Mr. Speaker, you may find that I am a bit dishevelled and my eyes are a bit red. I think all of my colleagues here feel the same way as we debate this bill and fight tooth and nail to give workers a voice.
I listened carefully to my colleagues. They spoke very passionately about their experience with the union movement. Since I became a part of this official opposition team, I have seen that in unity, there is strength. The experience they have shared since we entered the House of Commons has taught me a lot about the qualities of solidarity and the collective rights of workers.
I thank you for giving me time to speak to Bill C-6 in this House and to add my voice to the eloquent voices of my colleagues in the official opposition.
I think that the debate on this bill is very important. I was inspired by our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, who addressed the House last night. He spoke about the history of the NDP movement and about the values that NDP members have always defended. I think that this is a debate on the values that we want to defend in this House, but also that we want to defend on the hustings across the country—the values of sharing, social justice and freedom.
There is increasing talk about economic recession; we are told the economy is doing poorly, that the greater interests of the economy are in jeopardy. And for the sake of the economy, the government is going to undermine the right of workers to negotiate a decent contract, not only for themselves, but also for future generations.
I believe the debate we are having in this House is a debate not only for the short term, but also for the long term. What will we provide for future generations?
I have been sitting in the House of Commons for barely a month now and the present government has already set the stage. First, it introduced a bill to force Air Canada employees back to work. I do not believe the timeline of that file called for that bill, when the bargaining process had just gotten under way.
As for Canada Post, the timeline has already been elaborated on, but let me remind you that somewhat controversial action is being taken. On June 8, Canada Post announced that it was cancelling mail delivery on Tuesdays and Thursdays, whereas we know all Canadians are entitled to delivery service five days a week. Canada Post was already starting to cut service to which Canadians are entitled, that is to say mail delivery five days a week.
On June 14, Canada Post ordered a national lockout; in other words, it shut out employees and prevented them from doing the work that makes it possible to deliver the mail five days a week. Now postal employees are being deprived of their bargaining right and their right to work, while Canadians are being deprived of their mail.
As a number of you previously noted, this work stoppage, this lockout, means that a number of our constituents and we ourselves are being deprived of mail delivery, in particular the delivery of cheques, as was mentioned: pension cheques and all other cheques. As was also said, seniors are often the hardest hit; they may not be used to using the Internet or simply cannot afford it.
Once again, my colleagues who live in rural regions have rightly noted that some places in those regions do not have Internet service and that most people are more confident about receiving their cheques through the mail than via the Internet. And yet Canada Post workers had taken steps for cheques to be distributed to the public, but have been unable to make delivery since the lockout. The people affected by this situation are thus in a tenuous financial situation because they still have to pay their bills and rent and buy groceries.
As the members here have also mentioned, the same is also true of small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on Canada Post's services to place and ship orders. I believe the present government is setting a dangerous precedent by interfering with the legitimate right of workers to negotiate with their employer. This government's priority, which has been clearly and expressly stated, is the greater interests of the economy.
I rise to speak about the best interests of people, of Canadians, of workers. It is should be remembered that the economy is not an end but rather a means to an end, which helps us organize our society and promote a fair division of our country’s wealth. We must have income security, security for the future, security for retirees, and for our youth as they enter the labour market, so that they too have access to benefits, pensions and programs including disability insurance, and insurance in case of injury or other misfortune.
I do not understand why this government, which talks about standing up for the best interests of the economy would, alongside Canada Post, lock out workers. The government’s own actions have jeopardized the best interests of the economy that it cares so much about.
I do not believe that this government interference in a legitimate bargaining process is consistent with the role assigned to us. This legislation is going to favour the employer at the expense of employees, who will be deprived of the opportunity to negotiate. Moreover, the government has taken it upon itself to diminish wage conditions previously proposed by the employer. The vested rights of postal workers are at stake here: retirement plans, disability insurance programs, working conditions and wage conditions.
Canada is recognized for its quality of life and social values, which make it possible for all Canadians to access programs and benefits that are the envy of many a country. This helped Canada weather the economic turmoil of recent years. This government’s actions are, in our opinion, a “Walmarting” of employment and lead to low wages, job insecurity, and a chipping away of benefits. This government’s actions bring us yet another step closer to the US model.
Can we not learn from Americans by not repeating their mistakes? Our Canadian society is based on a system where inequalities are less profound than in the United States where there are glaring disparities including huge gaps between the rich and the poor. As a Canadian and Quebecker, I want to stand up for the values of a fair and just society. I want to stand up for the rights of workers, the right to negotiate to improve conditions, so that each and every one of us may benefit.