Mr. Speaker, when the government announced its intention to introduce a bill to force the unionized employees of Canada Post to go back to work, it quite simply sounded the death knell for the bargaining process.
Obviously, once an employer is assured that it will win its showdown without even making the effort to bargain, it has no further reason to go back to the table. An employer that is given assurance that it will be backed up by the full legislative force of the government has no further reason to listen to the employees’ demands, to bargain and to compromise, and to recognize the need to go forward with an open, honest and constructive dialogue.
Since the government announced its intention to force the workers to give up their most fundamental rights, bargaining has simply come to a halt. The government is thus subverting an entire tradition of dialogue, dialogue that is sometimes passionate, sometimes difficult and often agonizing, but that is always carried out with the ultimate goal of improving working conditions and enabling businesses to develop.
Let us be clear: employees do not want to harm their company’s profits. They never intend to jeopardize development and interfere in the pursuit of business opportunities that will increase revenues and, yes, produce higher profits.
No Canada Post employee is questioning the fundamental objectives that are shared by any business: success, growth, profit and investment. The employees unquestionably have that success at heart. Their demands are in no way egotistical or naive. On the contrary, they want to put their experience to work. We are talking here about an organization that is head and shoulders above all its counterparts in the world. Canada Post has adapted its management methods to the reality of an enormous land mass and a widely dispersed population, a land that presents unique challenges for a delivery company. That is how Canada Post has distinguished itself from the competition, by finding ways to extend its network everywhere within Canada, while not only continuing to be profitable, but maximizing its profits.
Canada Post is a company with an enviable business model and sets the standard for many countries worldwide whose networks are not as complex and capable of absorbing such large volumes for delivery.
That is why the government’s attempts to compare Canada Post to other delivery networks elsewhere in the world amount to such a weak argument. Canada Post should not be comparing itself to anyone else. Rather, the competition should be showing how it would be capable of doing the job that is done so admirably by Canada Post.
If we look closely at the operating methods referred to by Canada Post managers and the Conservative government to justify their actions, what we really see is that very few of those businesses stand up to the comparison.
Canada Post is a pillar of the Canadian economy, not because it compares favourably with the competition, but because the services and expertise that have been developed by Canada Post employees over decades are unique in the world.
Recently, the new president and CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra, recognized the opportunities for expanding services at Canada Post. He compared Canada Post’s potential to that of other countries in the world, in particular New Zealand, which has developed new services and thus increased its profitability.
Mr. Chopra could have taken that opportunity to point out that Canada Post is exceptional when its performance is compared with New Zealand specifically. We are talking about a country with a population of 3.5 million, one-tenth the population of Canada; a country with an area of 270,000 km2, or one-thirty-seventh the size of Canada, with its 10 million km2. If we consider population density, we can also compare New Zealand, which has 15 inhabitants per square kilometre, with Canada, which has 3.3 inhabitants per square kilometre.
I am pointing out these simple facts to remind people that when Canada Post executives compare Canadian service to service in other countries, they must keep in mind the outstanding performance of employees in the field, which is such that the public sees no difference in service delivery despite completely different geographic and demographic situations.
Does the government thank the Canada Post workers for their outstanding contribution to the provision of our national service? Absolutely not. Rather, it resorts to disinformation by insinuating that more needs to be done with less in order to catch up with the competition.
But what competition? It is not up to Canada Post employees to compare themselves to the examples the Conservative government uses. No, the Conservative government should instead be humble and express its gratitude for our uniquely successful mail distribution service.
And who is behind that success? The employees of Canada Post. Canada Post has always favoured a strategy based on the competence and talent of its employees, a strategy that rests on human resources.
How else can Canada Post proceed if it is to provide service across the vast Canadian territory? How can it achieve that without having absolute confidence in every one of the workers who contribute to the success of Canada Post? The success of Canada Post is indeed based on that confidence, the result of a long tradition of cooperation, collaboration, and yes, negotiation. The absolutely unique historical success of Canada Post rests on the confidence it has in its mail carriers. They are far more than simple employees; they are in fact partners. These mail carriers are area managers, distribution route managers, client service specialists, performance optimizers, performance engineers. Letter carriers are dependable, independent, consistent and punctual. These are all criteria that our modern economy values highly.
And what does the Conservative government do? What approach has it adopted even though it has only been in power for a scant few weeks? Without hesitation, it has chosen to totally sabotage a whole history of loyalty-building and mutual understanding, of support by the business for its employees, in the form of decent salaries, stable benefits and renewed confidence following negotiations. The Conservative government is attacking the relationship of trust that allows Canada Post to depend on employees who manage their distribution routes in the most remote parts of our country.
Now let us discuss the moment the government chose to impose its legislation. The Conservative government thought it would destabilize the opposition by introducing an extraordinary measure. But we have news for the government. The government's strategy, aimed at forcing a quick vote by extending the parliamentary session and preventing Quebec members from being with their families and constituents during Quebec's national holiday, is going to backfire.
The Conservative government is forgetting, or ignoring, that the absence of their New Democrat MPs will not go unnoticed by Quebeckers.These very Quebeckers are the ones who revolutionized the Canadian government by electing a record number of young people, women, members of visible minorities, and progressives from all walks of life. They are the ones who hoped for and caused the most extraordinary wave of change that has been seen in Canada for a number of years.
Does the Conservative government actually believe that the NDP members' absence from the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day festivities will go unnoticed? No. The absence of their members of Parliament will disappoint Quebeckers, as will the Conservative government's attitude of contempt for Canada Post employees.
What is even worse is that this absence will draw the attention of the entire population of Quebec to what is happening here in the House. When they ask, “Where are our elected officials when we have been waiting since their historic election to celebrate their entry onto the Quebec political scene?”, we will respond that we are standing steadfast in the position to which they elected us.