Mr. Speaker, since this is my first opportunity to do so, I would like to say thank you very much to the constituents of Hochelaga and wish them a happy national holiday, this June 24. It is not by chance that I am wearing a blue shirt today.
I have a large constituency. It is diverse but, at the same time, it is very much like a village. The name actually comes from an Iroquois village, Hochelaga. I see a lot of neighbours helping each other in the village. There is a lot of imagination. As I was saying, it is diverse. There are middle-class people, but there are also very many people living in poverty, unfortunately.
I firmly intend to listen to them, to address the situations they bring to me as best as I can and to protect their rights. What are the rights of ordinary people? We talk a lot about ordinary people. The following are some examples: decent housing, that goes without saying; access to healthy food, that is where it all starts. In short, they have the right to a decent life.
The government is saying that it wants to protect ordinary people—that same term again—by forcing the Canada Post workers to go back to work. It seems to exclude postal workers from the ordinary people category.
The government is also accusing the opposition of wanting to protect these workers, Canada Post workers. These people are cousins, sisters and neighbours. Everyone here knows people who work at Canada Post. These are ordinary people. They are no different from the rest of the population, except for the fact that they are lucky enough not to have to go alone before their boss to ask for a day off to, for example, accompany their child on a school trip. Indeed, it can be intimidating to have to meet one's boss alone to ask him for things like that.
Why do postal workers enjoy that benefit? It is because they got together and they have a body to represent them, namely their union. What do those bad union people do on a day to day basis? We, workers, spend 33% of our time at work. Come to think of it, that is a lot of time. One third of our day is spent at work. The union is there to ensure that the environment in which we spend all that time is adequate.
What do union people do when a new collective agreement must be negotiated? First, union members democratically appoint a negotiating committee. A vote is held. So, a choice is already being made by members. The committee then makes inquiries, asks questions to members and sends questionnaires. It does all these sorts of things to see what improvements could be made. Then, it prepares a document listing all the demands and submits it to members. Again, there is a vote. This is a democratic process. Moreover, and this is important, members are asked to set priorities. They are asked what is most important to them and how they will react if the committee does not succeed in getting one thing or another. So, when the committee enters into negotiations, it already knows what the members' priorities are. It then sets out to negotiate those priorities, while knowing what members are prepared to accept or not.
The Conservatives also often accuse us of hurting ordinary people and small businesses by opposing the back-to-work legislation. Let us clarify things once again. Some workers were engaged in rotating strikes. The mail was still being delivered. Some employees were prepared to deliver cheques to retirees and to people on welfare. Again, the mail would have been delivered. However, the employer ordered a lockout and the mail could no longer be delivered. It is not workers who are preventing the mail from being delivered, it is the employer. The employees even said they will return to work if the employer puts an end to the lockout.
I am now going to deal with a few demands. Canada Post wants different working conditions to apply to new employees. For example, someone who is hired next month will earn 18% less than someone who was hired last month.
Let us say that I work at a job and the person next to me does exactly the same work.
I was hired in July, while the other person was hired in May or June. I will earn 82% of the other person's salary for doing exactly the same work, even though he has held his job for just a month or two less than I have. That is discriminatory and unfair.
Moreover, new employees are often young people who are joining the labour force. It is already hard for young people to support their families, but it is going to be even more difficult.
Let us now talk about salary increases. Canada Post has offered 1.9%, 1.9%, 1.9% and 2%. The government has lowered these increases to 1.75%, 1.5%, 2% and 2%. Meanwhile, between 1997 and 2010, the CEO's salary increased by a yearly average of 2.2%. If we include performance bonuses, we get 3.8% on a $600,000 salary. That is significantly more money than 1.5% or 2% on an annual salary of $35,000 or $40,000. So there is a great injustice here.
This is a government that, in my opinion, uses its majority for disgraceful purposes. That is why NDP members have decided to spend the night in this House, and that is why those who are from Quebec are not with their constituents to celebrate the national holiday. We have principles and we are going to stand up for them to the very end.