Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Essex.
I am pleased to rise in the House to debate Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act. First of all, I would like to indicate that I will be supporting this bill. The NDP strongly opposed the previous Conservative government's attempt to limit the rights of unions and change the rules governing labour relations.
This bill reflects one of the promises made by the NDP during the election campaign. Although I support this bill, I must mention how much work still needs to be done with regard to workers' rights and their working conditions.
The bill restores and respects workers' rights. Like thousands of other people in my riding of Jonquière, I am very proud to have been a part of the labour movement. I was the president of my local chapter for eight years, and I managed it well.
Since we started debating Bill C-4, I cannot help but feel a twinge of sadness about many of the comments I have heard here in the House. For eight years, I was directly accountable to my members at meetings and even at my workplace. I had to deal with some very sensitive issues with my members and defend both long-time and new employees.
At union meetings we had a duty to present our financial statements to members. The same goes for all locals, in all unions. The members themselves must decide whether they agree with the spending their union is doing within their own organization. We must be transparent and accountable to our members. That is enshrined in all of our laws, and all unions must comply.
Over those eight years, I did so and we even implemented an audit system, which also exists in all unions. Our union has an officer to look over all the books and statements. I must say that when there is an anomaly, for example, if an invoice is missing or if an expenditure was left out or made by mistake, we are set straight and we are always accountable to this movement and our members.
Unions and their members do not need a government telling them what to do because they already have their regulations. They already have their own rules, rules that the members voted on either in meetings or in committees that are themselves elected by the members. Transparency is already part of the process, and leaders are accountable to union members every step of the way.
If a worker finds fault with the union's internal processes or the representatives, there is a great organization to handle that: the Canada Industrial Relations Board, the CIRB. The board is there for those people. It is impartial, and it exists to protect workers who feel their rights have been violated. There is even a complaints process. We do not need laws like the ones the Conservatives brought in to dictate how unions should be organized.
The union movement is very happy about Bill C-4, which would repeal the previous government's unfair bills C-377 and C-525. The New Democrats opposed those bills at every stage in the process because they were useless and irresponsible legislative measures that made a mockery of the very ideas of equality and fairness in negotiations between the parties and that undermined people's basic right to free collective bargaining.
It was a partisan assault on the men and women who go to work every day to provide for their families. Those same people voted to elect representatives to the House of Commons to defend their interests.
I was very disappointed that the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent reiterated his support for his party's bills, when he was not even a member for the party at that time.
Blaming the unions for his party's defeat is a little like blaming the groundhog for a longer winter. Ultimately, the workers spoke, and the Conservatives did not have their support, essentially because the Conservatives trampled all over workers' rights.
I would like to provide some direction for my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, since he seems to have lost his way somewhere between Quebec City and Ottawa.
The World Bank found that a high rate of unionization led to greater income equality, lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity, and a quicker response to economic downturns. I think our economy could use a good boost right about now.
The Conservatives put all their eggs in one basket and we are seeing the consequences of that today. Unfortunately, people often forget what the union movement has done for workers: minimum wage, paid overtime, occupational safety standards, parental and maternity leave, paid vacation, and protection from discrimination and sexual harassment.
Just yesterday, we voted for a motion on pay equity moved by the NDP. I thank all the parties who supported the motion. I am still scratching my head about the fact that the Conservatives refused to support our motion, and especially that their leader refused to support our motion, considering that until recently she was the minister of status of women.
Bill C-4 is an excellent first step. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to fix past mistakes, such as the attack on sick leave introduced in the omnibus Bill C-59.
We also have to take a look at what we can improve, beyond the repairs that need to be made because of the Conservatives' bad decisions. It is high time that we modernized some of the outdated provisions of the Canada Labour Code.
It has been almost 60 years since the Canada Labour Code was overhauled. I join with my colleague from Saskatoon West in highlighting the importance of following up on the recommendations of the report released after the 2006 review of the Canada Labour Code.
That follow-up is already overdue. A good number of those recommendations and the vital updates would benefit many workers. For example, take the issues of workplace safety and preventive withdrawal for pregnant women. In Quebec, under the CSST regulations, once women are 26 weeks pregnant they are entitled to preventive withdrawal for their protection and that of their foetus. There is no such provision in the Canada Labour Code. Thus, we still have far to go. We must do more to improve working conditions for our women, our future mothers, and for all workers. Every worker deserves to be protected.
Some workers have a very hard time putting food on the table every day. Therefore, we urge the government to restore the federal minimum wage, to pass anti-scab legislation and to fight for greater pay equity.
I am pleased to have had this time and the opportunity to debate this bill, because the rights of workers across Canada have been violated by the Conservatives' actions.
Unions have many procedures, bylaws and rules. Consequently, this whole movement is already well established.
I see that my time is up, but I could talk a long time about this subject.