Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to make some submissions with respect to Bill C-19.
This bill was introduced in the last Parliament. Because of the election call in June the amendments to the Canada Labour Code died and here it is again in the House.
I have been listening very carefully to the comments that have been made by a number of speakers. I share some of the concerns. I am particularly impressed with the comments made by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands with respect to this notion of final offer selection arbitration.
Before I get to that, I wish to comment with respect to the concerns I have with the bill itself. This is second reading of Bill C-19. Second reading will send this bill to committee for consideration. I am sure that interested parties from across the country will come forward at the committee stage. Hopefully some of the deficiencies in this bill will be corrected at the committee stage and there will be a willingness on the part of the government to listen to some of the concerns.
I note that the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour is present in the House today. I know her to be an extremely hardworking member of Parliament. She is open minded. She is receptive to change in order to improve bill. I am sure that rather simply defending some of the inadequacies in the bill she will play a leading role in convincing the government, the minister in particular, to correct some of these deficiencies.
As a democrat believing in the principles of democracy, I have a concern that this new named board, the Canada Industrial Relations Board, would be able under certain circumstances to certify a union even though a majority of the workers in that bargaining unit are opposed to certification. That does not make any sense at all.
If we are living in a democracy, if we believe in democratic principles, surely those principles should apply to the workplace. If a majority of those in a workplace are opposed to the formation or the certification of a union, then it simply should not happen. Frankly, I am surprised as well that certain members of this House who often talk about choice, who often talk about democracy and accountability, would be opposed to honouring that very basic principle of democracy, that the majority of a group should be listened to. I have concerns about the provision in the bill that allows for certification even though a minority of the workers would want certification.
Secret ballots are important as well. We all know that in union drives and in certain circumstances in labour relations members of a particular bargaining unit are afraid to speak out, to express their true wishes. It seems that secret votes would take away the ability in certain circumstances for coercion to take place.
Those are two of the major concerns I have. I am sure the parliamentary secretary will be addressing those concerns.
With respect to the comments of the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, I know it is a position that is shared by a good number of members in this House which is a constructive proposal on final offer selection arbitration.
One of the problems we have with labour relations in this country, and other jurisdictions share the same problem, is that it is adversarial in nature. It is we versus them. The system has developed over the years where employers are fighting against employees. It is wrong. We have come to a point in the history of this country and in the history of labour relations where we ought to find mechanisms and methods of removing some of the adversarial nature from labour relations.
This adversarial component is further entrenched in the legislation. Section 9(1)(c) refers to the establishment and organization of the Canada Industrial Relations Board. It says “not more than six other members of which not more than three represent employees and of which not more than three represent employers”.
In the make-up of the board we are further entrenching this adversarial nature so that we need union people on one side and employer people on the other. That is not a healthy situation. The people who ultimately suffer, the people who are ultimately penalized are the public as well as workers. The damage that ensues to companies in certain circumstances and in certain strike situations is irreparable. We know of cases where companies have literally had to close down because of labour strife.
This notion of final offer selection arbitration is an attempt to diminish the adversarial nature of labour relations in this country. As the member points out, the negotiations continue to take place. That is very important. Both sides will negotiate. When an impasse is reached, rather than shutting down the doors of the factory or utilizing that ultimate weapon on the part of labour, the strike weapon which does not help anyone, both sides are forced to submit themselves to final offer selection arbitration. That would require, as the hon. member points out, both sides to be reasonable. They have to be reasonable in their positions. If they are unreasonable they run the risk of the arbitration panel selecting the package put forward by the other side.
We all know that some of the very basic principles of negotiation is that you ask for far more than you expect to get with the view to finding common ground at some point. What this does is eliminate these ridiculous positions that are put forward on the part of labour and on the part of management. What is requires them to do is put forward a package.
This makes good sense because this would avoid or eliminate a great number of strikes. We are dealing with a very small percentage of the labour force. This code applies only to federally regulated industries. It does not apply to provincially regulated industries. This notion of final offer selection arbitration could apply not only to industries that are federally regulated but to provincially regulated industries.
I hope the government will consider this proposal being put forward by members of the Reform Party and other people in this country. It makes sense. It is in the public interest. I hope that at committee the government will be persuaded that we have to find mechanisms and ways to remove some of the adversarial nature of labour relations in this country.