Mr. Speaker, as soon as they get a majority, they exercise their authority. That's how I would characterize this government's attitude toward its responsibilities. The rotating strike started just one month after the election, to the day. The principle of a rotating strike, of course, is that it lasts 24 hours at one location before continuing at another.
The rotating strike was not supposed to penalize the entire country and would ensure service at all locations, with the exception of the municipality affected by the strike on a particular day, on a rotating basis, one municipality after another.
The government cannot tell us that a rotating strike is worse than a work stoppage forced by the employer. What is happening now is not a rotating strike, but rather a lockout. We can therefore say that everything has been brought to a standstill with the aid of the Conservative government.
The public is not blind. The rotating strike left the door open to negotiations between the two parties, but the lockout does not. The workers decided to conduct a rotating strike because they were aggrieved, as the government had offered them less than their employer, Canada Post.
The workers sought increases at least equal to the rate of inflation, particularly since Canada Post is profitable and therefore would run no risk by improving the situation of its employees. Remember that it earned a profit of $281 million last year.
A number of labour strikes have been harshly suppressed in the past. I can offer the example of the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, the most famous strike in Canadian history. Within a few hours, 30,000 workers walked off the job. The issues were the collective bargaining principle, wage increases and improved working conditions. In 1949, there was another famous strike, the strike in Thetford Mines, involving 5,000 workers, including 2,000 miners from Asbestos. The issues there were wage increases, the pension plan and recognition for the family. The issues have always been the same.
That was a time when any attempt to organize in the workplace was immediately repressed. It was a time when there was no legislation on working conditions.
I get the unpleasant impression we are reliving that period when workers had no rights.
The current incidents at Canada Post are strangely similar to what happened in the last century.
The government complains of the harm done to small businesses, harm that it has caused through its lockout.
The government is trying to pass this bill as quickly as possible in contempt of the workers' most fundamental right.
The NDP sensed what I would call this totalitarian attitude long before the election. Unfortunately, our worst fears have been realized, and not just once, but twice.
The NDP opposed the budget tabled on June 6, 2011. It opposed the bill to end the strike by Air Canada's 3,800 call centre and check-in counter personnel, which was just barely avoided. It now opposes Bill C-6 because the bill does not enable the two parties to go back to the bargaining table to reach a joint solution.
However, the workers wanted to negotiate with management, and they want to continue those negotiations.
Canada Post wants new employees to accept reduced wages, benefits, job security and pension plans compared to what is offered to current employees. Quebec law prohibits employers from creating working conditions for new employees that are different from those enjoyed by current workers. However, employees of businesses under federal authority, such as banks, telecommunications companies and the Canadian public service, are not protected by that legislation. This “orphan clause” providing for differential treatment made headlines in Quebec a few years ago.
Might we state once again that it was the government that subjected the postal service to a lockout, not the unionized employees? Unionized employees were conducting rotating strikes to avoid harming small and medium-sized enterprises and the public. Unionized employees delivered pension, workers' compensation and employment insurance cheques to Canadians.
“Aimed at the black duck, killed the white, oh, son of the king, you are unkind.” That line from V'la l'bon vent, an old Quebec folk song, is very appropriate to the work required of us today by the Conservative government.
Mail service is of course very important to Canada's economy, and any extended stoppage of that service would call for action by the Government of Canada in the public's interest. But what is the black duck at which the Hon. Minister of Labour is aiming in this matter? What is the cause of this interruption in mail service across Canada?
After a few days of perfectly lawful rotating strikes that had virtually no effect on mail delivery, Canada Post management decided unilaterally to cut back Canada's postal service, violating, with impunity, its own mission to deliver the mail quickly and efficiently across Canada. That decision alone would have constituted grounds for the minister to table a bill to summarily dismiss Canada Post management for incompetence and contempt of public order.
But now the Minister of Labour has drawn her big silver gun in the form of a special act and drafted legislation mistreating postal workers instead of rightly attacking those who are disturbing the public order, Canada Post's senior management.
This legislation is out of all proportion to the harm it aims to remedy. Senior management at Canada Post, feeling supported by such a well-connected accomplice, will thus order a lockout of its workers, putting the finishing touches to its sabotage of mail delivery across the country.
One can just imagine the size of the bonuses those gentlemen will be receiving for that brilliant idea.
This bill is a crude joke that rewards the turpitude and incompetence of Canada Post management. “Shameful,” as our leader would say. In addition, the minister adds insult to injury by getting back at the unionized workers: the legislation even provides for working conditions inferior to those set out in the draft collective agreement.
To vote for this bill would be to show contempt for Canada's unionized workers and to deny them their rights. However, Canadian taxpayers pay the minister's salary in order to protect those rights.
To vote for this bill would be to reward the laziness of Canada Post's senior management, who are more concerned about their year-end bonuses than about the performance of the service they are required to provide to Canadians.