Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today in support of the government's Bill C-5, one of a number of actions that the government has taken to restore the trust and confidence in our collective bargaining system in our country.
The bill goes to the heart of what we, as a government, believe in, which is collaborative, constructive relations with bargaining agents. It is a bill that highlights our belief that a balanced system of labour relations is the best one in a fair democracy.
This bill will repeal Division 20 of Bill C-59, passed in 2015.
Bill C-59 was the last omnibus budget bill introduced by the former government. It gave the government the power to circumvent the collective bargaining process and to unilaterally impose a new sick leave regime on public servants.
To be more precise, it gave the Treasury Board the legal authority to do the following in the core public administration: first, establish and modify the terms and conditions of employment related to the sick leave of employees despite the content of the Public Service Labour Relations Act that was negotiated in good faith in bargaining agreements; second, establish a short-term disability plan; and third, modify the long-term disability programs.
In other words, it gave the government the authority to ignore the existing Public Service Labour Relations Act in order to put in place a new sick leave and short-term disability program without the support or agreement of the bargaining agents representing public service employees. That is what we have been speaking about in this debate. It serves to undermine the good faith that government needs to earn in its bargaining with its public servants and their representatives.
As members may know, the Public Service Labour Relations Act was initially passed in 1967 to give public servants the right to unionize and to negotiate collective agreements.
It is vital that the parties work collaboratively and that the ability of the public service to serve and to protect the government be enhanced. That is obvious.
Bill C-59 sought to give the government the power to unilaterally impose a short-term disability plan if an agreement was not reached.
Unilateral measures are not collaborative measures. They do not foster good will or respect.
That is why we objected to these measures when they were introduced, and that is why we are here today repealing the legislation tabled by the previous government.
Federal employees are Canadians like us, who, each and every time they come to work, do so in service to Canada and Canadians, with the goal of improving or protecting the lives of their fellow citizens. They are the people who protect the integrity of our ecosystems by collecting the data and science that is needed to make the decisions, the people who issue our passports when we travel, who inspect high-risk foreign vehicles to ensure our ports stay safe and our waters clean, who work in the local post office, who ensure the safety of our food and the security of our borders.
However, in the past decade, a good number of fundamental labour rights that were hard won by workers and unions have been rolled back.
We need only look at Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which make union certification more difficult and decertification easier, and which would require unions to comply with demanding requirements for financial reporting.
These bills were passed without the usual consultation of employer, union and government when labour relations legislation is amended.
These are some of the measures the members opposite have been speaking about that we are committed to repealing.
The previous government did not follow the negotiation process and made it much more difficult for unions and employers to bargain collectively in good faith and work collaboratively in the interest of Canadians. In contrast, we believe in negotiations to achieve settlements that are both fair for public servants and for taxpayers. Threatening bargaining agents through a bill is not a basis for constructive negotiations.
We started by introducing a bill to repeal Bill C-377. That bill created unnecessary red tape for unions, requiring them to submit detailed financial information to the Canada Revenue Agency, including on non-labour relations activities. We also introduced legislation to repeal Bill C-525, which made it more difficult for employees to organize and negotiate collective agreements.
The President of the Treasury Board also committed to repealing the unfavourable provisions of Bill C-4, another omnibus budget bill passed in 2013, which sought to limit the ability of unions to represent their employees.
These are the important measures we have taken to restore fairness and balance in Canada's labour laws.
Let me sum up our responsible reasons for introducing Bill C-5. The bill would repeal the law that gives the government the power to unilaterally impose a new sick leave system on federal employees without collaboration or consultation.
During the election campaign, we committed to restoring fair and balanced labour legislation that recognizes the important role of unions in Canada.
We respect the collective bargaining process and we will bargain in good faith. We will work to negotiate collective agreements that are fair and reasonable for both public service employees and Canadians.
We want to restore balance, so that neither the employer, who represents the public, nor the union, which bargains for employees, has an unfair advantage in labour negotiations.
That is the system that best serves a just society. That is the system that will attract young millennials into our public service. That is the system in which we all exercise our responsibilities to ourselves, our communities, and to others. That is the system that best serves Canadians.