Madam Speaker, just weeks ago our government indicated in the Speech from the Throne that our priority remains focused on jobs and growth. We also noted that the global economy remains fragile and risks to our recovery persist.
After many months of collective bargaining and mediation, a labour dispute between Canada Post and more than 50,000 employees representing the Canadian Union of Postal Workers urban operations unit has resulted in work stoppage, an event that, if unresolved, could jeopardize Canada's economic prosperity.
Canadians gave this government a strong mandate to complete our economic recovery. It is my view that the Government of Canada must take decisive action now before further damage is done to our economy.
Our government introduced Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services. The measures in this proposed legislation are in response to an extraordinary situation facing Canadian families, workers and businesses.
For many Canadians Canada Post remains a vital part of how we connect to each other, even in this digital age. It is also an important part of small and large businesses across Canada. Reliable postal services aid in putting money in the pockets of families and Canadians in need. They play a role in how bills get delivered and paid on time, and ensuring that parcels arrive at their destinations.
As we can see, there is far more at stake here than just mail delivery or good labour relations between Canada Post and its unionized workers. As a result of this long-simmering labour dispute, this has now become a matter that puts Canada's fragile economic recovery on the line. That is a risk that Canadians do not want to take, nor is it one that they should have to endure. They are counting on the Government of Canada to act and that is why we introduced this proposed legislation.
I will take a couple of minutes to outline the intent of this bill, along with the proposed economic risks entailed by this work stoppage. I will also explain why it is important that we take decisive action now rather than wait any longer.
This act would provide for the resumption and continuation of mail services at Canada Post. It would bring to an end the growing uncertainty that has characterized so much of this dispute for the last several months. The act would also impose a four year contract and new pay rate increases. It would mean a 1.75% increase as of February 1, 2011, 1.5% as of February 2012, 2% as of February 2013, and 2% as of February 2014. It would also provide a final offer selection, a binding mechanism on all outstanding matters.
Furthermore, in making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator is to be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that will provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure the short and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation, maintain the health and safety of its workers, and ensure the sustainability of its pension plan.
The terms and conditions of employment must also take into account: first, that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of the new collective agreement; and second, that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity, and meet the acceptable standards of service. It is a decisive approach aimed at resolving this labour dispute. While the measures it calls for are not an ideal way of resolving this dispute, it would do what is necessary to safeguard Canadian families, businesses, seniors and workers.
Some might argue that we should wait, that we should let collective bargaining run its course no matter how long it takes. That is unwise. The risks to our economy are too great to ignore. Since talks between CUPW and their employer broke down, our country is now facing a potentially serious situation. Let us be clear about what has happened as a result of this labour dispute at Canada Post.
An integral part of what keeps Canada in business and what puts money in the pockets of many citizens is slowing to a standstill. Ask the small business owners who invoice and get paid through the mail. Ask a company that relies on the mail to issue bills, process orders and receive payments. Ask Canadian publishers and direct marketers whose livelihoods rely on the mail. Ask taxpayers who are waiting for their tax refunds and HST rebates to arrive. Ask citizens in the far north who rely on mail as an essential service of goods, such as prescription eyewear, dental products, drugs, legal documents, and still make payments by mail.
Our citizens cannot afford to be left waiting. They certainly should not be the ones who should bear the brunt of a labour dispute that shows no sign of being resolved through collective bargaining.
As of June 17, the minister received a total of 1,800 letters and email enquiries. Of those, 1,027 requested back-to-work legislation: 692 Canadian citizens; 328 businesses; and 7 charities. The remainder represents 561 employees and 212 citizens expressing concerns.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind stated:
With 70 per cent of its funding coming from donations, more than half of which arrive through the mail, CNIB is now facing an estimated loss of $250,000 in much-needed funding for this time of the year.
The charity has also experienced $30,000 in unexpected costs associated with communicating its contingency plan to clients, donors and library users.
One stakeholder, a leading provider of integrated mail and document management systems, is requesting a rapid intervention of the government to ensure reliable postal services and supporting the view of Canada Post as an essential service.
Many Canadians are beginning to see the repercussions of a work stoppage and are requesting a government intervention for the resumption of postal services.
It has been nearly 14 years since Canada last had a work stoppage at Canada Post. The numbers speak for themselves. A work stoppage could result in losses to our economy of between $9 million and $31 million per week. The work stoppage at Canada Post is expected to have an immeasurable impact on our economy.
Canada's gross domestic product could shrink by up to 0.21% for every day of work stoppage. That means every day more jobs at risk, more productivity lost, more challenges for businesses and more uncertainty for consumers.
Every other avenue has been tried to help bring a full and lasting resolution to this dispute. Parliament must do the right thing and intervene.
The parties have negotiated for direct collective bargaining from October 2010 to January 2011. When those talks stayed at an impasse, a conciliation officer was appointed. The conciliation period was extended into early May and during that time, the conciliation officer met again with the parties. Throughout the month of May, a mediator from the labour program's Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service met frequently with the parties.
Unfortunately, despite all of these efforts, an agreement between the parties has yet to be reached.
While the best solution may have been the one that the parties reached themselves, we must do what is necessary to protect our recovering economy and safeguard Canadian families, workers and businesses. We must act now to keep the businesses of Canada moving. That is what this proposed legislation would do.
It is my hope that all members of the House will join me in meeting our shared responsibility to Canadians and give this proposed legislation the support it deserves.