Madam Speaker, I rise today to talk about the lockout of workers by Canada Post and the back to work legislation the government is proposing.
I share the desire for a speedy resolution of the situation and an immediate return to regular mail delivery in this country. That is why my New Democrat colleagues and I are calling on Canada Post to unlock the doors and let postal carriers return to work.
Canada Post is a profitable corporation that earned $281 million for Canadians last year. At the same time, it has been able to offer some of the lowest postage rates in the world, with a cost of 59¢ to mail a standard letter, compared to, for instance, Germany where the cost is 77¢ or Australia at 88¢, or even the Netherlands at 64¢.
Postal carriers across this country are responsible for the success of the Canada Post Corporation and have worked so hard to turn it into a viable, reliable and, indeed, profitable service that all Canadians depend on. The current back to work legislation, Bill C-6, is a one-sided and unfair approach to resolving this crisis. Instead of demanding that Canada Post returns to the bargaining table, the Conservative government has taken the side of the corporation and presented draconian legislation that makes a mockery of fair collective bargaining.
I oppose this legislation, first, because it offers wage rates lower than what Canada Post offered; second, because it tramples on collective bargaining rights; and, third, because it supports attacks on postal workers' defined pension benefit plan and encourages a two-tiered wage and benefits system.
Locking out workers and then imposing a contract is not fair and free collective bargaining.
The resolution to this conflict is clear. Postal carriers are ready to go back to work today. Simply unlock the doors and let them continue to deliver the mail.
This legislation is not just an attack on postal workers but an attack on the wages, benefits and pensions of all Canadian workers. I will continue to work night and day, whatever it takes, to get fair resolution.
The middle class is being squeezed in Canada. Statistics Canada shows that those who earned $41,300 in 1980 still earn basically the same amount 30 years later. A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called, “Rising Profit Shares, Falling Wage Shares”, claims that real wage gains for the vast majority of Canadians were virtually non-existent through much of the last 30 years. Even more disturbing, the real wages of lower-income people or those making minimum wage are less than what they were 30 years ago.
Meanwhile, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest Canadians continues to climb. Young workers today cannot expect the same standard of living or wages as their parents or grandparents. This is what CUPW and Canada's New Democrats are fighting against. We need to ensure that new postal workers are able to earn a decent living and enjoy pension benefits.
We should be working to lift wages, not impose lower wages than were offered at the bargaining table by the employer. Not only has the Conservative government offered lower wages but it also wants to maintain the 10 demands of Canada Post for major rollbacks, including the elimination of sick leave, and deep cuts in benefits and pensions for new hires.
I would like to talk about delivering the mail to Canada's most vulnerable. During the recent rotating strikes, cheques were in fact delivered to the most vulnerable. If we look at what happened last week, Canada Post not only locked out its workers but also stopped all mail delivery, which meant that Canada's vulnerable were not receiving their needed cheques. This would not have happened under the rotating strikes.
To go back to pensions, workers are fighting for their hard-earned benefits like defined pension plans. This is what is at stake. We are talking about how people live in their later years. Will they live with dignity or will they struggle?
My dad, for instance, worked 27 years for MacMillan Bloedel and now is finding that his pension is being eroded and cut back. Is this the same fate that we have in store for those working in one of our most profitable and viable corporations, Canada Post?
The workers of Canada Post have built the organization into what it is today. They are the real, true assets of the organization. They are the people who have made the organization viable, dependable and profitable.
To really focus on pensions, let me take a moment to talk about another good friend of mine and an issue that is similar to that of many of the postal workers who we on this side have been talking about. My good friend Joel Peppar lives in New Westminster with his partner Jan. He is a senior and a veteran. He has been watching this debate since the beginning, because he too has an interest in the outcome.
His veteran's cheque, which he relies on each month, is sitting in a mail truck somewhere in the country. He has told my office that he will wait as long as it takes because he feels that it is so important that the workers get what they deserve, that they get a fair deal. So here is a guy who has defended his country and who now lives from paycheque to paycheque, and he wants to support us and the workers in their fight for fairness.
I know that Joel is not alone. I know there are thousands of Canadians like Joel who also support these workers and their bid for a fair deal. I know that Joel is watching now and wants me to continue fighting the good fight. I find that amazing. He needs his cheque but even he is not willing to put his needs ahead of those of these workers. That is because he understands the difference between right and wrong. He understands when it is critical to take a stand.
I want to mention another email that I received from a constituent of mine named George. He has been watching this debate with great interest. He is a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. He, along with his fellow workers, would like to be working right now, processing and delivering the mail. Since Canada Post has locked out the workers and thus stopped the mail service in Canada, he says it is creating great hardship for businesses and families. He goes on to ask if it is just for the Government of Canada, his employer, to punish the workers with Bill C-6. Indeed, since the full mail stoppage was caused by the management of Canada Post, which directly answers to the Government of Canada, should the Government of Canada not be directing Canada Post to remove its lockout order?
He has heard the argument from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the member from Peterborough, that the union membership has not had a chance to vote on any of Canada Post's offers. George says the fact is that 94.5% gave the union leadership the power to bargain for a new collective agreement, which he notes is a much higher percentage than the support the voters of Canada gave the Conservative Party of Canada in the last federal election.
He goes on to say that he has heard over and over from members of the Conservative Party about the mandate that Canadians have bestowed upon them in their majority government. He says it would be nice to see them respect the membership of CUPW, which has bestowed upon his union a similar mandate: to come up with a collective agreement.
He asks the member from Peterborough specifically if he would he have Canadians go to the polls on every piece of legislation that is presented in Parliament. I think not.