Mr. Speaker, I have decided to speak once again as part of the debate on the back to work legislation for Canada Post employees because what is going on here is very important. We are about to take a step that should never be taken by any rightful government.
At no time should a government decide to so shamefully violate the rights of workers, when there is the simple solution of removing the locks and putting an end to the lockout. If this government had done what it should have done from the beginning of the dispute, which is put an end to the lockout and allow Canada Post workers to continue to work, we never would have needed this bill, and mail service would not have been suspended for Canadians and Canadian businesses.
But no, the government would rather introduce legislation that mocks the workers of this country, that violates workers' rights, that imposes working conditions that are worse than what was offered by the employer. The government would rather set our country back, even though we have always been proactive about the rights of our citizens.
For three and a half years, I wore the Canadian flag on one of my shoulders, in both red and white and in green camouflage. What is important is that I was always proud of this flag and what it represents.
Every time I travelled abroad, in Europe or in Africa, when I was asked to talk about my country, I was proud to do so because this country has always respected and promoted the fundamental rights of its citizens. I talked about all the battles Canadians had to fight to improve our standard of living.
I honestly believe that there is nowhere better than here, this land where I grew up. And I would want nothing else for my future children.
That is why I urge my colleagues from all parties in this House to look past their partisan quarrels, because what is going on here is much bigger than that. Not only the workers of Canada Post, but all workers in Canada will suffer the consequences, and the dignity of our country will be undermined.
When this government so shamefully shows that it can side with the employer in a dispute, it does not just hurt the postal workers, but the entire political institution all of us here represent.
We are not talking about overpaid employees with obscene benefits, as some would have us believe; we are talking about men and women who work hard, who have average salaries, who work irregular schedules at the start of their career which quite often does not allow them to enjoy their family life, and whose working conditions sometime cause their health to suffer. We are talking about most Canadian families who work every day for this country.
Let us talk a little bit about the working conditions of Canada Post workers. Some of you may recall the election campaign that started in 2005 and ended in January 2006, in the middle of winter and during the holidays. Most of you who campaigned at the time probably went door to door. Was it not terrible to walk knee-deep in snow, go up icy steps and deal with the freezing cold conditions?
We do not often have to campaign in the middle of winter, but Canada Post employees have to face the winter every year and not just for the duration of an election campaign. They cannot take a coffee break to warm up when it is too cold outside. People do not invite postal workers into their homes to let them warm up and to encourage them to carry on.
The French version of our national anthem, of which we are so proud, says “protégerons nos foyers et nos droits”, which means “we stand on guard for our homes and our rights”. It seems to me those are the two things we are talking about here.
What does it mean to stand on guard for our homes? I think it means to protect the health and safety of our workers. I think standing on guard for our homes means to ensure that workers have a decent pension plan.
What does it mean to stand on guard for our rights? I think it absolutely means to preserve the right of workers in this country to negotiate.
In my work as a nurse, I learned that if I did something for my patients instead of letting them do it, or I did their thinking for them, I would never get anywhere with them. To successfully get lasting change, it is essential to give them the tools they need, but also to allow them to solve their own problems themselves.
With this bill, the government is interfering in a dispute where that was not needed. At the outset, the government should have ordered that the lockout be ended and the parties return to the bargaining table and find a way to agree, and that they find a middle way between the demands of the two sides, to achieve a fairer solution.
Let us talk about that: a fair solution. In this bill that we have been discussing for some time now, there is one thing in particular that is revolting: the wage cut. It is not a wage cut imposed by Canada Post; no, it is being imposed on the workers by our government, a government that deserves credit for being clear about the interests it is prepared to defend.
I would like to say one thing to all Canadians who are watching us or will be watching us later in the day: it is not your interests that our government is prepared to defend, it is not the government that is prepared to spend hours on end in this House to try to persuade the party opposite to bring forward reasonable and respectful legislation.
Our government seems to have respect for only certain people, the ones who are at the top of big corporations, the ones who make profits. The government should not forget, however, that the profits made by Canada Post do not fall from the sky. Those profits are the fruit of the hard work done by the postal employees, and I am sure that all those employees will be grateful to the government for the gratitude it might show them, gratitude that could be expressed, for example, in a bill that did not provide for lower wages than they had been offered. I hear them saying thank you from here.
We do not agree on numerous points, on either side of this aisle, but we agree that the workers should go back to work so that everyone who relies on the postal services can breathe easier. There are two ways of achieving that result. The first is to pass an unfair bill that jeopardizes the social benefits that all workers in this country enjoy. The second is to end the lockout and allow the postal employees to go back to work with dignity. I am on the side of human dignity.
Once again, I call on the government today to reverse its position. Not for the NDP. We are not here to win or lose a vote; we are here because something brings us together: the profound conviction that each of our fellow Canadians deserves respect. Our fellow Canadians deserve better than that. The government has the power to prove that it respects Canadians and Canadian workers.
So I suggest that it end the lockout, and most importantly, I call on all my parliamentary colleagues of all political stripes, on behalf of everyone we represent here, to vote against this bill as long as it remains unchanged.