Mr. Speaker, the government says that it cannot stop the lockout ordered by Canada Post. And yet it has the power to legislate on wage increases. There is a rather flagrant inconsistency here. Either they can intervene or they cannot. If they can intervene on wage increases, maybe they can also simply put a stop to the lockout. That way everyone will be satisfied, for it is the simplest solution. What is important is that everyone comes out a winner. As I understand it, with a special bill everyone will instead come out a loser, that is, no one will be satisfied. The workers will not feel that they have bargained freely, and management will feel that its workers are going back to work reluctantly. Most important of all is that things such as the workplace climate and productivity will suffer in the years ahead with this sort of bill.
It would be so much simpler to stop the lockout, allow the employees back to work and send the parties back to the bargaining table. But that is simple. We often hear that Canada Post is autonomous. And yet the authorities at Canada Post are continually demanding more autonomy. So they must not feel all that autonomous.
The other important thing is that Canada Post is a public service. It is a public corporation. It is not a private corporation. When managing a public corporation, the priorities are not the same as for private corporation. When one manages a private sector company, one works for shareholders, and when one owns a small or medium-sized business, one works for his own benefit. However, when one manages a public corporation, one does not work for his immediate boss, namely the government, but rather in the best interests of all Canadians. That is the actual mandate of Canada Post. Its mandate is not to manage based on goals set by the employer, but rather based on the best interests of Canadian society. I do not have the impression that this is the kind of management that we have seen at Canada Post in recent months. I find it deplorable that Canada Post lost sight of the notion of public service and interest. I would love to see it rediscover this notion, because it may be the best way to serve.
Since we should manage with the public interest in mind, I am asking Canada Post, because the government cannot do anything, to have the courage to end the lock-out and allow employees to return to work, in the best interests of Canadian society. That is fundamental. It may require a bit of courage, but it is in everyone's common interest. The simplest solution would be for Canada Post to have the courage to end the lock-out. I am putting this request on the record here, in the House of Commons.
Let us get back to the bill as such. I do not like the way it deals with the notion of arbitration, because the arbitrator who might be appointed will not be free to fulfill his mandate properly. He will be bound by a series of rules. The result is that anyone could do the job, while this is actually a highly complex task. Indeed, the arbitrator is already being told what salary increases will be imposed. He is already being told whether to opt for solution A or B, and he is already being told, through guiding principles, which way he must lean. A professional arbitrator will find that this is not a very challenging mandate, because collective agreements are usually complex documents.
I would have liked for the arbitrator to have full authority to determine what is satisfactory, based on representations made by both sides. It should not be a matter of siding completely with one side and rejecting everything from the other side. I do not agree with that approach. I am convinced that both sides have interesting proposals, and it would be unfortunate to let four years go by without the best ideas from both parties being included in the agreement. I find that approach deplorable. It is like denying the fact that both sides can make reasonable proposals. I think there are intelligent people on both sides, and I wish the best ideas would be included in the agreement. This could only benefit Canadian society.
My other concern relates, of course, to the clauses that create a double standard regarding salaries. I find these clauses totally unacceptable. It is ridiculous to discriminate on the basis of age, as is essentially the case here, since these clauses primarily affect younger workers. We have abolished discrimination based on salary. Ever since I was young—and that was many years ago—I have heard that we should have equal pay for equal work. Suddenly, we are backtracking. I simply cannot understand that. I cannot understand why we would backtrack on such a fundamental principle in Canadian society.
I understand full well that there may be objectives, but perhaps they can be achieved in another way. Some day, these things will be redefined within Canada Post and we will have to see how that can be done, but I do not believe in solving one problem by creating another.
To give my colleagues an idea of what it means on a daily basis, over and above the fact that it is unacceptable, let them imagine trying to manage two different salary groups with different vacation time and pension funds; to someone with an understanding of management, it is already a nightmare. It is not helpful; rather, it is like shooting oneself in the foot. The savings they think are being generated will have to be reinvested to manage these problems, leaving no one satisfied. I do not believe that this is a solution, either in terms of management or morally. In fact, I believe it is truly reprehensible.
Furthermore, I fear that the orphan clauses being imposed at Canada Post will serve as an example and later be extended to other sectors. Is this a Trojan horse, bringing orphan clauses to the entire federal public service and society in general? I should hope not. I truly hope that we will not go down that road, because all we will be doing is creating resentment. I do not believe that anyone on either side of the House wants to create resentment. I do not believe that. But we must consider the consequences and the options. We need to consider where this will take us. That is why we must consider these problems from a different angle.
I truly want to believe that senior management at Canada Post is independent. People are appointed and given mandates. However, when senior managers are hired and given their mandates, perhaps they could be given real incentives not to engage in confrontation. For example, why not cut the CEO's salary during a lockout. Those kinds of things could be done. Perhaps then they would be more proactive in resolving issues.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that Canada Post is a public corporation. For that reason, it must set an example in the way it treats its employees. I think that there is still work to be done and ending the lockout would be a step in the right direction.