Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg—Transcona.
I thank my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois for his very good comments. We agree with just about everything he has said. It is good that the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP stand in solidarity together in the House today to defend workers rights. This has truly been an historic day in terms of back to work legislation.
I would like to speak on several aspects of the back to work legislation, Bill C-24. I want to deal with the question of why the legislation became necessary in the first place. Back to work legislation would not have even been contemplated if the government had the political will and the principle to make the collective bargaining process work.
If the government were committed to Canada Post as a public corporation, we would not be here today debating this very draconian back to work legislation.
As we learn more about what has happened, what has really taken place in the last few weeks and months and now during the nine days of the strike, it becomes clearer and clearer that the minister and the government have had a secret agenda. The direction of the government has been toward back to work legislation.
There is no question that all of us as parliamentarians have heard the very deep concern from our constituents, from businesses, from pensioners, and from other Canadians who rely on the very necessary public service of Canada Post. We understand those concerns.
Why has the situation deteriorated so badly? Why are we now in a state of affairs where the government has rushed forward with back to work legislation?
The fundamental role and mandate of Canada Post are at issue. The government has created a financial and management crisis. When we look at the evidence we see that the government has demanded Canada Post to pay dividends or, let us say it, to pay profits. This public corporation must pay profits of over $200 million over five years.
This flies in the face of what the government said in 1990 when in opposition. At that time it said that Canada Post should be instructed to generate only operating profits necessary to meet its own capital investment needs required to maintain and improve services. That is what the Liberals said in 1990 when they were defending and supporting a public corporation, but now they have changed their tune.
To understand the government's real agenda is to understand why we are here tonight faced with the legislation. My colleagues and I suggest that the government is setting the stage for further privatization. It is deliberately setting the stage to allow Canada Post to be run into the ground. The government has demanded high profits and has already created a two tier system of mail delivery.
For example, we have all witnessed the tragedy of Canada Post. It has closed over 1,700 public post offices in rural areas and 175 public post offices in urban areas. We have already seen the massive privatization that has taken place.
The government is deliberately destabilizing the credibility of the corporation to create a political environment to undermine Canada Post workers and to move forward on its agenda of privatization.
Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have a legitimate interest to protect the jobs of their members and to secure full time work.
Is it not strange that parliamentarians, including the members of the government, profess concern about high unemployment? Members of CUPW are fighting tooth and nail to retain jobs in a critical Canadian public service. What do they get? They get legislation that slams them, legislation that ties the hands of an arbitrator to force feed the government's agenda. To add insult to injury the legislation imposes a wage settlement that is actually less than what was on the bargaining table.
The legislation is very draconian and has fines of $50,000 and even $100,000 per day. We have to stop blaming workers. We have to demand that the government act responsibly as an employer. It has already shown that it does not care about pay equity after 13 years. Now it has abandoned collective bargaining as well in its drive to destabilize Canada Post at the expense of workers.
It is essential for the government to seriously address the longstanding grievances of Canada Post and support the development of a positive labour-management climate designed to bring stability to the corporation and its workers.
The back to work legislation is draconian. It is heavy handed and shows the government's real agenda. Our amendment today has been a real effort to bring some fairness to the legislation. In the final analysis we in the NDP reject the back to work legislation. We support the rights of workers to collective bargaining and to strike. We also support the development of a healthy public corporation and the best postal service for all Canadians.