Mr. Speaker, I would first like to take this opportunity to wish the people in the Louis-Saint-Laurent riding, all Quebeckers and all French Canadians across the country a very happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
Today, throughout my riding, thousands of people are celebrating their shared values and pride at living in the beautiful province of Quebec. I hope that today was everything they hoped for.
I cannot say the same for myself. Rather than celebrating with them and taking advantage of the festivities to meet more residents in my riding, I have to listen to the government repeatedly attack the rights of Canada Post employees and justify their anti-worker measures with very questionable arguments.
Like many of the hon. members, over the past few days, I have not stopped receiving phone calls and emails from concerned citizens, from people who are wondering what this government is getting us into.
On one side of this dispute, I see people who are fighting for better job security and, on the other, I see a government with irresponsible policies that is seeking to impose an unfair contract on workers and do everything in its power to lower workers' wages.
Last year, in 2009, Canada Post made a profit of approximately $281 million. Its President and CEO earns almost half a million dollars a year with a 33% bonus. And what is being asked? Workers are being asked to make sacrifices that will impact their families.
This government must understand that it is not its role to act as management for Canada Post. It should not have even become involved in this situation since the workers have the right to negotiate with their employer and are able to come up with solutions.
After workers have fought for decades for a fair and equitable work environment, I am wondering whether this government wanted to get involved in the dispute just to create a precedent and move us backwards.
We are lucky to have one of the best postal services in the world. Canada Post employees would like nothing more than to return to work. They have always been there for Canadians across the country, from coast to coast, in summer and in winter. Today, we must be there for them. It is a duty.
We want to work with the government to find solutions but we will not play its game. The workers deserve respect and they have the right to negotiate with their employer as equals.
The reason I am standing here today is that the thousands of men and women who every day brave all kinds of weather deserve better than this special bill. They deserve better than a watered-down pension plan, which will from one day to the next force them to change their retirement date, a date they had been looking forward to for years. After providing decades of good and loyal service, thousands of Canadians must make radical changes to their plans.
What about the promises management made to them year after year? The commitments made in successive collective agreements? Poof! Gone up in smoke. It is not fair to change the rules of the game in such a fashion.
Canada Post workers deserve better than a government that does not hesitate to separate them into two camps according to their age. In other cases, we have heard government members insist that the same rules should apply to everyone. But in this case they have taken the opposite position: they are unabashedly advocating a two-tier system, a position that tells the workers of my generation that their contribution is not up to par and will never be truly recognized.
By imposing these vastly inferior conditions on new employees, this government is digging a wide trench between the generations. It is creating serious divisions between young and older workers and will have created a more troubled work atmosphere when the mail starts to move again throughout the country.
And above all, these workers deserve better than a government that treats them the way they have been treated over the last few days, that is, as second-class citizens. What has struck me most from the beginning of this debate has been the contempt that certain members of the other side of the House have not hesitated to show towards thousands of Canadians who have devoted their lives to their community for years.
The government did not hesitate to depict them as people who are refusing to work, when the opposite is true—it is management that has put a lock on the door and brought all postal service in this country to a sudden standstill.
The government did not hesitate to attempt to turn the public against the postal workers, presenting them as the killers of the Canadian economy, a privileged caste profiting from the cost of stamps, when the opposite is true: they are productive members of the Canadian economy who generate substantial revenues for the government.
These citizens who wanted to continue working are involved in their communities and proudly serve their fellow Canadians, rain or shine.
The government did not hesitate to twist the knife with its special bill that imposes wages that are lower than those in management's last offer. This just does not make sense. The workers kept the postal system going despite their frustration with the slow pace of negotiations, and restricted themselves to rotating strikes that minimally impacted the public. The employer initiated a lockout, depriving millions of Canadians of their postal services and, as my colleagues opposite like to say, that really hurts the Canadian economy.
What does the government do in this situation? It punishes the workers and rewards Canada Post management by reducing the offer that was on the table.
If this government really believed that this lockout was adversely affecting the economy, it would not act this way. It would end the lockout instead of punishing the workers, who acted in good faith throughout this situation.
At present, everyone wants this conflict to be resolved. That is all the employees want. They want the lockout to end so they can go back to work and continue to serve the public.
This bill, however, is not about resuming mail delivery or protecting the economic recovery, or any other reason given by the government. No, Bill C-6 is about eroding some of the most fundamental rights of Canadian workers. This bill is about sending a message to workers across Canada; they are being told to keep quiet because this government will not hesitate to interfere if they want to exercise their rights.
Today, I would like to remind this government that it must support families and help them pay their bills. That is not a favour, it is its job. It is a duty. Unfortunate, the government seems to have forgotten this.
Today, it is attacking the postal workers. Who will be next? Who will be the next victims to have their rights violated in this way?