Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2016-09-23 10:03 [p.5019]
There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
moved that 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, be concurred in at report stage.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2016-09-23 10:04 [p.5019]
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be here once again to speak to the House about this legislative package, which would help all Canadians, businesses, and workers. That is really the ultimate purpose of the bill, to reduce conflict and ensure that our economy will be working as harmoniously as possible so that we can create jobs and have a healthy, strong economy, which is what every single member of the House is working toward.
This is the final reading of Bill C-4.
Our relations with the labour movement are not based on conflict, and should not be. Rather, the solution and the best approach is collaboration. We believe in co-operation with the labour movement because it benefits all Canadians. This was a promise that our leader made last year during the election campaign and introduced through the legislation known as Bill C-4. We believe that our system of open negotiations serves in the interests of both the employer and the employee, as was clearly evident in the recent negotiations between Canada Post and CUPW.
The bill not only is a significant step forward, it also has a strong symbolic value. It sends the message that a partnership, rather than adversity, is now the basis of our relationship. Our government takes an approach to labour relations that is based on collaboration, respect, and engagement, not the Conservative approach. We believe in fairness and justice for Canadians.
Truth be told, the labour movement has been an essential building block for a stable and strong economy, which we have now in our country, as well as a fair and inclusive society. The labour movement provides a collective voice for workers in their negotiations with employers. Unions have had a historical concern for the interests of the middle class, whether they are members or not, and strive for fair wages for all workers. They have been instrumental, in fact they have been central, in the movement to achieve fairness for women in the workplace, for indigenous workers, for workers with disabilities, and for all workers across this land.
This is in harmony with our values and our thinking as a government. This is also in harmony with our values and thinking as Canadians. This is why we believe our labour laws should be balanced and fair. Why have we put so much effort into this piece of legislation? Simply stated, we wanted to restore fairness and balance in labour relations because it has been missing for the previous 10 years.
The objective of Bill C-4 is to repeal the legislative changes brought in by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 and supported by the previous government and delivered via a backdoor, sneaky approach to governing. The situation is very straightforward. These two bills upset the balance that has been carefully maintained for years. They upset a balance that ensured fair treatment for employers and workers, and that served as a solid foundation for collective bargaining and for our economy.
I do not mind calling this what it is. Those bills were anti-union legislation, and we would now correct the state of affairs.
During the committee hearings, we heard from a number of key stakeholders who provided specifics about the serious flaws in Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. For example, we consider the fact that Bill C-377 forces labour organizations and labour trusts to provide very detailed financial information such as expenses, assets, debts, salaries of certain individuals, and other information to CRA. This private information would then be publicly available on that website.
They would also have to provide details on the time spent on political and lobbying activities, as well as any activities not directly related to labour relations. Thankfully, the Minister of National Revenue has already taken steps to suspend these obligations in 2016, while Parliament has been examining Bill C-4.
We must all understand that if this key financial information, including strike funds, were made public, these measures would put unions at a huge disadvantage, because employers are not required to publicly disclose similar financial information. It is totally unfair and unbalanced.
As well, Bill C-377 imposes a large financial and administrative burden on labour organizations and labour trusts, information that is not required from others. Why would unions be the only ones forced to comply with these requirements while other organizations, including professional organizations, would be exempt? Frankly, it is difficult to see how that legislation could actually benefit hard-working Canadians.
Some think that Bill C-377 was necessary to improve fiscal transparency. They say that it was necessary to guarantee public access to information. I fail to see the link between Bill C-377 and transparency. The rules contained in Bill C-377 are one-sided and discriminate against unions, and they upset the balance in labour relations. They add nothing to the current regime.
We already have legislation in place to ensure that unions are financially accountable to their members at both the federal and provincial levels. For example, section 110 of the Canada Labour Code requires unions and employer organizations to provide financial statements to their members upon request and free of charge. This is more than sufficient to ensure that both parties can negotiate in balanced conditions.
We knew from the onset that Bill C-377 was unnecessary and redundant. Not only does it disadvantage unions during collective bargaining, it is also an impediment to the bargaining process itself.
This brings me to Bill C-525. This bill has made changes to the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, and affects how unions are certified and decertified. It replaces the previous card check system with a mandatory vote system, despite the fact that the traditional system worked well for decades and there was little pressure to change it. In fact, the Conservatives hide the evidence in a labour department report that showed the success of the card check approach. It is shameful.
Bill C-525 makes it harder for unions to be certified as collective bargaining agents and makes it easier for bargaining agents to be decertified. However, it is not just a problem for unions. Consider the implications to the Canada Industrial Relations Board and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. These boards are responsible for the full cost and logistic responsibilities involved in holding representation votes.
Under these changes, the Canada Industrial Relations Board is required to hold a vote to certify a union, not just in roughly 20% of the cases where less than a majority of workers have signed union cards but in all cases. That translates into roughly five times the board's current workload. Unions now have to obtain support from 40% of workers before a mandatory secret ballot vote can be held. That is a great way to ensure that the unionization process is as complicated as possible.
Perhaps more alarmingly, the changes would also mean that the process is more susceptible to employer interference. During our committee hearings, Dr. Sara Slinn, associate professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, agreed.
She stated:
Employees require greater protection from employer interference under a vote system. These include access to expedited unfair labour practice procedures and more substantial interim remedies, but such necessary protections were not provided by Bill C-525.
It is evident that Bill C-525 does not represent a positive contribution to labour relations in Canada, not to mention that it is simply not necessary. The card check certification process that had been in place in the federal jurisdiction for decades worked well. We see no need to change that.
Bill C-4 represents the kind of positive contribution we want to see and that Canadians deserve. This action to repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 is part of a larger effort to repair damaged relationships with those who are producing prosperity and quality of life for Canadians.
Our premise is simple on this side: we know that working people are not the enemy. We also know that a backdrop of conflict and mistrust cannot be productive for either side when it comes to reaching agreements.
I am not implying that all is perfectly smooth and that there are not points of contention between us and the labour movement. The point is that discussions must take place on a level playing field and in a setting of respect and transparency.
Canada watched as recent negotiations stalled between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. We were asked if we would get involved and introduce back-to-work legislation. However, we did not go there. We respected the process, and alone, together, Canada Post and CUPW came to a tentative agreement.
We are also seeing this in provincial jurisdictions. Earlier this week, General Motors Canada and Unifor came to their own tentative agreement without any work stoppage.
Our conviction in the collective bargaining process is not misplaced. We are seeing real problems turn into real results through respect at all levels. When we give a little, we get a little.
We know that the labour movement deserves fairness from the federal government, and we have delivered in Bill C-4. This is only one of a number of initiatives we are undertaking to improve the workplace in this country, and we are just getting started.
Not only do we have a focus on fairness, but the fact is that in many respects, we have to get with the times. In this respect, we have pledged to amend the Canada Labour Code to allow workers the right to formally request flex work arrangements from their employers. This will help federally regulated workers balance their professional and personal responsibilities.
We are also working on reforms to facilitate flex parental leave, which will allow parents to create a plan that makes sense for their unique families and workplace circumstances as they expand their families. Both those initiatives are good for the middle class and good for our economy.
We are also putting forward many other measures that will benefit hard-working Canadians and their families. I hope that in both our actions and our words members can see that our government is committed to achieving real results for Canadians.
When it comes to dealings with the labour movement, I am the first to admit that we might not always agree on everything, but it is essential that our larger relationship be based on trust. Our rapport is built on the bedrock of common goals, goals like helping the middle class and those working hard to join it and creating good jobs for hard-working Canadians.
However, there is more to do on many other fronts, including ensuring fair and equitable conditions for workers and building a sustainable economy. Let me remind my hon. colleagues that we can only achieve these goals by having frank and honest discussions about the things that matter, by sticking to our values, and by never forgetting just who we are here to represent.
As I have said before, sound labour relations are essential for protecting the rights of Canadian workers and for helping the middle class grow and prosper.
I thank members for their time and attention and for the ability to put these comments on the record.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2016-09-23 10:20 [p.5021]
Mr. Speaker, I will have the opportunity to make my case shortly, but for now, I want to pick up on something the minister said.
All we know is that Bill C-4 was tabled to kill two former bills that were adopted by the previous legislature, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. The minister referred to those as “backdoor” bills. As far as I am concerned, every bill and every member is a front-door bill and a front-door member. There is no back door here.
I offer the hon. minister the opportunity to rise up and recognize that she has made a mistake. If she will not, would she rise up and recognize that the bill tabled a few weeks ago by the Hon. Mauril Bélanger concerning the national anthem was also a backdoor bill?
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, the reference to a backdoor bill is of course with respect to the way the bill was introduced by the previous government, which was not by the government itself but by a private member and through special negotiations. When it comes to something as significant as a labour relations bill, it is important, for a government position, for it to have brought forward the legislation. That is the point.
We are here to say that our Liberal government is supporting Bill C-4.
View Sheri Benson Profile
NDP (SK)
View Sheri Benson Profile
2016-09-23 10:22 [p.5021]
Mr. Speaker, having fought hard against the Conservative anti-union bills, we on this side of the House welcome the changes tabled by the government today.
I agree with the minister when she mentioned that the rights of working people have been under attack for too long, and the repeal of the Conservative bill is a good first step. Of course, I would remind the government that there is so much more to do. The minister mentioned the need for more reform and that it will be coming.
As the government plans to move forward with labour policy reform, I am wondering why we would review bad legislation that is contentious and unconstitutional. I would ask the minister to immediately repeal all the provisions of the previous government's bill and restore balance and fair collective bargaining for the public service.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, it is true that the previous government had a political agenda to attack the labour movement, which I think was quite unwarranted. It took positions that went well beyond being fair and reasonable; they were ideological and based on political rhetoric rather than on the facts.
We have seen many organizations that have harmonious employer-employee relationships, which results in the company growing. There is no reason to fear the labour movement. In fact, a better way to achieve economic development is to work in partnership with workers, who often have very innovative entrepreneurial ideas that can benefit all companies, including their own.
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Dan Vandal Profile
2016-09-23 10:24 [p.5021]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the minister for her hard work and the committee's hard work on Bill C-4 to restore fairness and balance to the collective bargaining process.
I am wondering if the minister can offer some insight or analysis as to how important fairness and balance is, given the Canada Post negotiations over the last few months. I am wondering if the minister would offer some insight into how important fairness and balance is for labour relations in this country.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I think Canada Post negotiations are a good example of how collective bargaining can work. There was suspicion and resentment at the table, and in fact, for months there had not been any significant movement on finding a deal.
Both sides, I think, in fairness, thought that the government would rush in with back-to-work legislation, as happened under the Conservatives in the last round of negotiating. Once they realized that the government would not be heavy-handed, and indeed that they had to get down to the business of finding a solution, they were able, right to actually past the last minute, with an extension and help from a mediator we brought in, to find a deal.
Those deals are never easy. They are deals of compromise. They are deals where both sides have to give. It proves that collective bargaining works.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2016-09-23 10:26 [p.5022]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Employment and Unifor for her wonderful speech.
We have seen in the House this week the despicable, shameful actions of the Liberal Party paying off its political friends, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.
When we look at Elections Canada, the top 10 third-party spenders were unions supporting this party. How does the minister sit there and not accept that this is just more political payback by Liberals to their friends for supporting them?
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, a little bit of historic reflection might indicate that maybe unions are actually supporting the third party, called the New Democratic Party, much more in terms of their political donations. I am hoping to convince them to start investing in the progressive Liberal Party.
In effect, each and every Canadian can support the political party they choose. We, as our Prime Minister has indicated, want to establish a fair and balanced relationship with the labour movement. Hopefully, we will gain their confidence in the next election.
View Erin Weir Profile
NDP (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2016-09-23 10:28 [p.5022]
Mr. Speaker, certainly working people need access to collective bargaining in the workplace, but they also need access to employment insurance when they are laid off.
Yesterday, Statistics Canada reported EI figures for July, the first month in which extended benefits took effect. As one would expect, that led to an overall increase in the number of beneficiaries across Saskatchewan, except in Regina, which the government excluded from extended benefits, where the number of recipients went down as laid-off workers ran out of benefits.
I did an adjournment debate on this question on Monday. The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and her parliamentary secretary did not show up, so instead I got a response from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, which really did not explain the decision to exclude Regina from extended EI benefits. I am wondering if the minister could let us known why the government is continuing to keep Regina out of extended EI benefits.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, we were very proud to provide extra benefits to those communities and areas that were hit the hardest by the commodities downturn. Both hard rock and soft rock were hit in the last four years.
Regina is an outstanding example of a diversified economy that has resisted some of the most challenging economic situations. Because of its innovative and hard-working prairie spirit, it has done better than most cities. We are all very proud of Regina.
There will always be cases where there is a certain area that is next door to an area that is more impacted that does not get included. I understand that. However, we must celebrate the success Regina has had in terms of a very strong, robust economy.
View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2016-09-23 10:30 [p.5022]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her speech and for correcting the balance that is necessary in this country as it relates to the labour movement and the business community.
I want to remind my colleagues on the opposite side that there is a big discussion going on in different countries around the world, one being Brexit and the other the U.S., as it relates to the benefits of certain kinds of agreements vis-à-vis the working person in those countries. The whole objective, from a larger value issue, is the ability of the working man and woman to be able to get good benefits for their labour. Therefore, I commend the minister for doing that, and for the beginnings of a process of making sure that the labour movement plays its historical role here in Canada.
Now, with the structure changing, as the economy shifts and things change, the importance of changing the Canada Labour Code is extremely important. Could the minister maybe give us some insight as to what those changes can be to improve the abilities of working men and women to be in the labour force?
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