Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg Centre.
I wish I was not rising in the House today to speak to this motion. I wish we were not facing yet another heavy-handed sledgehammer coming down from the government on the backs of workers who only want to do what I believe is their right under international labour conventions, which is the right to collective bargaining.
I have seen back to work legislation too many times in the House. However, what we have seen just in the last year makes me cringe. It smacks of unfairness. It smacks of scapegoating workers. This is the third time in a year that we have seen back to work legislation.
People who have been on strike and on the picket lines know it is not a decision that is taken lightly. It is basically withdrawing labour. That means financial hardship and disruption.
However, the idea that we have to go to the workers with this back to work legislation when they have not even gone on strike yet is quite incredible. They are not even at that point, but already the government, with all its power and might, is standing there waiting with a sledgehammer. I find it offensive that people do not have a due process and the right to collective bargaining.
I was in my riding over the weekend and British Columbia is seeing the same kind of approach from the B.C. Liberal government, which of course is a very good cousin of the federal Conservative government. There is the same kind of approach to teachers in British Columbia, where their rights are being run roughshod by the provincial government.
The issue of labour rights is a defining matter of who one is, what one stands for and what one speaks for. It is all too easy to always scapegoat workers. Yes, there are labour disruptions. At the end of the day, that is what going on strike is. It is using power by withdrawing the labour of the workers, but it does create an easy target.
It is easy to get the public riled up. Employers like to get people emotional about it. However, that is why we have labour laws, processes and labour relations boards. They try to ensure that there is a proper process in place so we do not get caught up in that emotion and lose sight of the fact that people do have a right to determine and participate in a process on decisions about their working conditions, safety, pensions and what their employer is or is not doing. That is why we have these processes. It is so easy to fuel that emotion and scapegoat workers. That is what we see with the Conservative government.
I am proud of the fact that in the NDP we do not do that. We actually stand on a principle that the process of collective bargaining is something that is meaningful and has a long history in our country. For heaven's sake, people have died for the right to collective bargaining, to belong to unions and to collectively use their power and opportunities to ensure that there are decent and fair working conditions.
When we look at the minimum wage and workplace safety rules, even for people who are not unionized, we owe it to the union movement for bringing about those rights. I always feel quite horrified when those things are kind of thrown out the window and this sort of emotional, dramatic, very partisan, politically motivated response comes from the government.
Yes, the federal government has enormous power. At the drop of a hat it can intervene and decide whatever it wants to do. That is what we saw in the back to work legislation with postal workers and on previous occasions with Air Canada.
The process by which the government does this in our Parliament is also something that is very abhorrent. We are debating this motion today because the government wants to ram through the legislation by the early hours tomorrow on Wednesday morning.
I think we really have to question the rationale for doing that. These folks are not on strike yet.
I know that our labour critic, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, has been calling on the minister to participate in a proactive, positive way and to facilitate and use her power and good offices to actually bring about a proper negotiation and bring in mediators and facilitators if necessary.
The motion that we are debating today, Motion No. 10, which is several paragraphs long, from (a) through (j), is in effect all about censoring Parliament itself and our process of how we deal with these issues. There is a double offence here. I guess we could say that it adds insult to injury. Not only are the folks involved in the dispute, the workers, having their rights violated but I would also argue that our job as parliamentarians is also being trampled on, the job that we are here to do in the public interest for our constituents and for upholding due process and proper rights. Again, we have seen this time and time again from the current federal government.
I feel that on this issue we will not have huge public support because people abide by the line, “Let's just lay it down and do this in a unilateral way”. However, I really want to urge Canadians to think about the values that underlie this process of collective bargaining. Again, for anyone who has been in a union and has understood that process, they know how important it is and that when people make a decision to go on strike it is something they sometimes really agonize over.
The third point I want to make is to really question what is going on.
I am not a member of the union. I am not with the employer, obviously. I am someone who uses Air Canada's services a lot, like most of us here in this House. Yes, it is a very important public service to have the airline flying across the country. However, it does strike me that when we look at the history of labour relations with this corporation, Air Canada, and the fact that so frequently they have come to this point, I think it must surely raise questions.
Again, I am not someone who is intimately familiar with the situation and knows all the details of what is going on. However, to me, it sends up a red flag. When workers get to this point of being so desperate and feeling like that is all they have left, then surely it must raise the whole question of the labour relations climate at Air Canada and what has happened, not just year after year but decade after decade. We are talking about long-term employees, some of whom came from the old Canadian Pacific Air Lines. I remember those folks who then became part of Air Canada. These are long-standing employees. Whether they are the machinists, the ground agents, the flight attendants, or the pilots, these are people who have a history and a commitment to the work they do. Therefore, when we see a pattern emerging of people feeling like their backs are to the wall, then I think it raises questions and leads me to my next point, that being, what is the role of the Minister of Labour?
We have a minister in the current government who is responsible for labour. The very thing she is doing here, with the backing of her government, is in effect removing any iota of motivation on the employer's part to negotiate in good faith. If the employer can just run off to the government because it happens to be under federal jurisdiction, or in the case of British Columbia, the teachers under the provincial government, and say, “You know what? We can just come down with legislation”, then what motivation is there to negotiate? That is really the sad part of this whole story that is unfolding here today and tonight as we go to vote on the bill. We are undermining a very important process in this country of collective bargaining.
I am proud to stand with my colleagues to say, “We say no”. It is not right on principle. It is not right on pragmatic grounds and we will do everything we can to make sure this legislation does not go through.