indeed, in 2005 and 2008, in other words, very recently, Quebec had the highest strike and lockout rate in Canada. So how can anyone claim that the ban on replacement workers has improved the state of labour relations?

I would like to raise some other issues that deserve further attention.

Every time we debate the issue of replacement workers, we make a point of referring to the broad experience on which the member of the Sims task force based their report which led to major changes in the Canada Labour Code.

We should point out that the experts did not reach agreement on the matter of replacement workers and wisely decided not to recommend that their use be totally banned, unless used for the purpose of undermining the union's representational capacity, according to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board.

The previous government is responsible for introducing the current provision in the Canada Labour Code, and we agree with its decision with respect to the bills which sought to ban the use of replacement workers. It felt it was preferable to take the stakeholders' opinions into account and not to make arbitrary amendments to the labour legislation when there was no urgent reason to do so.

As hon. members are aware, the counterbalance to labour's right to strike is management's right to try to continue operations during the strike. When there is no collective agreement in place, the employer can do everything necessary in order to maintain its activities, provided of course that it does not violate the representational capacity I referred to just now.

In a unionized working environment, however, the two parties have opposing interests, but the employer certainly has the right to keep the business open.

On the other hand, if a labour union deems that its rights have been violated in any way whatsoever, it may file a complaint with the Canadian Industrial Relations Board.

However, we know that the board receives very few complaints, and in the majority of cases management and labour agree to renew the collective agreement and the complaints are withdrawn. As for the complaints not withdrawn by unions, the board felt that, in most cases, there had been no illegal use of replacement workers.

Major employers under federal jurisdiction do not use replacement workers. What is more, the changes to the code proposed in the motion would be a threat to small and medium businesses, the ones most likely to suffer from long closures.

This therefore leads me to conclude that the present system is working and does not need changing. I cannot support this motion and I would encourage other hon. members to follow suit.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the Conservative member just said is interesting. I do not know if he is unfamiliar with the law or the file, or if he did not take an interest in the matter or if someone wrote his speech for him. I will be examining three elements broached by the Conservative member. The first concerns essential services. Of course we must maintain essential services in the event of a strike. I understand that. Had he dug a little deeper he would already know that section 87.4 of the Canada Labour Code states the following:

During a strike or lockout not prohibited by this Part, the employer, the trade union and the employees in the bargaining unit must continue the supply of services, operation of facilities or production of goods to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

This section is clearly designed to ensure that essential services will be available to the public. Thus, what the member said earlier does not hold water because this section of the Canada Labour Code ensures that employers are covered when it comes to essential services. That is my first point.

Second, the member referred to the report of the Sims task force. I will provide him with a better understanding of this report because I am convinced that he has never read it and heard about it from someone else. The use of scabs results in frustration, animosity and violence. It prolongs conflicts significantly. Statistics show that this is true. Allow me to return to the famous Sims report. I note that opponents of the bill find it useful. However, the report is full of major contradictions, leading me to put some of its proposals and statistics into perspective. According to Andrew Sims, the main author of the report, in 1991 and 1994, in Canada, 75% of employers with a labour conflict did not use replacement workers during strikes. Why? Because rather than creating animosity among certain workers they preferred to maintain stable relations with them. That is what the Sims report says.

The other 25% of employers, however—who were party to 12 labour conflicts in which 48% of the employees involved were governed by the Canada Labour Code—did hire scabs. Scabs should not be used to shut out the union or undermine its role. It is important to show that employers who use scabs do so precisely in order to freeze out the union, as confirmed by complaints of unfair practices and statements from the strikers themselves. They say that the issue can go to court. Then the court hears that the unions are not being recognized because they do not have the power to negotiate with the employer. Employers have the upper hand because, under the Canada Labour Code, they can hire scabs. Employers can crush the unions if they want. Under the Canada Labour Code, workers have no power to negotiate. How can they conduct proper negotiations with their employers if they have no power because scabs go in to take their places? It has to be frustrating to be on the picket line, watching scabs show up to do the work. How frustrating.

There is another issue nobody ever considers when hiring scabs, and that is workplace health and safety. The Canada Labour Code governs that too. Employers hire people who have no work experience whatsoever to work in any sector they please. Employers tell them, “Come on over guys, come work here today. Do not worry about health and safety. Do not worry about training. We have to produce. We cannot lose any money.” Employers get scabs to come and work because the real workers refuse to work, because according to the law they have the right to strike.

That right is the only way workers have to stand up for themselves when negotiating a collective agreement. They can say that they are not being paid well enough and that the non-monetary clauses should be adjusted. It is the only time they can stand up and tell the employer as equals what clauses they would like to have added to or changed in their collective agreement.

Today, labour contracts are negotiated. Interestingly, collective agreements used to have terms of a year or two, and for a time they extended for three years. Now, labour contracts run for six to ten years. People can project what will happen tomorrow. They can do that in collective agreements, but the government cannot even figure out whether we are in a recession or an economic crisis while it is happening. During the most recent election campaign, we saw that it did not even know that there was a recession even though we were in the middle of an economic crisis.

How can workers negotiate a 7-year or 10-year collective agreement and predict what wages will be in 10 years? Workers negotiate in good faith with the employer to reach an agreement. They want to keep working for the employer, and they hope the company will continue to grow exponentially so that they will earn good wages. They consent to an agreement with a 7-year or 10-year term.

But when the collective agreement expires and they exercise their right to strike or the employer locks them out, a third party, the strikebreaker, cannot be allowed to take the worker's place. This impedes workers' right to collective bargaining. Employers and members from other parties say that the company must not lose contracts or money.

The workers, for their part, work their butts off—some even die working. There are so many work-related injuries. Despite safety measures, people get injured, lose their limbs, even lose their lives. Some people give their lives for the company. Then, when the workers want to negotiate in good faith, employers laugh in their faces and tell them that if they do not want to work or are not happy with their pay, they are free to leave. Employers know that others will take their places and will be happy to work.

We have seen this happen in the past, in cases like Radio Nord. That conflict lasted so long that the scabs demanded to be unionized. What a paradox. Employees were locked out and others came to take their places, then the employer treated them so badly that they decided to unionize. Replacement workers cannot be accredited and given rights that do not exist when workers who are already unionized are striking just outside. That makes no sense.

That is why it is so important for us to get rid of replacement workers, of scabs, so that the two parties can have proper negotiations. If we get rid of scabs, there will be fewer conflicts, and any conflicts that do arise will not last nearly as long. The member said that labour conflicts in Quebec last a lot longer than conflicts in sectors governed by the Canada Labour Code. That is not true. The latter last much longer, simply because replacement workers can take over a company for years if they want to. We have seen replacement workers take unionized workers' jobs for a year, two or even three. That is why the conflicts last forever. The employer does not have to negotiate with the workers.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for listening. You have listened closely to what I have been saying, and I appreciate that.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to this motion.

Today the House is debating a motion tabled by my hon. colleague, proposing to make significant changes to key sections of the Canada Labour Code. This motion, if passed, will ban the right of federal employers to use replacement workers during a labour stoppage.

These proposed measures should not be treated lightly. This motion is the most recent of a series of attempts by some members of the House to try to bring wholesale changes to federal labour law in Canada without consultation or compromise.

Let me be clear. We remain firmly opposed to the motion, just as we have been opposed to similar legislation or legislative efforts introduced previously in the House. Our position is clear. We do not support the proposed amendments in Motion No. 294, and there are four compelling reasons why.

First, our modernized Canada Labour Code works well. It provides adequate protection to employees involved in a legal work stoppage.

Second, the motion, if passed, will disrupt the balance that was achieved when the Canada Labour Code was modernized back in 1999. It will leave federal employers unable to operate at minimal levels during a strike or lockout. This in turn could result in productivity losses to our national economy at a time when Canadians can least afford it.

Third, it would make labour relations more adversarial in the country. Energies and resources should be focused on solving labour relation issues in a peaceful manner. This is a situation that no one can afford to have happen during times of economic uncertainty both in Canada and around the world.

Fourth, we do not see any compelling evidence to support the argument that a ban on the use of replacement workers would reduce the number or duration of work stoppages and benefit workers in a federal jurisdiction.

As I mentioned earlier, the motion is the latest in a series of similar legislative efforts. It is worth taking a moment to take note of that fact, because they share some of the common characteristics and deficiencies of previous legislative efforts over the last number of years.

Over the past two decades, the House had debated numerous private members' bills on the matter of replacement workers in the federal domain.

First, there was Bill C-201, tabled in April of 1989. Next, there was Bill C-317, tabled in June of 1995. There were two more attempts between 2002 and 2005 in the form of Bill C-328 and Bill C-263, the latter of which was defeated after second reading. Next, there was Bill C-257, tabled in May of 2006. It was also defeated on third reading. Finally, there was the predecessor to the motion before us today, which was Bill C-415. It died on the order paper at the dissolution of Parliament in September of 2008.

All these bills were defeated because a majority of members of the House recognized that what each bill proposed would be ineffective and would have negative effects on labour relations and on the economic health of Canada.

A common characteristic shared by some of the more recent legislative efforts is that they do not fully consider just how vital it is that a middle ground be maintained between unions and employers on the matter of replacement workers. They overlook what was accomplished when the Canada Labour Code was modernized in 1999. The existing replacement worker provision in section 94(2.1) of the Labour Code was the product of much consultation with stakeholders. It also provided an ever important characteristic, one that is the backbone of this country, and that is compromise.

Existing provisions do permit employers to at least try to carry on basic operations during work stoppages. However, it also protects the union's right to strike and its bargaining authority. The balance would have been lost if any of these private member's bills had been passed by the House to eventually become law.

Motion No. 294 before this House today is no different in terms of the disruption that it would pose to labour relations and the economic health of our nation. As with the private member's bills that have preceded it, this motion stands in complete opposition to the well-established facts about replacement worker legislation.

I will review these key facts in the House right now.

First, legislation of that nature is rare in Canada. Only two provinces have legislation that restricts the right of employers to use the services of replacement workers during work stoppages. Quebec implemented its legislation in 1977. In 1993, British Columbia passed its own regulations. Ontario had enacted similar provisions in 1993 but they were repealed in 1995.

That leads me to my second point of fact. After nearly two decades of experience with this kind of legislation in Quebec and in British Columbia, the results are not encouraging for Canadian workers. Statistical data analysis provided by the labour program suggests both of these provinces continue to experience work stoppages of long duration and the length of their work stoppages is not that much different from other jurisdictions in Canada that do not have the replacement worker legislation.

For instance, in the period from 2005 to 2007, the average duration of a work stoppage in Quebec was 43.8 days compared to 43.6 days in Ontario and 41 days in the federal jurisdiction. This data supports independent findings which maintain that statutory prohibitions on the use of replacement workers are not necessarily effective in reducing the duration of a work stoppage.

That takes me to the third key fact that I want to share with the House this evening. Since the 1980s, over 90% of disputes in federal jurisdiction have been settled without a work stoppage, and that is often with the assistance of federal mediators and officers. In the majority of cases, employers do not employ external replacement workers to keep their operations functioning. Instead, they reassign management and other non-bargaining unit personnel.

What does Motion No. 294 seek to accomplish? In light of the facts that I have shared with the House, it is unclear what the drafters of Motion No. 294 are seeking to accomplish with this latest in a series of legislative attempts to drastically revise the Canada Labour Code, the outcome of which would essentially outlaw any use of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction. It cannot be to bring about balance and fairness to labour relations in Canada. The proposed amendments would undo what has been achieved over the past decade. It cannot be a solution to help reduce the number of work stoppages. The experiences in the two provinces with anti-replacement worker legislation show us that they continue to struggle with lengthy work stoppages. It cannot be a solution that would help boost Canada's ability in today's competitive environment.

The proposed amendments call for changes that would bring instability and uncertainty to Canadian labour relations and would do so in the midst of significant global economic difficulties.

The facts and the risks posed by anti-replacement worker legislation are just as clear today as they were in the past. As with each previous legislative attempt introduced in this House, this motion calls for amendments that would ultimately harm workers and undermine the labour peace that both sides have enjoyed for years.

For those reasons, I remain firmly opposed to this motion.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bloc Québécois motion M-294 calls on the government to introduce, no later than October 15, 2009, a bill to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers in labour disputes falling under the jurisdiction of the federal government, while at the same time ensuring that essential services are maintained.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank all the people and all the organizations that have supported the Bloc Québécois initiatives on this issue over the past 20 years. I am thinking of my colleagues from Gatineau, Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Shefford and Laval and all the other members of the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties who have not given up for the past 20 years.

The Canada Labour Code must be amended to prohibit the use of strikebreakers once and for all. It is high time we took action. After hearing the arguments in this House, I am still convinced that we can protect the interests of workers and employers by taking this approach.

Now more than ever, we must prohibit the use of replacement workers during labour disputes, in order to reduce picket-line violence.

We need to promote measures that will create a level playing field for negotiations between employers and employees.

Anti-scab measures will make it possible to eliminate the existence of two categories of workers in Quebec: those who have that right because they come under the provincial code and those who are deprived of it because they fall under the federal code.

I would encourage my colleagues to study the examples given by my colleague for Rivière-des-mille-Îles, of Vidéotron or Radio Nord. Other members have referred to Sterling trucking and Navistar, where strikebreakers deliberately set upon picketing workers and one picketer was very seriously injured.

Anti-scab measures are indispensable to civilized negotiations during labour conflicts.

Anti-scab measures encourage industrial peace by avoiding confrontations between striking workers and replacement workers. They make employers realize the advantages of settling conflicts by negotiation rather than by strike or lock-out.

There is a very broad consensus among the various labour unions on the importance of adopting anti-scab measures. They are a necessity in today's working world because they provide greater transparency in case of conflict.

The federal government needs to assume its responsibilities in areas over which it has constitutional jurisdiction. In these difficult economic times, the government needs to assume some leadership and keep in mind that it has a duty to protect the most vulnerable: those who are at risk of losing their jobs. It needs to protect labour relations, before, during and after a labour conflict.

Let us acknowledge the full importance our working people hold in our society and give them all the recognition they deserve for the work they do, day after day.

Lacking any valid arguments, the Conservative government is taking refuge behind scenarios that have no connection with Quebec reality. Thanks to the efforts of René Lévesque. Quebec has for 30 years had legislation that bans the use of replacement workers. We have healthy labour relations and the 7% of Quebec workers who come under federal legislation should be entitled to the same.

I urge my Liberal, Conservative and NDP colleagues to support this measure proposed today by the Bloc Québécois with respect to labour relations, in order to ban the use of scabs or replacement workers in labour conflicts involving employees who come under the Canada Labour Code.

The message is such a simple one. Starting now, we need balance, a fair and equitable balance of power between all parties involved in a labour dispute. Everyone stands to benefit.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.