Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to say a few words on group No. 9 of the report stage amendments to the Canada Labour Code.
I very much support the comments made by the hon. member for Mercier, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and the hon. member for Bourassa regarding replacement workers. I support their Motions Nos. 27 and 40 in this group. I hope they will support my Motion No. 38 which is also in this group.
The issue of replacement workers, that is anti-scab legislation, is important in the context of Canada Labour Code amendments. The minister has received a great deal of information regarding the prohibition of replacement workers. To me and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, the minister should have taken steps to outright prohibit the use of replacement workers.
Like our friends in the labour movement, New Democrats are deeply disappointed that Bill C-66 does not contain a general prohibition on the use of replacement workers.
The object for us must be to end a practice that subjects trade union members to insult and unfairness and stacks the labour relations deck in favour of management.
During testimony before the standing committee which studied Bill C-66 the CLC said it held strongly the view that strikes and lockouts accompanied by the employer's use of replacement workers give rise to several negative and unnecessary strains on the labour-management relationship.
These include prolonged and more bitter conflicts, more strikes and lockouts, increased picket line confrontations and violence, less free and meaningful collective bargaining, problems that render resolution of the dispute more difficult.
In addition to a specific amendment such as the one I have put before the House today, New Democratic Party MPs and the CLC have long advocated a prohibition on the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout that would contain a very few specific elements.
These elements include the prohibition of the use of both bargaining unit and non-bargaining unit employees or any person including those persons who exercise managerial functions; the prohibition of the use of persons engaged, transferred or hired after the earlier of the date on which the notice of desire to bargain is given and the date on which bargaining begins; the prohibition of contracting work in or out of the establishment; the providing of protection from discipline for any person who honours the picket line; and the development of an enforcement mechanism that would include permission for the union to enter and inspect the employer's premises in the company of a government labour relations officer and representative of the employer.
Opponents of a replacement worker prohibition frequently raise the spectre of increased unemployment, incidents of strikes and imbalance of bargaining power.
The province with the longest experience with an anti-scab provision is the province of Quebec where the evidence does not support bargaining power imbalance as reflected in wage settlement.
In the 17 years, that is 1978 to 1994 inclusive following the introduction of anti-scab provisions, increases in basic wage rates and collective agreements in Quebec were higher than the Canadian average in only six years.
It is perhaps not surprising the task force member from Quebec, Mr. Rodrigue Blouin, having witnessed first hand the province's experience with anti-scab legislation, was the one who issued an
eloquent minority report advocating a prohibition. His opening comments in that minority report are quite strong.
As quoted earlier, Mr. Rodrigue Blouin indicated:
I submit that the general principles underlying our system of collective labour relations dictate that the presence of replacement workers during a legal strike or lockout is illegitimate. Their use must hence be declared illegal.
Let me continue that quote for just a moment:
The use of replacement workers undermines the structural elements that ensure the internal cohesion of the collective bargaining system by introducing a foreign body into a dispute between two clearly identified parties. It upsets the economic balance of power, compromises the freedom of expression of workers engaging in a strike or lockout, shifts the original neutral ground of the dispute and leads eventually to a perception of exploitation of the individual.
I continue the quote:
The conclusion to be drawn from my analysis is that there is on the whole a situation of illegitimacy that Parliament must condemn in no uncertain terms.
I have read very carefully the minority report of Mr. Blouin. I am quite taken by his analysis and his conclusion which reads:
Parliament has a duty to restore the delicate balance necessary to ensure that the collective bargaining system achieves its purpose. The presence of replacement workers is an intrusion into an economic dispute that takes place in the workplace in accordance with a public policy designed to promote industrial democracy. This policy is negated by replacement workers.
I am reminded of the minister's own testimony before the standing committee in this regard. In responding to questions from committee members, the minister said that an important priority of the government was to let the collective bargaining process function. I argued, just as did Mr. Blouin, that the one element of the legislation which prevented collective bargaining from functioning well was the provision about replacement workers.
That is why I support an outright prohibition on the use of replacement workers. That is why I have proposed and am supporting the amendments in front of us today in this grouping which, if passed, would for all intents and purposes prohibit the use of the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit on the date on which notice to bargain collectively was given.
The Sims report highlights several high profile disputes in the federal sector, including the dispute at Giant Mines in Yellowknife with its tragic circumstances and Canada Post's use of replacement workers in 1991 which resulted in several confrontations.
Sims, however, does not recommend the prohibition of replacement workers because he believes measures to mitigate the threat to job loss that replacement workers pose will be sufficient to prevent potential violence on the picket line. There is very little evidence to support that contention despite the compromise Sims proposes is acceptable in the absence of an outright prohibition.
In conclusion, I was greatly disappointed the government in the initial drafting of Bill C-66 or in the amendment process of the standing committee did not provide for a general ban on scabs in the amendments to the federal labour code. The government had the opportunity to end the confrontations in strikes and lockouts but failed to grasp this opportunity.
Obviously 20 years of history of such legislation in the province of Quebec provides the necessary information we need to assess its worthiness. It is time the federal government took the necessary steps to ban replacement workers from disputes within its own jurisdiction. The amendments before us provide the opportunity to do just that. I urge their support.