Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I will comment on the previous member's comment about how one in three people in his community need help from the United Way. That certainly sounds like a prosperous community where so many people are still in need. If we do not stand up here to defend worker's rights, that will be two out of three and eventually three out of three. That is why we are here today and that is why none of us will go home until we can reach an equitable and fair solution.
We must always remember that any kind of negotiation between employees and their employer, whether they are involved in this kind of dispute where the employer has locked out its workers, is about the real lives of Canadians, their quality of life and the lives of their families.
My riding contains one of the largest postal sorting stations in Canada and I have been hearing from many of the workers, both at the plant and at other stations across the eastern GTA. All of these workers have spoken to me simply about fairness.
I have a lot of respect for the men and women across Canada who are responsible for delivering our mail. These very same people who, during the labour dispute, vowed to guarantee the delivery of social assistance and old age security cheques, are the people who offered to end strike action if Canada Post would simply agree to keep the old contract in force during negotiations. That is a pretty reasonable stand to take. However, Canada Post refused.
These are the kinds of people who make up the workforce at Canada Post: people who want fairness so they can support their families, pay their own bills, work in a safe environment and retire with dignity, which is a right that should exist for all Canadians, real Canadians doing a real job for all Canadians.
One of my constituents who is a postal worker summed up the attitude of the workers being locked out by Canada Post and now being forced back to work with this legislation. She wrote to me and said, “Remember, we want to work, we want to deliver, we love our jobs and we take pride in our jobs”. This debate is not just about mail. It is about workers' rights to fairness and collective bargaining, and, for many years, Canadians have fought hard for fairness in the workplace.
In my own family, we have a long tradition of fighting for workers' rights dating back to my great-grandfather who served in both world wars and was a plasterer by trade. He understood that working conditions improve only when people stand up and fight for them. This struggle continued with my grandmother and my grandfather who met and fell in love while working together to improve the lives and conditions in their own workplace. My father was a teacher and an active member of Elementary Teachers of Toronto, and I am proud to carry on that mantle.
It is easier to understand the need for fairness when we talk to the workers on the front line. Michael Duquette, president of Local 602 of CUPW which represents over 2,000 workers in Scarborough and the eastern GTA, has been very generous with his time keeping me apprised of the concerns of his members.
Amother member of the executive board of Local 602 sent me an email detailing some of the unpleasant things Canada Post has done to its employees since CUPW first gave its 72-hour notice to strike on May 31. I would like to share a few of those stories.
One employee, a motorized service courier, was off work on a work-related back injury. As soon as the 72-hour notice was given, his health benefits and sick leave were terminated by Canada Post. At that point, it was discovered that he had a cancerous growth. Now he has no sick leave, no benefits, no income and must apply for employment insurance.
One employee who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy was stunned to find out that his benefits were cut off as of May 31. Now he has to pay for his own treatment. This violates the collective agreement and it is inhumane. Of course, he can go through the grieving process, but who, when dying of a terminal disease, would put off treatment to await the outcome of a grievance procedure?
Another motorized service courier who was off work on WSIB-approved leave at the time the 72-hour notice was given, received his pay statement which said that he had received a full paycheque. However, when he went to pay some of his bills he was denied for being overdrawn. At this point, he discovered that Canada Post had only paid him one-third of his total pay, despite that his paycheque said that he was paid in full. I wonder what kind of games are going on there.
Imagine people who are off work on a work-related injury or on sick leave with cancer or leukemia being cut, and finding out that not only do they have no benefits but also no money, even though a pay stub was received in the mail saying they had received the full funds. In the federal sector we have the unfortunate record of having the second highest injury rate next to longshoremen. Now the corporation wants the members of CUPW to give up the top-ups to WSIB. It wants members to accept substandard short-term disability. This is unconscionable.
Canada Post is also trying to take credit for initializing the government cheque delivery program which I referred to earlier, which took place on June 20. This is something which the union had to doggedly pursue in order to get the corporation on board, and then the corporation took credit for it.
The CUPW member I referred to earlier, wanted me to know that the support from the public has been very positive. She wrote, “While on the picket lines outside our facility, members of the public and other businesses dropped off food, hamburgers, hot dogs, cases of water and pop, giant containers of firewood. Even Tim Hortons came over and gave everyone $2 Tim Hortons cards. Vehicles were driving by and honking their horns at all hours of the day and night in support. They also had, in Pickering, numerous people bringing ice cream in the heat. Even McDonald's came by and brought cases of water and ice”.
It seems they are losing support on all sides and they should be aware of that.
People old and young have approached the CUPW member offering their support. They understand this is not just an attack on the workers of Canada Post, but it is an attack on all Canadians and their rights as citizens. People are appalled at the fact that Canada Post would lock out its workforce and then would collaborate with the government on legislation to force the workers back to work with a worse settlement than the corporation was willing to offer at the bargaining table. Also, the corporation is preventing them from going back to work by not unlocking the doors.
These are real stories from real people. They are the people being affected by this draconian back to work legislation the Conservative government is trying to ram through this House and which all of us on this side are proud to oppose.
I fear that the government is out of touch with real people. I fear it does not understand the effect its legislation will have on working people. I also fear, like others here, that this is just the beginning, that we will see further legislation from the government that will hurt working families in the country, making it harder for them to make ends meet and to live with the dignity and security for which they have worked and deserve.
It is important to remember that it was the management at Canada Post that decided to lock out the workers and shut down the mail service.