Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to take a few moments to recognize all of my colleagues who are here in the House and have been up for 30 or 40 hours now, who are here to continue to fight for our party’s values and to defend the interests of Canadian workers and families.
We all had events planned in our ridings for Quebec’s national holiday. Yesterday, my colleague from Hamilton-Est—Stoney Creek was supposed to celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary with his wife. My colleague from Newton—Delta-Nord was supposed to spend time with her family, who made a special trip from England to see her. We all want and need to go home to our families. Our families need us, but Canada’s families need us more.
An even greater need has brought us here to the House, and that is the need to fight together in an effort to make this government understand that its place is beside workers and that it has a duty to render a fair and just verdict.
I would also like to pay tribute to workers across Canada who are fighting for their rights. Postal workers are fighting not only for their own rights, but also for the rights of all Canadian workers.
Since the debate started, I have heard Conservative members talk about this being a “joke”. Is that how they see our commitment to defending the interests of our fellow Canadians? For them, it is a joke? Is there anything more important than being here trying to find a solution that both parties can agree to?
We have all spoken at least once to say what we think. We have heard heated, poetic and passionate speeches. Some members explained very clearly what makes Bill C-6 unlawful. Others proposed specific solutions that both parties could have agreed to. But nothing changes. It seems as though the members opposite, already blinded by their partisan purposes, do not want to listen to us, do not want to understand Canadians and, most of all, do not want to change their minds.
They continue to cling to reasoning that defies logic. They will not let go of their beliefs, however faulty they are. But I have noticed one single half-positive point, one little sign of evolution: the hon. members opposite now dare to utter the word “lockout” in place of the word “strike”. But they just mutter it under their breath, almost whispering it, as if they wanted no one to hear them say it, as if it were a swear word. But it is not a word that came from the workers; it came from Canada Post. The hon. members opposite must get used to that idea.
They would have us believe that this lockout was imposed by the union. How ironic.
How often have my colleagues and I tried to explain the difference between a strike and a lockout, between a rotating strike and a lockout?
Let me sum it up for those who have not yet grasped the difference. A rotating strike is a partial work stoppage. Let me explain “partial” very clearly. Canada Post workers decided that, in order not to harm the Canadian economy and in order for Canadians to continue receiving the service to which they are entitled, they were going to keep delivering the mail. The strike moved, in a symbolic way, from one municipality to another. In no way did the rotating strike put the country's economy in peril, since the mail continued to be delivered. The aim of the strike was simply to make people aware of the unacceptable conditions that the employer wanted to impose. It was not meant to endanger small and medium-sized business activity nor was it meant to keep cheques from seniors or from those receiving employment insurance benefits.
A lockout, on the other hand, is a work stoppage imposed by the employer. On June 3, Canada Post decided to end mail service and to put padlocks on the doors. It held its employees hostage, employees who wanted to continue delivering the mail at the same time as they were demanding their rights. But above all, Canada Post is holding Canadians hostage, since Canadians can no longer receive their mail.
Striking is a right for all workers. They have the right to negotiate their working conditions. It is not up to the government to step in for the employer, especially when we know what its goal is.
How can we possibly suggest such conditions to the workers? What image do we want to give to our young people? Canada Post employees are there every day. They accept working conditions that are increasingly difficult. They carry heavy bags that cut into their shoulders. They collapse under the weight of the mail, have to fight inclement weather and heat waves, and sometimes walk for hours. Should they also accept unfavourable wages? Why? Because their employer is not profitable enough?
Still, let us recall that Canada Post's most recent revenues are estimated at over $281 million for the year. Let us also recall that the CEO of Canada Post received the modest sum of $497,000 for his good and loyal service, and that he gets a bonus of 33%, on top of his annual salary. And we are supposed to believe that Canada Post is suffering from the recession and that that is the only reason driving the cuts to its employee's benefits? No. The real reason is that this employer knows that it is supported by the government, and so many other employers will follow suit if we do not put an end to this type of thing immediately,
The employer proposed certain salary increases during the negotiations, and then the government interfered and put forward a contract that offered less. This contract is, quite simply, unfair. It not only fails to meet the employees’ demands, but also undercuts the salary offer made by the employer. What kind of world are we living in?
It is neither the government’s role nor its responsibility to impose such contracts. What the government is proposing is, quite simply, unilateral and irresponsible legislation. It flouts the right to negotiate a collective agreement. The government’s actions do not give the two parties an opportunity to properly negotiate an agreement.
The government should not interfere in this conflict, or in any other similar conflict. This debate is not only about the Canada Post issue: more than that, it is about the right of workers to negotiate with their employer.
Canadians fought long and hard for a fair and just work environment. They fought heart and soul for decent wages and basic benefits so that they could provide for their families.
Locking out these employees and forcing them to accept a contract while trying to take away their hard-earned savings will set us back many years and create a dangerous precedent. Canada Post employees refuse to be the victims of an unfair clawback scheme that will take money out of their pockets. They refuse to have their rights undermined, as well as the rights of all the people who work for other large employers and friends of the government.
They refuse to have their rights trampled on, but they are ready to go back to work. They are ready to start delivering mail to their fellow Canadians again. They just want to be treated fairly. They want to be treated in a manner befitting their work. They are asking neither for the moon nor for favourable treatment. They are asking only to be paid fairly for their work. They want to be able to feed their children and provide for their families. They want to be able to retire without worrying about whether they can make ends meet.
How will the government explain to young people who want to work at Canada Post that they are welcome to work there, but they will be paid a lower salary than employees with more seniority who do the exact same job? Are we not endangering the Canadian economy by acting in this way?
Inevitably, our young people will navigate towards companies that respect their employees, if there are any left, with this government. How will Canada's economy be able to recover when we can no longer replace workers who have retired? Is it the government's intention to jeopardize a service as essential as the post office?
The Conservatives will have to explain to us the long-term viability of such a contract. If they are really concerned about Canada's economy, they should stop telling us to pass this bill and go home. Let them make an enlightened decision for once and end the lockout to allow Canada's economy to keep running. Let them end the lockout to allow both parties to resume negotiations and come to an agreement that will satisfy everyone.
Canadians are being held hostage and they know who is doing it. Not Canada Post employees, but their employer who, together with the government, is attacking the rights and the advances that our parents and grandparents fought for. That is why Canadians support the workers at Canada Post. Why do they support them? In a word, because they know that they could be the next on the list if they let the government get its way.
The quality of life and the social justice that we enjoy in this country are indisputable rights that we will defend to the bitter end. On May 2, we were given a mandate to represent our constituents, and we will do so with honour and respect. We will stay here. We are ready to go all the way. We will stay on our feet, without complaining, and we will continue to fight for all the workers in Canada who are counting on us to represent them in this House.