Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. I would first like to say, as a Hamiltonian facing a similar situation in which workers are being locked out, I just wish the government were as quick to take on U.S. Steel as it is to take on the workers at Canada Post, and that it would order that company back to the bargaining table and put almost 1,000 workers back to work who have been locked out because of the policies of the government. I wish the government would start with Hamilton before talking about improvements it thinks it is making.
Next, I want to state a couple of things I think are important here. First, Canada Post is profitable: $281 million. Yes, some of that is due to management decisions. However, one cannot deny that the workers who work at Canada Post have played a significant role in ensuring that Canada Post is profitable for the Canadian people. The workers have contributed to the profitability of Canada Post and now the government uses economics as an argument to say it has to bring in this legislation. It has been said over and over that this is a lockout, and I say to the government members that they are going to hear it a lot more over the next 10 to 20 days.
The fact is that the union began rotating strikes. That is a tactic that is meant to put pressure on management at the bargaining table. It is not meant to cripple the organization. Before the government introduced its legislation, the union offered to end its rotating action and to go back to work while negotiations continued, and all it asked was that the management continue to enforce the current collective agreement. Had that happened, the rotating strikes would have ended, the management and union would be at the bargaining table, and we would not need to be here dealing with this mean-spirited legislation.
One of my colleagues over here talks about eight months. That is just about the same length of time the U.S. Steel workers have been out too. Why is it okay that after eight months of negotiation, while Canada Post is still working, the government has to bring in legislation but those steelworkers and their families are out there without a paycheque for over eight months? That is okay somehow. They can stay out there. The government is not worried about the economic damage to them and their families in my community in Hamilton.
It is also interesting that the company or the government or management, which are pretty much all the same in this circumstance, wants to reduce the amount that the workers were offered in free and fair collective bargaining, saying that it has to constrain costs. Yet, it is okay to pay the CEO over $661,000. The Conservatives are going to go after the workers at Canada Post for nickels and dimes and pennies and anything else they can possibly get. It is okay for the CEO to make that kind of money but not for the people who are actually out there doing the work everyday. That is just not right.
Let us also keep in mind that we have legislation here that would reduce the amount of money that is already on the bargaining table. That alone justifies our being here and holding up this legislation for as long as we possibly can. How can that be right?
How can it be right that there is a negotiated agreement on a wage piece, and the government takes the opportunity to bring in back-to-work legislation and in that same legislation reduces the amount that was offered? That is not fair, and everybody knows that it is not fair. That is another good reason for us to be here and to stand firm with the workers at Canada Post.
There has been some talk that maybe the government is getting ready to soften up the company to sell it and privatize it. There is actually evidence that it has already started. It has already started.
Here come the facts. I hear one of the members asking for facts, and I appreciate that.
We all know that Canada Post has a very difficult job in terms of providing the same level of service to the far reaches of our country for the same price one pays if a letter or envelope is going only halfway across a city. That is not easy to do. It is a big country in terms of providing service.
The legislation mandates that Canada Post has to be financially self-sufficient. A number of years ago, some private entities decided that they were going to horn in on that business, because there was money to be made. It was the issue of remailing. I will not get into what that is, but postal workers know what that is. It is an important component of what Canada Post does.
Canada Post, at that time, still defended the fact that all that work belonged to it and that it needed the profitable pieces to pay for the parts of Canada Post that were not profitable, because it has to deliver to the far locales we have in Canada. Canada Post took these small companies to court saying that they were infringing on its business, that it had a legal mandate to do all this work, and that the other companies were doing it. Canada Post asked the court to please stop them. The lower court agreed.
Being the fine citizens they were, the private entities that lost the case appealed to the appeal courts. The appeal courts, guess what, supported the fact that Canada Post is entitled to all of the work it does, if for no other reason than because of the economic aspect of having to be financially self-sustaining. In the beginning, the minister defended it and said that this work should not be done by anyone other than Canada Post and that the government would continue to pursue that policy. Then it changed.
We suspect that the lobbying started big time, because all of a sudden, government policy changed. To their credit, the Liberals were on the same page at that time and supported Canada Post. The Conservatives continued that when they came to power. When it changed, it was a huge change.
What did the government do to these companies that were taking away the lawful work of Canada Post? It introduced a bill that would legalize what they were doing. It would legalize the work it had been fighting in the courts to keep at Canada Post. The government brought in a bill, after it flip-flopped, that would make the work that was taken from Canada Post legal. The Liberals supported that legislation, but the bill died, because there was either a prorogation or an election.
The Conservatives introduced another bill to make it legal, and the Liberals supported that bill, too.
They then ran into another storm, and we in the NDP were part of that storm and fought to defend Canada Post in maintaining the work it needed to have to be financially self-sustaining. When they ran into that storm, do members know what they did? It was rather typical of the government. They stuffed it into a budget bill so that it would not be a stand-alone bill any more and would not get the attention of the Canadian people. The opposition parties could not point to it and say that the government was privatizing Canada Post already, because, quite frankly, in the context of a broader budget, it was one piece.
Now, as we debate this today, it is lawful for that work to have been taken from Canada Post, which makes it that much more difficult for Canada Post to remain financially viable.
When we raise the issue of the government not really caring about Canada Post and its services, we think there is darn good evidence to support that, up to and including the legislation here today that is taking away wages that were already properly and fairly negotiated at the bargaining table. That is the kind of government we have here. That is the kind of attitude it has towards Canada Post, and that is the kind of attitude it has towards working people who are just trying to get a decent collective agreement and go on with their lives. That is all they are looking for.
We were saying earlier that we thought others may need to keep their eyes open, because the government is coming after them. Talk to my friend from Sudbury about what went on at Vale Inco and the damage that was done there and the economic harm that was done to those workers and their families and the community of Sudbury. It was all because the government refused to stand up for the community and the workers at the time and allowed the takeover. It was not much different from what happened with U.S. Steel.
Here we have a government in the early days saying that people do not need to worry, that they are not scary, that people do not have to worry about them, and that they are not hard right wing. Yet here they are, at three o'clock in the morning, trying to defend not just back-to-work legislation, which in and of itself is always problematic, but a vicious attack on those workers and their negotiating rights.
I cannot get past the fact that there is a government that would stand up and say that it is okay to take away, through legislation, something that barely was dry on the page in terms of negotiating. Why would the government do that? The answer we get from the Prime Minister is that it has to make sure that everything is in line with the rest of the public sector. The difficulty there is that Canada Post is part of the government. The government sets out the parameters for all of government.
The mandate was there. The people at the head of Canada Post know where the government is at and what its thinking is. They also know that they are sitting on at least $281 million in profit. They offered what they thought was, I would assume, a fair offer of a wage settlement, and it was agreed to. That is not the whole contract. Things can change. I have been in bargaining too. However, that is what happened. They had an agreement. They understood the mandate.
For the government to come around now and say that it cannot live by what Canada Post has negotiated does not make any sense. It makes about as much sense as the government saying that the main reason it is bringing in this legislation is because of the economic damage being done by Canada Post not being at full service, while it is the one that locked the door. Come along. If the government wants to get Canada Post working again, open the door. The workers will be there.