Mr. Speaker, last night, after my work day, I went back to my hotel room, but I did not go to bed right away. I surfed the Internet and visited social networks like Twitter. I would like to share some of what I found. Unfortunately, I noticed that some people do not have a very good idea of what is going on in this labour dispute between Canada Post management and the workers. Lots of people are talking about a strike. This is the first myth I would like to dispel. There is a lot of talk about that, and I know people are watching CPAC today.
In the media right now, after Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, this debate is the big event on television. I would just like to set the record straight. This is not a strike. Initially, there were rotating strikes, a process that made it possible to deliver people’s mail. But more recently, Canada Post management decided to lock out the employees, thus stopping mail delivery completely. That is the reason why the mail that is being sent now, such as cheques to charities and bills to customers, is not reaching its destination.
First, Canada Post wrongly declared a lockout. Then what happened? Everyone agrees that the country's mail needs to be delivered. The government introduced this bill, but it is based on a very nasty principle. The bill penalizes workers. But during this dispute with their employer, the workers made sure that the mail got delivered for the well-being of Canadians.
Yet, this bill would cut their wages by 18%. And we all know that Canada Post is a very profitable company that contributes millions of dollars to the government every year. In fact Canada's Conservative government owns Canada Post. That is why we, the NDP members, want employees to return to work quickly. That is why we are fighting night and day—literally—to come to an agreement with the Conservatives.
There are many debates in this chamber, and we know that there are many debates between NDP and Conservative members outside this chamber, in the hallways. I want Canadians to know that, even though they see many people taking sides and seemingly not wanting to understand the other party, we really are trying to find a compromise to narrow the scope of the Conservative bill. That way, people can get back to work as quickly as possible, mail service can resume, your grandmother can get her birthday gift and that little girl in northern Quebec can get her glasses. That was one example that was given a few days ago.
My position differs slightly from that of my NDP colleagues. I am very happy that the NDP has been acknowledged as the family and workers' party. I am proud to say that some of our members are great examples of union leaders; the member for Hull—Aylmer is one such example.
My background is a little bit different. I have never belonged to a union but I am against the way this bill is worded. I will explain why. I have never been unionized because I have been self-employed. Before becoming a full-time member of Parliament, I owned a business. Some Conservatives say that the NDP does not understand small businesses and entrepreneurs. They also say it is important to send invoices and receive cheques from customers. As an entrepreneur, I understand that. The NDP agrees with the Conservatives: the workers must go back to work as quickly as possible. We want the mail to be delivered.
However, we disagree with the Conservatives on one point: we do not feel that the workers should be penalized because of a dispute provoked by Canada Post, which declared a lockout and thus interrupted mail delivery.
I wanted to clear up this misunderstanding because people on the Internet are often referring to the strike when, in actual fact, it is a lockout that is blocking the mail. Others are blaming members of the NDP. They are saying that the NDP is preventing the workers from going back to work when all we want to do is to find a solution, whether it be here or with our leaders outside the House. We want the bill to be amended and passed so that the workers are not penalized.
The bill also affects Quebec workers. As a member of Parliament from Quebec, I must represent the interests of Quebeckers who voted overwhelmingly for the NDP in the most recent election. Letter carriers in my riding want to go back to work. Ethically, I cannot agree to allow the government to impose an 18% pay cut on workers. We have spoken about this at length. Young people and new workers are the ones who will be affected by this pay cut, which would create second-class employees.
As for the collective agreement, the workplace is still unsafe. There are still too many workplace accidents. I am a chiropractor and I have treated Canada Post employees who have been injured on the job. Their workplace is not yet safe. Management and the union must find solutions.
Most of the debate focuses on a matter of principle. The NDP believes in social justice, the family and protection for all workers. Last week or a little earlier, the Conservative government wanted to interfere in the Air Canada labour dispute. This week it wants to interfere in the Canada Post strike by passing a special law that is clearly detrimental to the workers. Where will this end?
Yes, the Conservative government has a majority and it can pass any bills it wants. However, Canadians, especially Quebeckers, voted overwhelmingly to send NDP members to the House to stand up to the Conservatives when they make bad decisions and roll back the rights of all workers. In the debate on this bill, we are defending the rights of unionized Canada Post workers, but it affects all other workers, unions and employees.
How can we be sure that, after gradually destroying the rights of unionized workers, the government will not interfere in non-unionized workplaces, taking the side of management, keeping wages as low as possible, and forcing people to work more and to hold down more than one job?
There is a great deal of talk about not lowering the standards of Canadian society. Yes, we are in an economic downturn and we must tighten our belts. In the proposed bill, only the workers will tighten their belts. Canada Post's CEO will not be tightening his belt: he earns a paltry $497,000 per year, and a bonus of 33% of the large profit he generates.
The President and CEO of Canada Post does not want to tighten his belt, yet the government is cutting workers’ salaries by 18%. This makes no sense. It is actually a conflict of interest. The government and Canada Post executives are in cahoots. With the lockout and back-to-work legislation that penalizes workers, the executives will be well paid and millions of dollars of extra profits will flow into government coffers. So the government is in a conflict of interest.