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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

Topics

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #24

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

moved that Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to introduce the second reading of the bill entitled “An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services”.

A work stoppage is under way, a vital service is gone and Canadians have some urgent questions: How did this happen? How did things get this far? Do we not have mechanisms to resolve labour management conflicts?

We certainly do and they actually work quite well, and over 90% of the time.

In this country, employers and unions that represent employers are able to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment through the process of collective bargaining. This usually involves compromise on both sides and these negotiations almost always result in a settlement that is acceptable to both sides. We do not hear much about these proceedings because there is usually nothing very dramatic about the signing of a collective agreement.

However, what if the talks fail? This occasionally does happen. However, all should not be lost because the Canada Labour Code does provide for a series of measures the government can take in order to help the parties in a dispute get past their differences and avoid a strike or a lockout.

So what happened in the case of Canada Post?

I can assure Canadians that we did everything within our power to help Canada Post and the union to come to an agreement. We used every tool at our disposal.

I will take members back to the fall of last year. Negotiations between the parties began in October 2010 and the goal was to get a settlement before the existing collective agreement expired at the end of January. Despite some concessions made on both sides, the two parties could not agree on some crucial points. Therefore, on January 21, 10 days before the contract expired, the parties informed me that they were deadlocked.

As I said, in a case like this, there are steps the government can take. The first step is to send in a conciliator and, if conciliation fails, to appoint a mediator.

In the case of Canada Post and CUPW, the government followed the usual process as set out in the Canada Labour Code and we spent a lot of time with both sides. I want to stress, in case there is any doubt on this point. that this government does not play favourites and we appoint experts who are impartial. The job of conciliators and mediators is not to impose the kind of agreement that would be most agreeable to the government. Their role is to help the parties find their own solution.

I will go back to the chronology. After 60 days of conciliation, there was still no agreement between Canada Post and the union. Considering the stakes involved, both parties agreed to extend the conciliation by a further 32 days. Even after 92 days of effort by a conciliator, an agreement in this case was not forthcoming so, on May 5, I appointed a mediator. The parties entered a 21-day cooling off period, as prescribed in the Canada Labour Code, and still there was no progress. Instead, on May 30, the union filed a 72-hour strike notice and, on June 3, the postal workers walked out. Finally, on June 15, the employer declared a lockout.

I said at the beginning that Canadians have questions. The next question they have is: What will happen now?

If the last postal disruption, which occurred in 1997, is anything to go on, the damage to the economy could be significant. Businesses that rely on the mail will be severely affected. If the strike is prolonged, some of those businesses could go under, jobs could be lost and some of the job losses could be permanent.

Can we afford this disruption at a time when our economy is still recovering?

Many of our citizens depend on the services of Canada Post to receive essential government information and benefits. In fact, everyone will be affected by the work stoppage but people with disabilities, elderly people and people who live in remote communities will be hurt the most. This strike will cause undue real hardship to many Canadians.

The next question in their minds is: What is the government going to do about it? The answer is that we have made the difficult decision to end the strike with back to work legislation and binding arbitration.

When collective bargaining actually fails, employers have the ability and the legal right to bring pressure on the unions in order to settle the matter. The unions also have the right to withdraw their labour in order to make sure that there is a settlement at the end of the day.

In this case, we are unable to see a resolution. That is why we introduced this resolution in order to give the parties a way forward so that they conclude their collective agreement at the table.

It is the culmination of a long process. I have worked with the union and I have worked with management for a long period of time. The reality of the situation is Canadians cannot go on without postal services for much longer. The government has no alternative but to introduce back to work legislation and that is what we have done today.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is incredible that the Conservative Minister of Labour three times in her speech called it a strike. I remind the Minister of Labour and the Prime Minister that this is a lockout. The workers did not go on strike.

The Minister of Labour, who I have great respect for, should understand the difference between a lockout and a strike. The mail was being delivered. The company told the workers that they were no longer required.

How can the Minister of Labour stand in this House and on three separate occasions call this a strike when she knows that it was Canada Post that locked out the employees?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that he is correct. It is a lockout which was precipitated by a series of rolling strikes.

I might offer this piece of advice to the opposition. In the case of the government, it does not matter how the work stoppage happens. What matters is we act for all Canadians and we make--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Bourassa.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have really reached a low point if the Minister of Labour said today that it does not really matter how things will turn out. Our government is siding with the employers.

I have been on the government side in the past, and when there was a two-week general strike, we differentiated between a lockout and a general strike. We certainly had a bill to ensure that the arbitrator could be respectful to both parties in arriving at a negotiated solution.

We have a minister who has just completely denied collective rights and workers' rights.

Is the minister prepared to make amendments to ensure that we do not begin a marathon session? There is a lack of respect for two groups today. There is a lack of respect for workers, and for Quebeckers and French Canadians, because the NDP wants to start a marathon session when we should rather be celebrating, since we have agreed in this House that Quebec is a nation.

What does she have to say about that?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to remind the hon. member that there are in fact 45,000 members of the union and in reality there are 33 million Canadians.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, while I was making my speech before the vote, I had a message from one of my constituents which I would like to read.

It says: "Great job on your speech...We were watching it live. My business is affected by this. I hope the situation is resolved soon!"

What message should I give to those constituents?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the message to give to Canadians in general in businesses and charities is that we are here to ensure the return of postal services and we are here to ensure the continuation of postal services.

Indeed, we will sit here as long as we need to sit here to ensure that postal services continue.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, while the minister was speaking, I received a message from one of my constituents, who said that his pension fund was in jeopardy. He was asking the Minister of Labour to protect workers.

He also asked why the Conservative government and the Prime Minister hate the working men and women so much. Why does the bill hurt only the workers and not Canada Post?

That is what Canadian workers are saying.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess none of us should be surprised that unions have a hotline to the NDP.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the comments made by the minister in her speech, prior to the heavy-handed lockout that Canada Post came forward with, she said it was prompted by the rotating strikes as if they were an illegal tactic. They are absolutely legitimate. Does the minister disagree that they are a legitimate tactic?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated clearly, we do not blame one party or the other. The blame is that the two parties at the table were unable to reach a deal after being in the collective bargaining process for eight months.

Quite simply, Canadians want to know what the government is going to do. The government is going to make sure that the service starts again, that they are back to work, and people can resume their lives.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the legislation calls for wage increases of 1.75% this year, 1.5% next year and 2% in each of the subsequent two years. I wonder if the Minister of Labour could tell the House why these particular numbers were chosen and whether or not they are based on what the government has negotiated with the federal public service.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member, colleague and neighbour for the question. Indeed, the increases in wages for postal workers are wages that have been negotiated in another free collective bargaining process with PSAC, the largest public sector union in the federal government, and they are fair.

As I have said many times, these are amounts that every Canadian would love to have as a guaranteed wage increase for the next few years.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also received today an email from one of my constituents who is a letter carrier.

Here is what he said:

Mr. [MP's name], thank you for defending postal workers. Many people do not know what we are fighting for. We are not for fighting for wages, but for safe working conditions. Please ask the Conservatives what they intend to do about all the workplace accidents that will occur once we go back to work and our working conditions have still not been addressed.

I would like to know what the Minister of Labour intends to do about worker safety.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the top priority of this government is the health and safety of all Canadians. We take that very seriously. That is why in the legislation we have included this in the guiding principles for the arbitrator to ensure that the principles of the health and safety of the workers on the job are looked at.