Mr. Speaker, I was unable to ask the minister any questions, and therefore I will ask questions that will go unanswered. The minister just said that it is not the role of the government to meddle in the affairs of a crown corporation, and that we should have a better understanding of that. In my speech, I have one question that will go unanswered: In the bill, why is the Conservative government's offer lower than that of the employer, which is a crown corporation? The minister is trying to make Canadians believe that he is not interfering in the affairs of the crown corporation, and that such is not his role. And yet, he wants to pass a bill where he would impose a wage settlement.
He says that Canada Post's last offer for 2011 was a 1.9% increase. Instead, the Conservative government is offering 1.57%. For 2012, the employer, the crown corporation—and the government is boasting that it is not interfering in the operations of the latter—had offered 1.9%. The Conservative government, which does not interfere in the affairs of the crown corporation, is offering 1.5% in the bill. For 2013, Canada Post made a final offer of 1.9%. Again, the government is changing managements's offer to 2% for 2013 and 2% for 2014. The wage increases offered to Canada Post employees were 3.3%, well below the rate of inflation. There will be no response from the minister, but I would have liked one. Let us not forget that the government does not interfere in the affairs of the crown corporation.
In addition, the minister said that the government's role was to implement a mechanism to bring the parties to the negotiating table. According to the mechanism I am familiar with, when we bring the employees and employer to the negotiating table, we also bring an arbitrator and we do not tell the arbitrator what to do, other than to try to strike a balance between the two and come to an agreement. If the two parties cannot reach an agreement, it is up to the arbitrator to make the final decision.
Again, the minister, who says he does not interfere with a crown corporation's operations and that we should understand that, says that the arbitrator must select the final offer put on the table. Let us consider that. I do not know whether the minister responsible for Canada Post, who just spoke this evening, knows what is involved in the bargaining process. However, I do know. I am a former negotiator and I have negotiated countless collective agreements. If a bill, which will become law, includes a provision for an eight-week mediation period—one of the proposals that has been made—and the arbitrator must then proceed with the final offer, what will the employer do? It will not pursue the mediation process. It will not reach an agreement with the employees because the arbitrator is supposed to make the final offer. However, in the past, every time an arbitrator went into the arbitration process with a final offer, the arbitrator has always sided with the employer, as the Conservative Government is now doing. That is what always happens.
So, if the government does not want to interfere with the negotiations, why does it not accept standard procedure: making amendments to the bill?
The leader of the NDP has said that we were open and prepared to make amendments that would give power to the arbitrator and, if the mediation process does not lead to an agreement, a collective agreement would be presented and the parties would have to accept it. The union proposed that part.
As we understand it, mediation involves an arbitrator and, at the end of the day, the final offer put forward by both parties must be accepted. That will prevent the employer from making an agreement because it knows that the other one is better. That is the same thing that the minister should understand: by bringing wages lower than what was previously offered by the employer, the crown corporation, how can we expect the crown corporation to return to the bargaining table to work out a collective agreement when it knows that the government will protect it?
In 2009, Canada Post made a $281 million profit. How much profit did it make in 2010? I would like to know, because Canada Post is taking a long time to provide us with that figure; the information is already two months late. How many millions of dollars in profits did it make? Where does the money go in the case of a surplus? Canada Post has made a profit every year for the past 12 or 13 years.
Does Canada Post have several billion dollars in the bank, or has the money been transferred instead to the Government of Canada? And if the money has been turned over to the Government of Canada, that would explain why it is interfering in the collective bargaining process of a crown corporation. It wants this money. It is denying workers their vested rights. In its budget, the government boasted that it was cutting the taxes on workers, but at the same time, it is cutting their wages and in the process, offsetting any tax breaks awarded. That is unacceptable.
In his speech, the minister spoke of the elderly woman waiting to receive her lovely card, of persons needing their mail and of a small business needing postal services. At no time, however, did he mention the worker who needs his pension plan, or the worker who needs a decent salary or who cannot work if he is not paid the same salary as his colleagues. The minister never mentioned occupational health and safety for the workers. He never said anything about the letter carriers who deliver the mail during the winter in rural areas, under the incredibly harsh conditions that we regularly experience here in Canada. He never once spoke up for workers—never!
However, he stated that the NDP could have resolved the matter in Vancouver by turning its back on workers, as the Conservative did. That will not happen. We are talking about the men and women who get up each morning and who work to build this country. Small and medium-sized businesses are also made up of workers and we respect them just as we do any employer.
I have always had respect for Noranda, the company that I worked for. It is a major employer. The only thing I told Noranda was that if it made money, it should share it with its employees. Is there anything wrong with that? I do not have a problem with a company making money. I want it to make money, but it should share it with the workers who helped it turn a profit. The president of the company was not the one who went underground to mine the earth and break the rocks and put his life in danger. The miners were the ones who did that.
If I understand correctly, the minister would like the NDP to forget about the workers. His approach is to single out certain workers.
This time there are just 45,000 workers and 33 million Canadians. But those 45,000 workers were shown the door and told that they would receive no protection because the other 33 million people need to be taken care of. Next it will be the men and women who work at Radio-Canada. Then it will be those working at the CBC. Everyone will be subject to the Conservative government's tactics.
And that is why I asked the Minister of Labour and even the Prime Minister what the workers did to make them hate workers so much? If they believe in free bargaining for a collective agreement, why, after the parties were not able to come to an agreement, did they intervene and offer a lower salary than the one on the table? What did these people, who work and build our country, do to deserve this? All of these people work hard. People leave Caraquet, Shippagan, Bathurst, Tracadie-Sheila, Lamèque, Miscou, Grande-Anse and Maisonnette; they leave their families to work hard out west. Yes, they make good money, but think about the cost of being separated from family. What did these people do to the Conservative government? The NDP has chosen to respect the working men and women of our country.
The Conservatives and the Liberals are the same in this regard. I was in the House in 1997 when the Liberals legislated the postal workers back to work. They did the same thing. In the bill, they offered lower wages than what had been offered at the negotiating table. They do not have anything to brag about today. They do not have to come and tell us that things were different with them because the employees had been on strike for two weeks. The only thing they did in 1997 was legislate people back to work. Was it right to punish people and cut their salaries because they went on strike for two weeks? The Liberals should think about what they are saying. They should think twice about it because they did the same thing that the Conservatives are doing today. What are the Conservatives saying? They are saying that they are not doing anything different than the others; that the Liberals did it in 1997. Now, the Liberals are standing up and making a big fuss, like the member for Bourassa did this afternoon, and saying that what the government is doing is terrible.
It would be funny to go back through Hansard and read the member for Bourassa's speech. I would like to read what he said. I was here at that time. The hon. member for Bourassa and I can both speak rather loudly. Everyone in Quebec knows how the member for Bourassa can talk. That is what he did in 1997. When he rose, he did not speak in defence of the workers; he talked about just how selfish they were to have gone on strike.
I am telling the people at home and elsewhere in Canada that we are sympathetic to small and medium-sized businesses. We understand what they are going through. We understand the elderly woman who would like to receive her birthday card. If we let the Conservative government attack everyone the way it wants to, one small group after another, what kind of country will we create?
If I understood correctly, the Minister of Labour said that it is unacceptable for people not to receive their mail. She is saying that postal workers are second-class citizens who do not have the right to have a union, to negotiate a collective agreement and to go on strike like other people; she is saying that there has to be a lockout.
The government is going even further than that. It is saying that anyone who goes on strike is a second-class citizen because it is wrong. That person is bad because there are 33 million people who disagree.
Strikes are difficult. Things are not easy when there is a lockout. I know, I have been involved in a number of strikes. We went on strike many times. But today the miners have a pension fund and are able to retire because we took to the streets to fight the company for a share of the big bucks it was making.
In its bill, why does the government not ask Canada Post directors to take a pay cut as well? Why does the government not cut the salaries and pensions of the friends it has appointed as directors? It should also cut their salaries and pensions because they are well paid. Furthermore, the president of Canada Post gets a bonus. The leader of the NDP clearly made that point this evening.The greater the profit at Canada Post, the greater the bonuses for directors. This corporation wants to cut workers' wages after making a $281 million profit last year.
The NDP leader spoke eloquently about the respect we should have for these workers. Each one of us should think about that. When letter carriers come to our homes, are they not courteous? Are we not happy to receive our mail? When this is over, they will continue to go to our homes, and we will have to look them in the eye. Are we going to be among those who tell them that we did not support their fight to keep their drug plan and long-term disability plan? We are talking about people who work for the crown corporation and who serve the public. Is this the 1940s? Are we headed back to the 1930s with the Conservative government?
The government is showing itself for the kind of government it is. That is fairly clear tonight. It has talked about the senior citizen, the person with a disability and the small businessperson waiting for the mail, but it has said nothing about the worker. I want the people listening tonight to hear that. I listened to the minister, and he talked about everybody except the workers. I am not ashamed to be fighting for the workers. Our parents and our grandparents were workers.
My father went out to cut down trees in the forest. He cut the wood. That was not the finest job, but it was respectable. The wood he cut was made into 2x4s, and rich people built themselves fine buildings with those planks. The miner who goes underground, the fisher who goes out to sea to fish, does the government not support them? I would like the Conservatives to think about that.
We could settle this tonight by amending the bill. We know the government wants to get its bill passed. Whether we like it or not, it has a majority. It says it has a strong, stable majority, but 40% of the people voted for them, of the 61% of the population who voted. That is not a large majority, but because of the system it has a majority in Parliament. The bill is going to pass, but that does not make it a good bill. Is the government using its bill to attack workers? Yes. Is the government putting a mechanism in place for signing a collective agreement with Canada Post workers? Maybe there will be one, but it will have been forced on them by the government. Does that make for good labour relations in future? No. I know that, because I have seen it.
When people are forced to do something, it does not work. If you force your child to do something, the child will not be happy. Would it not be better to help the child understand the reason for doing something? We call that bullying. That is what the government is doing.
It is bullying the worker and that is wrong. You are separating the workers. You are making a fight between the workers and the rest of society and that is wrong. I recommend to the government to think. We are going to be here all weekend and you have all weekend to think about it.
As a miner, I have done lots of night shifts and my first shift tonight is midnight to six and I even came in before to do my work. I will be here tomorrow morning at six. I will be here tomorrow. I will be here Saturday. I will be here Sunday to fight for the workers and we will do what we can to get respect for the men and women who built this country. That is what we will do.