Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the citizens of Jeanne-Le Ber who elected me to represent them in this House. I am very proud to be in Ottawa now and to work on their behalf in connection with this important bill.
We hear much talk from the government about the economy, about how important the economy is to this country and about working for the average Canadian.
I do not think the so-called strong, stable majority government, which, incidentally was supported by a minority of 40% of Canadians, is feeling particularly warm toward the 60% of Canadians who did not vote for it.
In fact, I would venture to say that even the 40% who did vote for them were not voting to have stripped away from them their established right to grow and build their own self-worth and value through the accepted and democratic process of collective bargaining.
It is quite frankly beyond me how the current government does not see the conflict of interest in this process of shutting down a well-organized and responsible expression of job action to only then introduce back-to-work legislation.
Let me break this down. The government owns Canada Post. The government is in negotiations with its employees, as Canada Post. The employees, after much negotiation, take job action that sees at least partial delivery through rotating strikes. The government, as Canada Post, locks out the workers. The government, as itself, tables back-to-work legislation. In addition to eroding the process of collective bargaining, it further intrudes in that process by imposing its own views on what these workers should be paid, totally disregarding the agreements already made.
Now, excusing the possibility that the government may at this time be suffering from an identity crisis, what with playing both sides of the fence, does this government truly not feel any responsibility to the 60% of Canadians who did not vote for them?
The government speaks about democracy, but then proceeds to deny the democratic process of contract negotiations, because it does not like how it goes. The government says that it is looking out for the greater interest of Canadians, but then attacks those Canadians it says it is protecting. In case it is unclear, postal workers are Canadians too.
Postal workers are also consumers. In this one-dimensional, myopic vision of the economy the current government practises, I suppose it makes sense to cut out the buying power of a significant number of Canadian consumers to satisfy some ideological belief in the absolute numbers. “We are focused on the economy”. That is a familiar mantra that all members of the Conservative government are well versed in.
I do not claim to be an expert, but it seems that there are many facets to economic growth, including standard of living and morale in the workplace, to name two.
I wonder what kind of Canada can be built when workers' rights are disrespected. In fact, history shows us what that disrespect can yield. It was that type of disrespect that sparked the beginning of the labour movement in the first place.
Is this lockout an inconvenience? Yes, it is, and please, let us remember that it is a lockout and not a strike. Then again, I can see why the government might be confused.
Dare I say that there are many Canadians who would accept some inconvenience to protect the rights that so many Canadians fought and died for. Here are some of the thoughts these Canadians are sharing.
I have been a postal worker for the past 21 years....most people don't know that we have to be casuals without paying pensionable benefits for approximately 6 years. With an average income of $49,000 a year, I will be able to retire in 2024 with a rate of $1,391 a month! Now, in 2024, that won't even pay for an apartment....why would I want to lose more from the new collective agreement? Chopra started this year and will be getting a pay of $650,000 a year with a major retirement off of my back!
When we put in our right to strike notice on May 31st, the corporation retaliated by cutting off all of our benefits including medical. I have a brother-in-law who has progressive MS and couldn't get his meds while he is in severe pain from the waist down. He is paralyzed.
We responded only then after they cut off our benefits within 3 hours of our notice to strike submission, with rotating strikes without intention of harming the mail flow. Only with the understanding that it would delay mail for one day in that city!
It is wrong what the [Prime Minister's] government is doing! They collaborated with the management of Canada Post and took away our right of collective bargaining.
I want to work and I did volunteer, as did many other workers across Canada, only because we do not want to affect Canadians in a harmful manner. I love serving the public, but not at the expense of our pensions! I don't want to be on some government assistance when I reach 65. There is no need with a Canadian Crown Corp that is making major profits off of the backs of us, the backbone of Canada Post.
This is a Halifax postal worker.
I was always taught that one should be careful of the seeds one sews. The seeds this government is sewing are seeds of discontent, mistrust, indifference, and absolute contempt. It is contempt for the workers in this country, workers who, when the need is there, are willing to work with management towards the greater good. We saw this at the beginning of the economic crisis over and over again.
What we do not see, however, is the CEOs and the upper echelon colleagues willing to practise what they are forceably trying to extract from the people who make them rich.
If this government is so interested in participating in the collective bargaining process and feels perfectly justified in imposing lower wages than were fairly negotiated, why not be of true help to Canadians by forcing those same CEOs to convert their pension plans, give up their bonuses, and reduce their salaries. I suppose that this is too socialist for this government.
Human beings by nature are social animals. We need to work together to survive. Although there may be a pecking order, there should always be respect. This is something this government seems to feel does not apply to it.
The economy of this country is, and always has been, its people. They drive the country, both as workers and as consumers. If this government truly wants to help Canadians, then treat workers and consumers, as they are one and the same, as they should be treated.
The government needs to take responsibility for its actions. The government needs to unlock the doors. The government needs to put the workers back to work, not by legislating them but by legislating the government to unlock the doors and the lockout.