Mr. Speaker, today is actually June 25, but I will not apologize for not being in my riding to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. However, I would like to wish all Quebeckers a wonderful national holiday. I am with them in spirit. I am so proud to be a Quebecker. Let us celebrate our culture and our beautiful language.
Now, to get back to the subject, namely, Bill C-6. I heard the speeches given by my hon. colleagues across the floor. I heard them say repeatedly that the complete shutdown of postal services is hurting the Canadian economy and SMEs and that this must absolutely be resolved. I understand that, because it is completely legitimate.
However, they forgot to mention one important detail in their speeches. The employees of Canada Post never called a general strike. They did not want to stop delivering the mail. Instead, they decided to stage rotating strikes, so that Canadians would still receive their mail. It was the employer, Canada Post, that decided to impose a lockout and shut down mail delivery.
It is even more shocking to see this government try to then blame the workers and the NDP to justify its policy. The employees want to return to work and we know that Canada Post never would have imposed a lockout without the approval of the government and the Minister of Labour, who is currently not here.
The shutdown of mail delivery is affecting the economy. The government has to end the lockout. I am truly shocked to see the government so readily blame every party except his own.
Yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture said that millions of Canadians and small and medium-sized businesses were suffering because of the lockout and that the voters elected the Conservatives, who now have to represent the voters' interests. Are they forgetting that the Canada Post workers also voted for us? Are they forgetting that the workers' families and friends are counting on us? They too voted for us. Are they forgetting that their children are also counting on us? Those Canadians also have the right to have their interests represented in the House of Commons.
We are not talking about a right that is part of some act or regulation. We are talking about a right that is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a fundamental human right that is the key to balancing the power relationship between the employees and the employer, which already has a position of strength over its employees.
Why is the government so bent on denigrating the workers and bolstering that position? This disrupts the balance of the whole structure in the workplace. A society without labour rights, without collective bargaining, is not a free and democratic society. Talk to the many political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in countries condemned by Amnesty International because those countries do not respect these fundamental rights.
Thousands of activists have been imprisoned after devoting their lives to defending labour rights and fighting for the workers in their country. I have a good example. Mansour Ossanlou, president of the bus workers' union in Tehran, spent his whole life standing up for workers' rights. He is now in jail in his country, being tortured.
I know that the hon. members opposite will say that we are not in Iran here. I would tell them that indeed, in Canada, workers have the right to negotiate for better working conditions. They have the right to negotiate for better wages and stable pensions to avoid spending their retirement in poverty.
How dare the government talk about freedom and democracy when it now wants to use its majority—which represents only 40% of Canadians—to force workers to return to work for wages reduced by $875 over four years and pensions that are less stable, with less vacation, less sick leave and fewer benefits? How dare the government use the economic recovery to justify these major cuts?
How can people living in uncertainty and with lower wages contribute to Canada's economic recovery? That makes no sense.
The young people of my generation are getting a terrible message. They are being told that they will not have good wages, good pensions, good benefits or good working conditions, and above all, that they will not have the right to negotiate for better conditions.
Canada Post, as a crown corporation, is well aware that it is not in its interest to negotiate with the employees because the government will take its side. The government will legislate in its favour. That is exactly why today, negotiations have come to a standstill. That is also why we are here today, since the employees have no other choice. We are their only way out in terms of defending their rights. In this situation, the government is not acting in good faith by offering less than what Canada Post had offered its own employees.
Canada Post employees are still mobilized in my riding. Despite the rain the day before yesterday, there were about 30 employees picketing in front of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Boulevard post office in Pointe-aux-Trembles. The vast majority of motorists taking that route showed their support by honking their horns or waving. Contrary to what the government is trying to make Canadians believe, the majority of people understand the reasons that pushed the Canada Post employees to go on a rotating strike, however they do not understand why this government locked the workers out.
A large number of constituents in my riding work in factories, small workshops and the construction sector. They are unionized workers who understand the importance of having good, safe working conditions. They sympathize therefore with the Canada Post mail carriers and employees whose mail preparation procedure will be modified.
The Canada Post Corporation has already started to change the mail assembly procedure. Some mail carriers in Laval now have to prepare their mail while they walk. The mail carriers will now be required to wear two mail pouches, one on each side of their body. Regardless of the rain, wind, hail, or snow, mail carriers tread the sidewalks with loads of tens of pounds, sometimes loads of up to 30 pounds. How will they be able to regain their balance in a wet staircase or on an icy sidewalk if they are carrying mail pouches hanging from each side of their body?
The number of on the job accidents will increase and these accidents will become more serious. Furthermore, the government wants to cut mail carriers’ benefits and salaries. What will be the impact of this measure in areas with a lot of exterior staircases, as is the case in Tétreaultville, located in the western part of my riding?
“The worst negotiated agreement is better than the best imposed agreement,” according to a popular adage among collective labour contract negotiators.
In keeping with their right-wing ideas, the Conservatives want to punish workers who believe in labour relations laws and collective bargaining, and have resorted to entirely legal and legitimate job action in the form of rotating strikes. This government argues that the scale it wants to impose is the same as for federal government public servants. In addition to making a mockery of working conditions, the government has given an arbitrator—who will be intervening in relation to a particular issue—a mandate with no real flexibility. Given the constraints placed upon the arbitrator, his decision is almost predictable.
A responsible government only uses special back-to-work legislation as a last resort. This government from the new right wants things its way and is willing to scare government workers in the process. The special legislation will set a precedent in the history of labour relations despite there being no general strike, just a government-imposed lockout.
For the residents of Pointe-de-l'Île, Quebec and Canada, democracy is not simply about voting in general elections; it is something they experience daily, in the workplace. Unionized workers have the right to bargain and to organize, but also the right to engage in job action.
I was disgusted today to hear my government colleagues say that we have no respect for Canadians and SMEs, and that we do not care about Canada’s best interests. I will not allow this government to blame us for its undemocratic practices, driven by the economic interests of companies and employers. I will not allow this government to try and tell Canadians that the NDP is not there for them. We are here not only for the workers at Canada Post, but for all Canadians.
We are here for them, for their families and their children.