moved that Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce my bill, Bill C-420, in the House today. This bill would strengthen the rights of workers under federal jurisdiction. First, I must point out that labour relations in Quebec are regulated by Quebec labour laws, except in the case of workers in federal sectors. All workers in ports, airports, banks and interprovincial or international transportation companies, like the STO, are subject to a different set of laws and, as I will show, different standards that are unacceptable in the 21st century.
Essentially, there are two classes of workers in Quebec. I could not tolerate this, as a former union representative, as a father and as a proud representative for the people of Mirabel, who are also workers.
With Bill C-420, the Bloc Québécois wants to fix three major flaws that violate workers' rights and put people in danger.
First, Bill C-420 would prohibit the use of scabs during a labour dispute. It is an anti-scab law like the one passed in 1977 in Quebec and wherever there is social justice. That is obviously not the case here.
Presently, at the federal level, all an employer has to do to show good faith and to have the right to use scabs is to appear as though he is continuing to negotiate with the union. That is appalling. You can say whatever you want, but we know who still has the upper hand. The use of scabs makes labour disputes last two and a half times longer. Not only is that appalling, but it is detrimental to social peace. It makes for more violent and longer disputes.
What happens after these long labour disputes, when everyone ends up hating one another to the point that it is impossible to get along? A special law is imposed on the workers, which is what happened at Canada Post. Hurray for the Liberals who are really pathetic. A special law is imposed on the workers to force a collective agreement down their throats.
This is not exactly the first time such changes are being proposed here. This is the twelfth time the Bloc Québécois is introducing a bill on this. In fact, the dean of the House, my colleague from Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, introduced anti-scab legislation during his very first term. That was in the 1980s when there was no Internet or cell phones. It was a very long time ago. Even then, he could not get his bill passed. Anti-scab legislation is a big deal. My colleague has been a member of the House for 35 years and the federal government still uses strikebreakers. Quebeckers have been calling for a ban on the use of scabs for 35 years, but Ottawa will not budge. Nothing ever budges around here anyway.
As recently as 2016, the federal government used strikebreakers during the labour dispute with the employees of the Old Port of Montreal. We have not forgotten that.
We are also amending legislation to ensure that pregnant women can use preventive withdrawal when necessary and with decent benefits. We are amending the legislation to ensure that all female workers can avail themselves of Quebec's legislation when they work in Quebec, even if they are working under federal jurisdiction.
That applies to Canada too because Canada's labour law is 40 years behind Quebec's. Canada is a throwback. No woman should ever have to put herself or her unborn child in danger by working too long because she does not have the means to take time off for health reasons. It is a pay issue, but it is also a health and safety issue. Such archaic labour laws in a G8 country—or rather, a G7 country—are outrageous.
Lastly, we will ensure that Quebec's Charter of the French Language applies in federally regulated workplaces. In Quebec, French is the language of work, of culture and of politics. It is our common language, and it should be the language used everywhere, including in sectors governed by Ottawa. We hear from countless people in federally regulated organizations where employees are required to speak English and everything is done in English. These organizations are in Quebec, where the common language is French. Love it or hate it, our language is French.
In short, we want to force the federal government into the 21st century because it is 40 years behind when it comes to labour law. Most people are workers. The Liberals may get around in limousines, but ordinary people are workers. I know that the Liberals have not seen much of that. They have never really had to get their boots dirty.
Quebec has been changing and evolving, but the federal government has not taken meaningful action in decades and is stuck in the past. The gap between Quebec society and Canadian society has not shrunk but widened, and not just on this issue but on many others as well. However, in terms of labour law, the federal government is really 40 years behind. I want to reiterate that because it is truly appalling.
While Quebec was implementing a real parental leave program to allow families to be together when they welcome a new child and while it was setting up reasonably priced child care centres so that women do not have to make the difficult choice between their careers and having children, Ottawa was doing nothing, as usual. This means that, when people in Quebec take a federally regulated job, they are getting into a time machine and travelling 40 years into the past.
As I said at the outset, there are two classes of workers in Quebec today: those who are subject to Quebec laws and those who have the misfortune of being stuck in the past because they are subject to federal laws. Since there are not two classes of citizens in Quebec, there cannot be two classes of workers. For decades now, Ottawa has refused to correct this injustice. No matter who is in power, whether Liberal or Conservative, nothing gets done.
Even the federalist parties that are never in power, like the NDP, are incapable of offering Quebeckers subject to federal regulations the same rights as other workers. Even they do not have the courage to make all federally regulated businesses subject to the provisions of Bill 101.
It is practically inexplicable that the federal government could be so narrow-minded. It is practically inexplicable that workers are being denied rights as basic as being able to work in one's own language year after year, for decades now. It is practically inexplicable, but it is also a clear reflection of the fundamental differences between our respective societies.
Quebeckers stick together. We did not always have the choice. We had to stick together to keep from disappearing. We had to stick together in order to successfully assert each one of the rights we have. Quebeckers have never had anything handed to them. Everything we have, we had to fight for and defend. That is why we stand in solidarity with our workers, because they are our family, our friends and our neighbours. They are our nation.
We have passed legislation that is more favourable to workers because we want the government to serve us, the workers. We want work-life balance. We want to work with dignity, in our own language, in an environment that reflects us and that we are comfortable in.
We believe that work should never put honest women and children at risk. We also believe that all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that having a family is not an obstacle to our personal ambitions. We want a work environment where we can thrive. We spend a huge portion of our lives at work, so we should do whatever it takes to make sure that work is not a grind.
The federal government clearly thinks otherwise. Someone in Ottawa obviously has a problem with letting people work in French, because the federal government has been refusing to allow this for decades.
Clearly, someone has a problem with allowing preventive withdrawal for women in the absence of hazardous conditions because the federal government has been refusing to allow it for decades now.
Some mucky-muck obviously has an issue with preventing the use of strikebreakers to replace employees during labour disputes, because the federal government has been refusing to deal with that for years.
These are not the only times Ottawa has abandoned workers. Here in Ottawa, the parental leave system is called unemployment. What can a person do with 55% of their salary when they are expecting a baby? One would have to be totally clueless to think that is a great plan.
When a woman loses her job when she returns from maternity leave, the federal government tells her that it cannot pay her employment insurance benefits. The woman is wished the best of luck and told to leave. We have seen that. We are not the federal government. The federal government has always been all about the financial interests of our neighbouring country and Bay Street. This is the way it has always been.
When it comes to labour law, workers are not the priority. The priority is to prevent workers' rights from inconveniencing management too much. Workers who stand up for their rights during a strike or a lockout are a nuisance to management. That is bad for business. Pregnant women or new mothers who want to not only take leave but also collect a salary are a huge nuisance to management.
Do not even talk to them about workers who want to work in their own language, those annoying people who demand respect and demand to be treated as equals. How difficult. This is how Ottawa sees ordinary people. Ottawa looks down on them, as usual. This is how the federal government acts, no matter which party is in power. It acts as a dutiful servant to the major financial interests. If someone owes the federal government $20, the government will put this person through hell to get it back. However, corporations and the banks are able to legally send their money to tax havens. The government has refused to combat tax havens. When it comes to labour and taxation, Ottawa remains always a dutiful servant to the banks.
Ottawa forces taxpayers and businesses to file two tax returns for no reason, since Quebec could take care of it. Quebec has even asked to take care of it. The National Assembly made this request. This would cut accounting bills in half for honest workers who have to file two tax returns. Our small businesses would only have to pay half of what they pay to deal with one extra tax agency every year. Quebeckers could demand that the banks be held accountable for the billions of dollars in profits stashed away in Barbados.
You all refused to debate it. You all voted against the motion moved by my colleague from Joliette.