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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

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The member for Jonquière—Alma has 30 seconds left.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:45 a.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first thing to be done tomorrow morning is to unlock the doors, bring everyone back in, sit them down and make them negotiate. They will deliver the mail, everything will get back to normal and the parties will negotiate and find a solution. That is the first thing to be done tomorrow.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:45 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are here at this time, and I am going on my 22nd hour today, to discuss this unfair back-to-work legislation.

Before I came here for midnight, I quickly wrote my speech. I am going to be reading from the notes I made before I came here, if the House will accept that.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst is rising on a point of order?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, twice now I have heard members ask, in essence, whether or not they could read their notes. And I do not think it is right that the person advising them told them it was not acceptable to read from their notes in the House of Commons. Ministers are not even able to answer the questions put to them in question period without their notes. It is well recognized here in the House of Commons that members are fully entitled to read their documents and they should not be embarrassed to do so. Those are their documents. I invite the member to read her document; she is welcome to do so in the House of Commons.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:45 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for clearing that up for me.

We are here to discuss the unfair back-to-work legislation. The Canada Post Corporation decided to lock the doors and not allow in the 48,000 postal workers who want to work.

To defend the rights of all workers, I stand in solidarity with my sisters and brothers in the CUPW who want to work but cannot, with my colleagues here in this caucus, and with thousands of members of my community and other Canadian communities.

The postal workers started a legal rotating strike on June 3. When exercising their legal right to strike as part of the collective bargaining process, they made sure that it did not stop the mail delivery so many Canadians depend on. Actually, it was only after Canada Post shut the doors and locked the workers out on June 15 that we started to notice that the mail service had been interrupted. This past week, the government chose to interfere with the collective bargaining process and institute back-to-work legislation.

The government's proper role in this process is not to interfere, but rather to tell its own crown corporation to get back to the negotiating table and to work out a fair and equitable collective agreement. The government's role is not to aid the corporation to achieve its bargaining goals through back-to-work legislation. This legislation removes all incentive for Canada Post to come back to the negotiating table and relieves Canada Post of its obligation to bargain, never mind bargaining in good faith.

This act by the Minister of Labour is undermining the collective bargaining process that many women and men have struggled, sacrificed, and fought for over the course of many years. When I was a conciliator with the provincial labour board, we pushed for all parties to come to a negotiated settlement on their own.

The strength of those who came before us and defended the right to collective bargaining created benefits for all Canadians. Today's young women and men who are entering the workforce are able to do so knowing that they will be able to enjoy benefits such as the eight-hour workday—of course, I do not have this but most Canadians do—the concept of a weekend, standards and measures to ensure safe working conditions, parental leave, and many others.

Basically, we all have an improved standard of living because of the work that the union movement and workers have accomplished over the years. It is also important to note that the workers of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the CUPW, have themselves been responsible for many advancements over the years.

As a young woman, I would like to outline a few of them.

In 1974, the CUPW members stood in solidarity with the mostly female workforce of the coder machine operators. These workers went on an illegal strike to defend the need for equality for the women who were in the low-paid coder classification.

In 1981, the CUPW workers went on strike and won paid maternity leave. This allowed many young women the freedom not to have to choose between raising a family and following and building a career. We women now know that we will not have to worry about financial barriers to taking care of our newborns, and that we will have a job to return to after maternity leave.

In 1985, the CUPW organized and obtained a collective agreement representing cleaning staff in Toronto, one of the first bargaining units in the private sector, many of whom were women.

The union movement and CUPW in particular have a strong history of standing up and fighting for the struggles that led to workers' rights and increased equality for women.

As women, young workers, workers of all ages and community members with a conscience, we cannot sit idly by as the rights of all workers are taken away and deteriorate.

Postal workers are our neighbours and friends. They are everyday Canadians who deserve decent wages, benefits and good working conditions.

They provide vital services to my constituents of Scarborough—Rouge River and to all Canadians alike, including single parents who depend on the monthly child tax benefit cheque, seniors receiving payments through their GIS or OAS who do not have direct deposit, Canadians who depend on the CPP disability benefit payments, low-income Canadians waiting on a tax return cheque, individuals waiting for their passports and newcomer families who use the mail service for their family sponsorship applications to be reunited with their loved ones. These neighbours across the country are waiting on Canada Post to unlock the doors and unseal the red mail boxes so their lives can return to normal.

The postal workers are asking for the same thing my neighbours are asking for: to go back to work and continue to deliver the millions of pieces of mail every single day.

Through this back-to-work legislation the government has decided to punish the workers by imposing a contract with wage increases much lower than Canada Post's last offer. Let me outline some of the details.

Canada Post's offer was 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 2% in 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation.

The government's legislation, however, would offer something much lower than that. It offers 1.75% in 2011, only 1.5% in 2012 and 2% in 2013 and 2014. This is despite the fact that Canada Post is profitable, earning $281 million last year alone. Its CEO, as we have heard, earned an incredible $497,000 plus a 33% bonus, whereas the offer on the table offers a two-tiered wage system discriminating against young workers because Canada Post wants to roll back the starting salaries for young workers.

This proposal is unfair and unwarranted against young workers.

As Paul Moist said, “There are no such things as two-tier rent or mortgages: young and new workers don't get a discount on utility or grocery bills”.

I agree with him. I never got an opportunity to pay a discounted rent because I was a student working a part-time job. This is an outrageous—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:50 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

You were staying at home.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:50 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Sorry, I actually lived away from home for nine years, seven years when I was in university and after that as well. I did not have the luxury of staying at home in the way one of the hecklers just mentioned.

It is outrageous to say that young workers do not deserve the same wages that other workers do. Women are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, and along the same lines, young workers deserve equal pay for equal work. This legislation is eliminating the right of public sector workers to negotiate collectively.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:55 a.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening with interest to the debate. It is almost five o'clock in the morning and we have all been up 22 or 23 hours.

I am amazed by the rhetoric I am hearing from the opposition members. I have heard that we are operating in bad faith, that we do not care about workers, that we are battering the rights of workers, and it is amazing to me that when the opposition talks about workers, it is only talking about unionized workers, specifically the 50,000 unionized workers in this dispute.

The truth is that over these last eight months our government tried to facilitate and help the parties to come to a negotiated agreement. Negotiation is just that. Until there is a settlement, it is just negotiation. Nobody is taking anything away from anyone when we put these measures forward.

I would ask the member opposite, when she speaks of the rights of workers and specifically women workers, of which I am one, why there is no concern about the over 33 million Canadians who rely on the postal service and all the workers who are not—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:55 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that we are speaking to the bill that is in front of us, so I speak of the current situation where 48,000 unionized workers are locked out of their workplace. That is why I am speaking of currently unionized workers.

The actions of the government have caused a deterioration in the quality of the rights that workers have obtained over the many years of the labour and civil rights movements in Canada. This attack on the unionized workers who are members of CUPW is a direct affront to all workers in Canada.

Today I stand with my New Democratic Party colleagues in solidarity with all workers in Canada to preserve all of their rights.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 4:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, what practical solution would my hon. colleague recommend to reduce the polarization that is occurring?

I would ask that we refocus the debate on what really matters, and that is Canadians, Canadians who want to work and who cannot, and Canadians who want a resumption of the postal service.

What three things would the hon. member recommend to reduce the polarization?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a question that has been answered time and time again tonight. What must happen to bring about resumption of the mail service wanted by so many million Canadians is that Canada Post needs to unlock the doors and allow the workers to--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5 a.m.

An hon. member

Unlock the doors.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was a little confused by the heckles. Canada Post needs to unlock the doors and allow the workers who want to work to go back to work and to deliver the millions of pieces of mail they deliver on a daily basis.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is 5 a.m. on June 24, and it is Quebec's national holiday. This is a great day. I am very sorry that we could not get unanimity to adjourn so that we could go and celebrate with Quebeckers. That being said, I nevertheless want to rise in order to wish all of Quebec a happy national holiday, and I extend the same wishes to the members from that province who are in the House.

Last Monday I was on a picket line in Montreal and I met a number of workers. They were very angry, disappointed and indignant. In fact they gave me this handsome cap because they wanted me to show it off in the House of Commons.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would ask the hon. member to remove the prop. There is a standing order against the use of props in the House, so I would ask her to respect that.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the word “disguise”. I would not say it this is a disguise, but perhaps the translation was inaccurate.

In the House, several other members also have headgear. The workers talked to me and gave me this cap and this tee-shirt which says “The struggle continues”. These people are outraged because they do not feel respected given today's events. This is not going to help things in future nor improve labour relations. That is what they told me.

In its 2009 annual report, Canada Post confirmed that for a fifteenth consecutive year it had a consolidated profit and net benefit of $281 million, out of $7.3 billion in revenues. Moreover, Canada Post is still not releasing—in case people do not know this—its financial statement for 2010. A bare minimum of transparency would require that it release its accounts for the past year. We don't know how many million or billion dollars it made.

I would like to remind parliamentarians and those at home watching us today that the Canada Post Corporation Act establishes that this public service must be financially self-sustaining, not that it must seek profit at any price, such as no longer offering equitable service throughout the country, particularly in smaller communities. Subsection 5(2) of the Canada Post Corporation Act states the following:

While maintaining basic customary postal service, the Corporation...shall have regard to

(b) the need to conduct its operations on a self-sustaining financial basis while providing a standard of service that will meet the needs of the people of Canada and that is similar with respect to communities of the same size;

The Canada Post Corporation Act mentions self-sustaining finances in a global sense; it does not target specific operations. It makes sense that certain aspects of Canada Post are profitable, even very profitable. Those services should finance the necessary operations that run at a deficit in order to develop and maintain services in communities. We know full well that it is difficult to maintain service in some small towns.

From the beginning of this labour dispute, the federal government should have clearly instructed Canada Post management to make an offer to the postal workers that would respect the spirit of the act.

I asked a question in the House and requested that the government allow us to resolve this dispute not with special legislation, as it is doing now, but with a clear message to Canada Post management that they need to sit down and resolve this dispute in a respectful manner.

Instead, the government introduced a bill stating—at least this is how we interpreted it—that if the employer's overall offer is not accepted, the workers will be given a salary that is lower than the employer's last offer. That is unfair, shameful and unacceptable. This bill will take $875.50 from full-time workers during the four-year agreement. In total, the government would deprive these people and their families of $35 million. That is truly unacceptable. And this is all in a context where Canada Post itself decided to declare a lockout and deprive people of their mail.

The union represents men and women who enrich our society. These people responsibly decided to hold a rotating strike rather than a general strike. That is called being responsible. However, Canada Post decided to close the doors and prevent everyone from coming in. We are seeing the purpose of this action today: a special bill to force people back to work in unacceptable conditions.

When I asked the question, the Conservative ministers said what they are still saying and that is that Canada Post is an independent entity and that they are not getting involved. However, in actual fact, this government was a full, silent partner in Canada Post's actions. The government is now the key player in this labour dispute and calling all the shots. The government got involved, not as a mediator of justice and equality, but as the organization's true employer, and not even a good employer but a dictatorial one that imposes its rules by force. It is a shame and the government is bringing shame to Canada. It is a bit difficult for me, as a sovereignist, to say this, but I am going to say it anyway: this is a shameful thing for Canada.

One of the most important issues in this dispute, and what the workers have been telling me, is that Canada Post wants to impose orphan clauses. As a result, the salaries and benefits of new employees, in particular their pension and vacation plans would be subject to clauses providing for different treatment, known as orphan clauses. That means that, once these clauses come into force, any new people who are hired will not receive the same starting salaries and benefits as those who were hired previously. This creates two classes of workers within the same institution, which is unacceptable. In Quebec, significant measures have been taken to ensure that these infamous orphan clauses cannot be applied systematically.

This is quite a dark day as a result of this bill. In my opinion, the government decided to leave its mark of inequity, lack of respect, discrimination and injustice on the labour relations that will prevail at Canada Post. That is too bad because, according to Brand Finance Canada in 2009, Canada Post employees made this organization the most iconic brand in Canada. In addition, Corporate Knights Magazine considers Canada Post to be one of the best 50 corporate citizens in Canada, and all that—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remember over the years when the member for Ahuntsic was a member of the Bloc Party, which is not recognized here anymore, she and her colleagues would constantly demand that the federal government become more and more involved in the affairs of Quebec by way of sending more funding for this, more help for that. They wanted the involvement of the federal government. Now the federal government, through this legislation, wants to get involved in a way that will be for the good of all Canadians and end this postal strike. The member cannot have it both ways. It is one or the other.

It is curious. The member said that Canada Post must unlock the doors. Well, if Canada Post were to unlock the doors tomorrow, would the postal workers go back to full delivery and get back to the negotiating table with the promise of no more rotating strikes until an agreement has been worked out? Has the postal union said that it would do that? I have not heard that mentioned at all tonight during the debate.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:10 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to remind my colleague that I am still a Bloc Québécois MP; that has not changed. Second, I would like to remind my colleague that, for many years, the Bloc Québécois always fought against federal government involvement in provincial jurisdictions. When he says that we rose more than once to ask the federal government to intervene, I swear that I do not know what he is talking about.

We are asking that the federal government give Quebec what it is owed, whether it is the $2.2 billion we asked for and received—and hurrah, it was a victory—or the right to also work in French in federal institutions in Quebec. We will continue to put forward demands.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member posed a question to the Bloc Québécois member. He asked her if the postal workers would be prepared to return to work with no more rotating strikes, to deliver the mail and to negotiate a collective agreement.

Does the Bloc Québécois member recall the question I asked the Minister of Labour last week in the House of Commons? I informed the minister that the union had asked for that on one condition, which is in the legislation we are discussing: that Canada Post honour the expired collective agreement and that it restore the drug and disability benefits. If that were put in place, the union would return to the bargaining table and the workers would return to Canada Post offices to deliver the mail to Canadians.

Does the member recall that the question was asked in the House of Commons and that there was the assurance that everyone would return to the bargaining table?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:15 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes. That is also what the unionized workers were telling me. They are acting in good faith and they are willing to return to the bargaining table. They would like to see the old collective agreement prevail until negotiations on a new one are complete. Unfortunately—and I want to say so in their presence—the government has taken advantage of the lockout by Canada Post to table this special statute. The workers feel insulted by all of this, because they were acting in good faith. Deciding to hold rotating strikes is a right; it is legitimate. People have the right to go on strike. They have the right to organize rotating strikes. However, the Conservatives waited for Canada Post to impose a lockout to do precisely what they are doing today.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:15 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, at this time of the morning a few months ago, I would have finished delivering a little over half of my newspapers to my clients. I used to deliver Le Soleil; yes, I was a paperboy before I being elected to the House of Commons. At the time, I had 160 clients. However, I want to point out that today would have been a holiday for me. Delivering newspapers to 160 people, in all kinds of weather, year in, year out, makes me feel particularly qualified to understand the working conditions of our letter carriers. This makes me all the happier to be here in the House, despite the fact that we are celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day today. I have to mention that I am missing the celebrations on the Plains of Abraham, to which I was invited this year.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about unions, about their operating principles and their democratic principles, it is important to put things in their proper perspective and understand what they represent. Regarding the back-to-work legislation and the negotiations around it, there has been a lot of confusion and shortcuts and simplification, if not simplistic speeches made in the House. This prevents us from seeing the real situation for all postal workers, and the impact that the lockout and the threat of forcing workers back to their jobs may have on the Canadian population.

We have to start by understanding clearly that the union bargaining unit represents tens of thousands of people. When we look at an organization the size of the postal employees’ union, we have to understand clearly that these tens of thousands of employees are not all sitting at the bargaining table with management. Quite the opposite. The basic starting principle is several tens of thousands of members who organize locally, who delegate powers to an executive body, which itself delegates powers to higher bodies and then instructs a bargaining committee. This is a basic principle that we see in all kinds of organizations. These are widely accepted principles, operating methods that have been tried and tested, and rules that the postal union members apply and follow today. So there is no reason now to show them no respect by pointing a gun at their head to force them back to work without allowing them to bargain as equals with the management of the corporation.

Unfortunately, as we know, unions have a bad image among a certain segment of the public, among certain groups of people. We might even say certain elites who would like, at all costs, for them to disappear. After all, the freedom to organize and come together to achieve a common goal is a very widespread principle and operating method in our society.

Take the example of a large corporation, a company that is listed on the stock exchange, in which there are a number of shareholders, equivalent to the members of a union who have decided to pursue a common goal, and they delegate certain powers to a board of directors and to the management, to operate the organization I am describing. The difference, with a union, is simply in the details. The goals and the roles within a company are obviously different, but the basic principles are the same, and they are largely adhered to and accepted. I assume they are also largely adhered to and accepted by all members of this House.

We can look at this from another perspective. My late father, whom I talked about yesterday, was a member of a senior citizens’ club. There too, this is an organization with a democratic structure that is composed of its members and delegates certain powers. I remember very well how my father would give us reports at home about internal disputes, disagreements that happened. It is a very healthy sign that an organization is operating democratically when among all the members, people can say that they do not agree with how things are working and they would prefer them to work differently. Unanimity would actually be unhealthy. At its worst, it would be a sign of dictatorship.

We hear in the House that out of several tens of thousands of people, some union members are apparently complaining about the present situation and are almost calling for back to work legislation. I am sure that is so, but I hope someone will be able to produce concrete evidence of it rather than telling us things anonymously and secretly.

I feel I can say that because I have been a member of several democratic organizations. I have held various positions; I was treasurer, chair and secretary. For two years I was chairman of the parents' committee of the Commission scolaire de la Capitale. Somewhat like in the House, sometimes I heard outrageous statements and exaggerations, but I understood that in an emotional debate where the stakes are high and people have different opinions and different interests, sometimes things get out of hand. However, this absolutely does not discredit the union model, whose democratic functioning has been amply demonstrated. No one, absolutely no one, has been able to show the House a shred of evidence that a union structure is not a functional one or does not respect those principles just as well as a large corporation trading on the stock market, or a seniors' organization.

The fact that unionized postal workers gave their negotiating team a mandate to sit down with management in no way constitutes a problem, and it is totally incomprehensible that this government is so obstinately pursuing its efforts to introduce back-to-work legislation. All the more so since there is another principle that is very important to our freedom and to Canadian society, and that is freedom of association. In this debate we are holding right now in the House, these stakes are important for our society, as the decision that will be taken in the House is going to have an impact on our collective future. Indeed, if we deprive unionized postal workers of the right to negotiate, what is the next step? Are we going to deny them the right to associate freely, to defend their interests and to defend the need to deliver collective services?

In summary, it is very important that this bill not be passed, in order, at the very least, to allow our society to maintain forever the right to freedom of association and the right to negotiate. That is fundamental.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 5:25 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to again engage in this debate with the members of the opposition.

It is interesting that the NDP keeps making the case that this is unheard of, that we are breaking new ground. In fact the history of Canada Post indicates that sometimes the government has had to get involved when the parties have not been able to agree.

It is always a last resort. There have been eight months of negotiations. There was more than three months of work with a conciliator and more than a month with a mediator, and they have not been able to come to an agreement.

The last time this happened, in 1997, the then-Liberal government did bring a bill that set in place the wage rates moving forward. This bill has followed that structure. That is what we have done.

We want to bring stability. There are raises and there are protections for the workers. There is an opportunity for them to put forward their position to a mediator who will then select the offer from Canada Post or the workers, one or the other. That is what the government has put in place.

What we want is stability. We want the mail to flow. We do not want more rotating strikes. We do not want more harm to our community. We want to stand up for all 33 million Canadians, including those at Canada Post.