Madam Chair, there is an awful lot wrong with the bill. In fact, everything from the title, which is An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, to the coming into force, the last clause, is wrong.
The title is wrong because this is not an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services. That could be done with a phone call.
The worst clause in the bill, however, is clause 15, which imposes on the postal workers a wage rate less than the employer had put on the table in the course of collective bargaining.
I have not heard members opposite join the chorus for the remarks of my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, and nobody cares. Nobody cares about workers. Nobody cares about workers' rights.
Let me say who does care. The principle of free collective bargaining is something that divides societies that are free from those societies that are authoritarian and controlled. If we consider authoritarian societies, dictators, societies that do not have free elections, they do not have free trade unions either. Workers do not have the right to bargain collectively.
In Canada the right to bargain collectively is a constitutionally protected right. It is contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is part of the International Labour Organization, the treaty into which this country has entered. It is something that we take very seriously.
There is no greater principle within the right to bargain collectively than the duty to bargain in good faith. In good faith the employer of the postal workers, Canada Post Corporation, put on the table a wage offer that it was prepared to pay to workers from the $281 million worth of profit that Canada Post made last year. To bargain with its employees, it put forth what it thought was a reasonable proposal to increase the wages of the workers, but what have we here? We have a clause in which the government imposes itself inside this good faith bargaining, this foundation of a free society, and says, “No, the government is going to force the workers to take less. We are going to decide what we think you should be paid. Never mind what was put on the table by a process of free collective bargaining”.
The minister just repeated what the Prime Minister said, so I will not blame her as she is just doing what her boss has said. She said this is a wage that was bargained freely by the largest public sector unions. Let us go back to that discussion in 2008 when this wage we are talking about was on the table, as it was called. It was not on the table. What was on the table was legislation proposed by the government to take away the right to strike for all public sector workers. Remember that? It was in the fall of 2008.
Those wage rates were offered for one day and if workers did not accept the wages within one day they would be reduced. Yes, they were accepted. There were not bargained freely and fairly over the course of negotiations. They were accepted with a gun to the head of the public sector workers in this country.
The Minister of Finance knows that members of one group said no. What did they get? That group received less. That is the kind of bargaining that the government entered into with the public sector workers in 2008 that produced the rates that are in this particular clause.
I am not surprised that the previous speaker talked about who is next because that is what everyone is asking. If this is what is going to happen to free collective bargaining in Canada under this regime, who is next? The government has contempt for the process of collective bargaining. It has contempt for the process of this constitutionally protected right that the Canadians are supposed to enjoy.
If members opposite think that nobody cares, they are wrong, and the people of Canada will be telling them that they are wrong.
I ask all hon. members, even those over there who think no one cares, to recognize that people do care and they do want to have these rights and do believe in free collective bargaining. I see the doubtful faces over there and I hear a few remarks that something is wrong with the idea that one can sit down and negotiate a wage, that an employer and employees can actually sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate wages and put an offer on the table and have it respected. That is something Canadians have come to enjoy and expect.
The government has no respect for that and it wants to insert its own version of a wage rate into a collective agreement regardless of what the employer in this particular case offered through free and fair collective bargaining.
This is a fundamental right that is being taken away, a fundamental change in the relationship between employers and employees. The question remains of who is next if the government is not prepared to accept the notion of free collective bargaining and takes away from employees what the employer has in fact offered. It demonstrates how much contempt it has for the collective bargaining process and for the rights of workers.