Madam Speaker, It is an honour to speak today to a bill that could affect the balance in labour relations in Canada. I am referring to Bill C-234, which would prevent employers governed by the Canada Labour Code to hire replacement workers in the event of a strike or lockout.
Although most labour relations in Canada are governed by the provinces, it is important to point out that part I of the Canada Labour Code governs labour relations in private workplaces under federal jurisdiction. It covers key industries in our economy, such as international and interprovincial rail and road transportation, air and marine transportation, and telecommunications. Certain crown corporations, such as Canada Post, are also governed by the Canada Labour Code.
The Code ensures that there is balance between the union's right to strike and the employer's right to try to continue operations during a work stoppage. The current Canada Labour Code provision already restricts the employer's use of replacement workers. Employers governed by the code cannot use replacement workers to undermine a union's representational capacity.
I want to point out that opinions on this matter have always been divided, with some people being very supportive of using replacement workers and others very much against it.
A few years ago, there was a full review of the code, and this provision was one of the ones added. At that time, it was viewed as an acceptable compromise between the employers governed by the code and the unions representing their employees.
Although I am sure the member who introduced Bill C-234 probably wanted to improve labour relations, it is important to understand that the bill could upset the balance of the rights and responsibilities of both unions and employers under the terms of the Canada Labour Code. I want to remind the members of the commitment we made to re-establish balance and fairness in labour relations with the groups covered by the code.
I want to emphasize right away that, given the scope of what is being proposed, such a measure must take into account the views of all stakeholders: employers, unions, the government, and even external stakeholders, such as universities and any others that might contribute in any way. This will require feedback from and the participation of anyone who could be affected by this measure.
With that in mind, we have already introduced important measures to correct the inequities created by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which upset that balance. Those bills had a serious impact on workers and unions in Canada. They put unions at a disadvantage, and we believe that those bills must be repealed.
Much like this bill, Bill C-234, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were private members' bills, so they were not subject to the rigorous consultation that should take place on such issues. We must not take the same approach on this issue.
The issue of replacement workers is too controversial, with employers and unions having opposing views. However, in the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through private members' bills without prior consultation with stakeholders.
We believe in an open and transparent approach to labour relations, one that promotes stability.
In the past, this type of reform involved consultations with employers, unions, and the government. For example, in 1995, a task force held extensive public consultations on part I of the Canada Labour Code, which deals with industrial relations. These consultations were held with unions, employers, and government stakeholders, as well as with academics and other groups that wanted to have a say on the issue.
The task force's report, entitled “Seeking a Balance”, served as a framework for significant changes to part I of the Canada Labour Code, which came into effect in 1999. Consultation and engagement help ensure that our policies are evidence-based.
The development of fair, balanced, and evidence-based labour policies is essential for both workers and employers.
We therefore do not support Bill C-234 because it does not meet this country's standards of openness and transparency, and it upsets the balance in labour relations.
The employer-employee relationship is essential to our economy. Good working relations result in stability and predictability in the labour force, factors that fundamentally support our economy.
We must therefore ensure that labour policies are in the best interests of Canadians because, in this country, we have a long tradition of labour legislation and policy designed to promote the well-being of all by encouraging collective bargaining and dispute resolution for the common good.
We are committed to implementing a labour policy that is balanced and fair for all workers and employers governed by the Canada Labour Code.
That is the spirit of our position on this very important issue.