That Bill C-525 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
That Bill C-525, in Clause 4, be amended
(a) by replacing line 14 on page 2 with the following:
“employee who claims to represent at least 50%”
(b) by replacing line 26 on page 2 with the following:
“50% of the employees in the bargaining unit”
That Bill C-525, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing line 39 on page 2 with the following:
“the application, at least 50% of the employees”
That Bill C-525, in Clause 8, be amended
(a) by replacing line 17 on page 4 with the following:
“sent at least 50% of the employees in the”
(b) by replacing line 28 on page 4 with the following:
“any person claiming to represent at least 50% of”
(c) by replacing line 42 on page 4 with the following:
“50% of the employees in the bargaining unit no”
That Bill C-525, in Clause 11, be amended by replacing line 11 on page 6 with the following:
“least 50% of the employees in the bargaining”
That Bill C-525, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing line 23 on page 6 with the following:
“subsection 94(1), at least 50% of the employees”
He said: Mr. Speaker, I want to start this debate with a quotation from Mr. Chris Riddell, who in 2001 published an article in the Canadian Journal of Economics entitled “Union Suppression and Certification Success”. He wrote:
Clearly, if a government is opposed to unionization it can accomplish such an agenda through instituting compulsory elections.
That is exactly what the right-wing, ideological, anti-worker, anti-union current government is trying to do with Bill . Bill C-525 would impose a secret ballot every time workers wanted to organize to defend their rights and improve their working and living conditions in general.
We have a card-check system that is simple, works well for the workers, and creates no problems at all.
I will demonstrate to members here tonight that the changes brought forward by the member would create an environment in which it would be much more difficult to institute or create new unions. As such, it would lower living and working conditions for a lot of Canadians. It is sad, because I think the bill would put us much closer to an American model than a Canadian model, which is based on sharing and fairness.
Thanks to pressure by people and workers across the country and strong opposition by the NDP, we managed to get rid of all the ludicrous, absolutely absurd things in Bill .
At first, this bill was so anti-union that people who abstained from voting on whether or not they wanted to have a union at their workplace would be deemed to have voted against forming a union. When it came to dismantling the union, then it was the opposite.
The ideological bias was so inflated that the government felt that those who abstained from voting were voting in favour of dismantling the union. Fortunately, the NDP managed to get the government to listen to reason and the government backed down. We got the government to back down and return to a voting system, which we are not entirely sure is necessary, because it opens the door to shady practices by the employer, including bullying, threats and blackmail.
At least the votes that will be counted are the ones in the box and not the ones of the people who stayed home. The system is like what we do for federal and provincial elections, according to the rules that govern our election to the House.
We avoided catastrophe, but the fact remains that this bill goes against the NDP's principles and values. The NDP wants to help people organize and improve their working conditions, not put up obstacles.
Just now, when I was speaking in English, I said that this bill would put us much closer to an American model and is a departure from the fair and equitable society that has been the trademark of Canada and Quebec for years.
I would like to quote a very interesting document from the Confédération des syndicats nationaux:
Why did the provincial and federal legislators provide in their respective labour codes that the choice of belonging to a union would be determined by signing a membership card instead of by secret ballot? [It is simple.] To avoid having employers interfere by intimidating their employees into giving up on forming a union.
The tools available to the two opposing parties can have a huge impact on the result of a vote by secret ballot. How can a union that is just being formed claim to have tools that are just as effective in winning the vote as those of an employer or a group of employees supported by the employer?
...What is more, will these employees be able to campaign at the workplace without the risk of sanctions being imposed, when those who are anti-union will clearly benefit from the support or at least the supportive tolerance of the employer?
In short, a real pre-vote campaign cannot be run on a level playing field, and its results will not truly represent the individual choice of each employee involved.
I will stop quoting there and say that signing a card is an important gesture. By so doing, workers confirm that they belong to an organization and that they want to be represented by that organization, which will negotiate a contract that will ensure that their rights will be respected and their working conditions will improve. It is a gesture that is just as meaningful and legitimate as a vote by secret ballot.
We are beginning to see here how obstacles can be put in the way of employees who, with good reason, want to organize to negotiate a collective agreement.
It is interesting to read in the CSN document the opinions of those involved on the issue of an employer's potential interference in the certification process.
I would like to read a quote from the May 16, 2005, edition of Le Devoir. Louis Morin, a former Labour Court judge and the former president of the Quebec labour relations commission, stated:
At no time in my career have I ever met a single employer who was happy to hear that a union was being formed. Sometimes they had very strong reactions to this news. Is it more democratic for workers to vote against unionization after the employer has threatened them with the closure of the business, the loss of their rights and so on than for them to have signed a membership card even if they were persistently asked to do so?
This is someone with experience, the former head of the Quebec labour relations commission, who is saying that the card system works well. That is why the NDP believes that we should maintain the existing system. It works well and allows Canada to have a much higher rate of unionization than the United States.
We will see later that this has an economic impact on workers, their families and all communities because it injects money into small businesses, towns, cities and all of our communities.
In a 2001 article entitled Union organizing under neutrality and card check agreements, Adrienne Eaton and Jill Kriesky said that employers used fewer unfair practices when card checks were used.
If a union is not always present in a workplace and the employer uses blackmail or promises promotions or particular positions if people campaign for its side, there is no balance of power. The employee's choice will not be fair and informed, and the employee will not be free from intimidation or threats from the employer. This kind of climate can destroy labour relations and can be emotionally traumatic for the employees.
That is what Adrienne Eaton and Jill Kriesky said. These authors even said 50% fewer employers run an anti-union campaign if card checks are used. When cards are signed, there are fewer unfair practices and anti-union campaigns. Furthermore, the number of successful union certifications seems to rise when there is a card check system and a neutrality agreement with the employer.
I have about eight other experts I could quote about the effects in British Columbia and Ontario. The number of attempts to unionize decreased, and their success rate dropped by 20% to 30% in most cases, even though unions offer a clear advantage.
On average, a unionized worker earns $4.97 more per hour than a non-unionized worker. The benefit is even greater for women. A unionized woman earns $6.65 more per hour than a non-unionized woman. If we were to take that additional money out of the economy, if we were to undo all of the collective bargaining that led to wage increases, the Canadian economy would lose $786 million a week. That is a big deal.
That is why the NDP will continue to push for a healthy work environment as well as for opportunities for all workers to organize and improve their working conditions, since that is how we create a more united, fair and egalitarian society and a better place to live.
Mr. Speaker, I can understand your confusion on this particular issue in calling for questions and comments, because usually the first person to speak to a private member's bill is the person presenting it or a member from that party, but obviously, because of this legislation, it started off with the opposition because there is no one on the government side who is interested in addressing it. That is probably because it is so egregious. It is probably because during the course of the hearings, we saw nothing to substantiate the necessity of this legislation. I am sure my colleague from the NDP must have been surprised as well to be the first guy on deck to speak to this bill.
No, I was not surprised.
Mr. Rodger Cuzner: My colleague was not surprised, Mr. Speaker.
Canadians know that the current government has no respect for due process or evidence-based legislation. Just like the unfair elections act, Bill is another example of this. We are debating a bill that has no evidence to support it, while anyone and everyone who has a stake in labour relations is saying this is a horrible way to make labour laws in this country.
I believe that for labour laws to work in the interests of both the employees and the employers, they need to be fair and balanced. They also need to be legitimized through a consultative and consensus-based process with stakeholders that is based on real evidence.
From Bill last year to the changes to the definition of “danger” in last fall's omnibus bill and now with Bill , the government has been using every opportunity and means to pass labour laws that are based on ideology instead of evidence through backdoor means instead of open, transparent, and consultative ones.
The sponsor of this bill, my colleague from Wetaskiwin, has defended the need for this bill on a mountain of complaints regarding union coercion of workers during union certification campaigns.
In his second reading speech he said:
When we hear one person complain about the actions of union organizers, that can be dismissed as a one-off situation. However when we see the mountain of complaints that end up at the labour relations board, it is concerning to me.
In making a statement like that, especially as a reason to change the fundamental right of how workers can organize, one had better be able to back that statement up with fact.
I think many in this chamber would be surprised, even shocked, to know that when the chairperson of the Canada Industrial Relations Board appeared at committee during a study of the bill, she dropped a bombshell: she said that out of the 4,000 decisions that were rendered by that board, there were only two founded complaints of unfair labour practices by unions in the last 10 years. In fact, she said that there were more founded complaints against employers than against unions. In the 4,000 decisions over 10 years, covering 1.25 million workers, there were only two founded complaints.
Although the government said that this is about protecting the rights of workers, we have not heard from one single worker who supports this bill out of the 1.25 million Canadians who are affected. There has not been a phone call, an email, a petition, or a request from a worker or a working group to appear before our committee to say how they had been wronged because of the current legislation, not a single one.
The question that has to be asked and answered is this: why make a fundamental change to the way workers can organize into a union and change the certification process from a card check to a mandatory vote? Maybe it is because research has proven that the effect of such a move would be to lower unionization rates, something the Conservative Party wants implicitly.
I would like to finally talk about the process or, more to the point, the abuse of due process, of which this bill is a perfect example. Although this bill would fundamentally change how workers can organize, only two committee meetings took place to study this; only two meetings. There were two and a half hours of witness testimony, but in those two and a half hours members heard witness after witness, from both labour and employer groups, saying that using private members' bills to make substantial labour legislation changes was not only wrong but would end up hurting labour relations in the long run.
Hassan Yussuff, secretary-treasurer of the CLC, stated:
Amendments should not be made through private members' bills. They should be made with concerted, pre-legislative consultation that engages employers, unions, and government.
How about the other side, FETCO? John Farrell, executive director of the largest federal employer group, stated:
We believe that the use of private members' bills sets the federal jurisdiction on a dangerous course, where, without adequate consultation or support, unnecessary or unworkable proposals come into law, and the balance, which is so important to the stability of labour relations, is upset. We strongly believe that it is not in the long-term best interests of Canadian employers and their employees, and it has the potential to needlessly impact the economy by destabilizing the basic foundation of union-management relations.
That is two very different sides of the fence both saying the same thing, in very powerful statements.
Mr. George Smith, a labour relations expert and practitioner his entire life, stated:
...we are dealing with a private member's bill to amend a significant section of the Canada Labour Code without any view of how this change will impact overall labour relations policy in the federal sector, without any of the necessary due process and public consultation to examine the intended and unintended consequences to such amendments.
Labour law systems are very complex, and the ones that work well are based on a delicate balance that must be respected if and when reforms are made to them. Short-sighted labour reforms driven by ideology rather than evidence and made without a legitimate consultative process are both disruptive and unsustainable.
I and my party may not always agree with labour on everything, but I believe past Liberal governments have used balanced processes and extensive consultation to make labour reforms. This included retaining Andrew Sims and Professor Harry Arthurs to review Part II and Part III of the Canada Labour Code, as well as conducting extensive consultation with public sector unions prior to the introduction of the Public Service Modernization Act in 2003.
Mr. Sims, in his report, said that if labour laws were to be changed, number one, they should be changed because there was a demonstrated need due to the legislation no longer working or serving the public interest, or number two, it should be done on a consensus basis. I ask members of the House whether they believe Bill meets these criteria or is based on the principles that employers and unions currently respect and agree upon.
Bill would impact thousands of employers and approximately 1.25 million employees in the federal jurisdiction, people who have a right to ensure we as politicians respect principles inherent in creating fair and balanced labour relation laws for them and their employers. I believe it is incumbent on any government, if it plans to make major labour law reforms, that this process be done with a consultative, up-front approach. I and my party will continue to oppose labour legislation that does not meet this standard. That is why I am proud to say my party will not be supporting this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to Bill .
There are a number of reasons why I am opposed to it. I fundamentally disagree with the thrust of the bill. I am also opposed to the process that has been used here.
Let us look at what has been happening here this evening. The government side has had no speakers lined up to speak on this bill. If the government members believe in this bill and are so fundamentally supportive of it, surely they should have had the pride and been able to stand up and say whatever they have to say about this legislation.
There are no government members lined up to speak, and at this very critical stage, there is no debate. The opposition is left to speak on this very important issue.
Once again, it adds to the kind of atmosphere that exists here, that the government believes that since it has a majority, it is going to get its way. It does not have to have members debate the opposition or even pay attention, to see if, through debate, the opposition might make us see a different point of view.
This is a private member's bill that makes fundamental changes to the Canada Labour Code. That is not the intention or the purpose of private members' bills. We do not bring about such fundamental changes. However, this is an example of a government that has an agenda and implements its agenda through private members' business. We have seen this over and over again.
Let us take a look at the process. My colleague across the way who brought this private member's bill forward, which is his right, only appeared for half an hour at committee, and after he had finished speaking for his half hour, he did not even wait to hear the witnesses who had been called to speak on this bill. After his half hour, he left.
When he was asked about consultation, his answer was that he had consulted with his constituents. That was a great idea; we should consult with our constituents. However, we have to note that he did not consult with a single major union, and not the Canada Industrial Relations Board, nor the Canadian Bankers Association, amongst hundreds of others that I could mention.
The member's explanation for not consulting any of the stakeholders was, and I am going to quote it because if I paraphrase nobody is going to believe that this is real: “They've made no effort to consult me”.
Well, how would all those stakeholders have known what this member was working on for a private member's bill? Surely when a member is working on a private member's bill, it behooves the member to go out and do some of that consultation, if not at that time then at a different time.
There has also been a sort of urgency from the government to railroad this piece of legislation through this House. I do not see what the hurry was. I have sat on a number of different committees where we have looked at legislation, heard a number of witnesses, and had a lot of time to debate and go through the legislation, clause by clause.
Let us take a look at the process that was used for this bill. There was half an hour for the member who moved the bill to come to talk to us, and two and a half hours, in total, for witnesses. The Speaker should be outraged to find that the NDP could only call three witnesses. We had hundreds of others chomping at the bit, wanting to present their perspective. That was not a thorough way to look at a bill.
Then, after the total of three hours, there was one additional hour to do all the clause-by-clause. When we look at it, this makes a mockery of the legislative process.
Then, after a total of three hours, there was one additional hour to do all the clause-by-clause. When we look at it, this makes a mockery of the legislative process. This makes a mockery of us as parliamentarians who are being very deliberative and listening to the points of view from expert witnesses from all sides and also from listening from the points that we have to make. We have a system that was actually working. I have not heard any petitions. I did not get people rushing into my riding office saying this bill is necessary or our economic system is about to collapse.
The bill will actually accelerate the race to the bottom. It is another example of the government going after decent-paying jobs in this country. People who have decent-paying jobs actually pay taxes. The government uses those taxes to provide services. Yet, once again, instead of listening to experts and people who actually work in the field, instead of looking at the testimony from the department and from the Labour Relations Board that showed the system is working and is not broken—because we know the Conservatives have an allergy to data and to making decisions based on real information—the government is trying to push this legislation through at rapid speed.
Here is a quote from FETCO, the Federally Regulated Employers–Transportation and Communications branch: “FETCO has serious concerns regarding the use of Private Members’ bills to amend the Canada Labour Code”.
It went on to say that the code we have right now, as set out by Parliament, is “to continue and extend its support to labour and management in their co-operative efforts to develop good relations and constructive collective bargaining practices, and deems the development of good industrial relations to be in the best interests of Canada in ensuring a just share of the fruits of progress to all”.
Of course, we have a government that has an ideology that is not quite built to that. FETCO also talks about how these rules are there and that they exist to provide stability and are constructive, and that they actually act as barriers to the economic impact of conflicts that could arise.
Over the years, this preamble has been adhered to by governments of all stripes, both the Conservatives and my friends over there, the Liberals. However, the government, without any real evidence, has decided that it needs to break the Labour Code.
Mr. George Smith talks about the amazing work done by Andrew Sims who chaired the last series of comprehensive changes. By the way, for full disclosure, he is no relative at all. I am not related to Mr. Sims. His panel did an absolutely amazing job. In the words of Andrew Sims, “We want legislation that is sound, enactable, and lasting”.
Instead, what we have here is a government that is going piecemeal at the Labour Code. The Labour Code and industrial relations are very complex and are made up of many components that all fit together. When a private member's bill is used to insert and dissect parts out of the Labour Code, it opens the door for greater instability in our economy.
I am absolutely upset, putting it mildly, that the government has had such lack of process but not only that; it has refused to engage in meaningful debate in the House, which is very disrespectful. On top of that, Conservatives are really out to get at people who are making decent wages in this country and that is quite shameful.
I am proud to be speaking in opposition to the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I too am proud to be rising today to speak in opposition to this private member's bill. It is unprecedented in that it changes the Canada Labour Code in ways that only a government should. The Canada Labour Code is one of the crown jewels in the legislative mix the government has at its disposal in that it regulates how labour unions and their employers in the federal sphere do business with one another.
We in Canada have an almost unique system of labour relations. If we look at Europe or other parts of the world, the system of labour relations is not governed the way it is in Canada, and to a certain extent, in the United States. However, what drives that is the balancing act that goes on between employees and employers. It is that balance that is being tampered with here by the member's private member's bill. The balance is such that employers and employees have relatively equal weight, particularly in a unionized workplace, to afford themselves the ability to make sure that their working conditions, their level of pay, and the system by which they are hired, fired, kept on, and moved ahead is fair, reasonable, and acceptable to both sides.
Tampering with the Canada Labour Code through a private member's bill sends a bit of a shock wave through the whole labour and management community in our country.
It is not just labour that is opposed to this. We heard the name Mr. George Smith. I sat opposite Mr. Smith in bargaining on a considerable number of occasions. He was on the opposite side of the fence from us. He too is concerned that this is a backdoor way of making changes that have nothing to do with a problem that has developed in the way Canada's labour relations have been conducted. Instead, it is part of an ideological anti-worker drive that has been carried on by the government since at least I have been here, since at least it has had a majority government.
In my first few days as a member of Parliament, we spent quite a few hours here debating whether the government should force an end to a lockout at Canada Post. The government took the position that it should set the wages of Canada Post workers and should return them to the job with a lower wage than the company had already offered. That in itself is an anti-worker position. However, just Monday of this week, the member for told me that Canada Post is an arm's-length agency and the government has nothing to do with it.
They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say on the one hand that Canada Post has nothing to do with the government and is therefore isolated and untouchable and at the same time, two short years ago, force those workers to take a lower wage increase than they had been offered by their employer.
It is part of the government's ideological bent to be anti-worker in our country. I say ideological, because there is no reason to it. Those workers are workers both in union and non-union workplaces.
Following hard on the heels of the Canada Post debacle, we then had the government ordering Air Canada workers, who had not even started a strike, back to work. There was no strike, yet we had a piece of legislation to order them back and to tamper with their collective agreement as well.
Then we had the Canadian Pacific workers. Canadian Pacific is a private corporation. We had the government interfering in that round of bargaining as well.
The government takes a position over and over again that is anti-workers in this country.
Then we had the spectre of the two of the three omnibus bills we have dealt with so far making changes to how workers and their employers manage their relations with one another. In one case, the government changed the holiday provisions of the labour code in an omnibus bill, which was never referred to in the budget but was in the budget implementation act. All of a sudden we find things appearing that are anti-worker and that change the terms and conditions of how they are to deal with employers. It is done in a sneaky way, with a few lines stuck in an omnibus bill that were never signalled, nor was there any complaint from any employers that there was a problem.
Then we had a reduction in the health and safety provisions of federally regulated workers in the next omnibus bill last year. Was there a big hue and cry from employers that they needed this change? There was none. The government just went ahead and did it. And the Conservatives did it because they are ideologically opposed to workers in this country, which is very dangerous.
We had the trying to create some kind of crisis in the workforce that he represents and is the boss of, with his suggestion that the use of sick leave was somehow out of control. It turned out, when the real data came out, that it was not out of control and that there was not a massive problem of dozens of days of sick leave being used. In fact, his so-called averages had included time not paid for and time on long-term disability. So it made no sense, but it was part of the ideological spectrum that we have seen across the aisle.
Today, he gleefully announced that he had managed to wrest $1.7 billion out of these same workers, who will now have less money in their pockets. The Conservatives somehow have now reduced not just the workers', but also the retirees' future expectations of how much money they will have. It is part of the government's agenda to attack workers, to lower their standard of living, to lower their ability to pay for their heating bill of this winter, to pay for their drugs. All of the things that we expect to be able to pay for, the Conservatives have just said we cannot pay for as much as we used to be able to.
In the EI system, the current government has taken another ideological bent against workers. Already we are aware that only 40% of workers in this country can qualify for EI at any given moment. In addition, with the changes the Conservatives brought forward last year to the EI regulations, workers on EI will now have to accept a job paying 30% less than the job they were fired or laid off from. So we are driving down wages yet again with the EI regulations.
It does not have to be this way. We know that unions in this country contribute immensely to the gross domestic product of this country. If we compare unionized and non-unionized workplaces, generally across the country unionized workplaces pay about $5 an hour more than non-unionized ones, which results in about $730 million, nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, a week extra into the economy. Where does that money go? It generally goes to purchases, to keeping a family with heat and light and clothing, to managing children's day care. All of these things that ordinary Canadians expect to be able to do, they are better able to do in a unionized workplace than a non-unionized one. Women do even better than that, having an average wage of $6 an hour more as a result of being in a unionized workplace.
So what is this bill attempting to do? It is attempting to make it more difficult to be in a unionized workplace. We have seen lots of statistics showing that is exactly what these changes would do. They would make it more difficult to start a union in the first place, and in workplaces where the unionized workforce decides to remove the union, it would make it easier to remove the union by lowering the threshold at which a vote must be taken.
Those of us who have done this work in the past know that once a vote is taken and that process is commenced, the employer starts to put pressure on the employees. The employer starts to use unfair and illegal intimidation tactics, which I have experienced, pressuring employees to vote against a union. That is precisely why we have card-check certification in this country, to avoid those intimidation and other pressure tactics by employers to force people to turn away from a union. Why do employers not like unions? It is because they know that unions do better for their workers, not because they hurt the workplaces themselves.
I look forward to voting against this bill when it comes up for a vote.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of many people who would have liked to speak to this bill. I will try to use my time wisely tonight to share with the House both my point of view and that of a union that is close to my heart. I am fortunate to be the NDP deputy critic for public safety. It being such a large file, one that includes police services, the RCMP and federal penitentiaries, I have the opportunity to meet exceptional people who work day in and day out to keep us safe. I salute them.
I salute the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, the UCCO-SACC, which does outstanding work every day to protect us and to make our communities, our cities and our towns safe. Their work is incredibly important for public safety because they ensure that we are safe and that those detained in our prisons are as well. These people put their lives on the line every day. I work closely with them to ensure that their voices are heard in Parliament and that we understand what they face on a daily basis.
Until recently, there were three federal penitentiaries in my riding of Laval: the Leclerc Institution, the Montée Saint-François Institution and the Federal Training Centre. Unfortunately, as a result of a Conservative government decision, the Leclerc Institution was shut down last year. We still do not understand why, though, because there was a need for it, especially in light of the implications of Bill , the omnibus bill implemented by that same Conservative government.
These people are incredible workers. I worked closely with Diderot at the Leclerc Institution, who is now at the Federal Training Centre. I often work with Michel and Manon, the union representatives at the Montée Saint-François Institution and the Federal Training Centre. I know that they work hard to keep us safe. A lot happens inside our prisons that goes unmentioned. No one talks about double-bunking, which puts the work and lives of our correctional officers in danger every day. No one talks about workers' safety, the new workload resulting from the implementation of Bill , the restrictive measures or the budget cuts in our federal penitentiaries. That affects them greatly.
I would like to point out that “federal penitentiaries” means “federal employees”. Bill affects them directly. I would like to quote their position on Bill C-525:
Bill C-525: an attack on union democracy. Bill C-525 is the [Conservative] government's attack on the very existence of unions in job sectors governed by the Canada Labour Code, including the federal public service, which governs the job rules for 800,000 Canadian workers. Dressed up as a way to increase union democracy by the party that brought us robocalls, voter suppression, election-expense violations and the Senate scandal, the bill in fact does exactly the opposite.
I could not agree more with the UCCO-SACC. They go on to say:
[The] Conservative MP [for] Wetaskiwin introduced the so-called Employee’s Voting Rights Act as a private member’s bill...
Important to note is the fact that private member’s bills are not subject to constitutional verification by Justice department lawyers—as are government bills—to see if they conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is no doubt one reason why the [Conservative] government prefers to introduce oppressive legislation of this sort via private member’s bills.
In the case of Bill C-525, [the Conservative government] is attacking our fundamental right of association by making certification of new unions much more difficult, and conversely, the decertification of existing unions much easier.
The bill does so by adding another, unnecessary, step to the tried-and-true method of the card-check system, which opens the process up to employer intimidation. The government’s anti-democratic habits come to the fore in this part of Bill C-525. It will only require a minority of members (45%) to initiate a decertification vote overseen by the Canada Labour Board, which, you will recall from a previous tract, will now be politicized under Bill C-4.
Incredibly, Bill C-525 flies in the face of basic democratic principles by requiring that 50% plus one of all employees [and I would like to add that the principle of 50% plus one forms the very foundation of our society in our electoral system], not just those who participate in the ballot, vote in favour of the union. In other words, those who choose not to vote, or who are unable to vote, would be counted as votes against the union in certification or decertification votes.
It is incredible to think that a piece of legislation would determine the meaning of the votes of people who do not vote or who cannot be present to vote for some reason or another. In a federal, provincial or municipal election, when someone does not vote, it does not mean that he or she is voting for someone; it simply means that he or she did not vote. This decision is appalling. My quote continues:
Those who are ill, vacationing or have family emergencies may be in favour of having a union, but will be considered as No votes.
This legislation is only one part of a series of attacks by the [Conservative] government intended to weaken the labour movement and the ability of workers to organize themselves in their workplace. The process of signing membership cards is the best way to protect workers from the pressure tactics of some employers. To impose a vote is to open the door to threats and intimidation. Studies have demonstrated that the government’s proposed process leads to a 10% to 20% decrease in union membership where it has been adopted.
I would like to thank all UCCO-SACC members across Canada. I would especially like to thank the Laval members, whom I know very well: union representatives Manon and Michel. They are doing an incredible job of standing up for workers' rights and the safety of their workplace.
All three of us talked about this at length. I know that they strongly oppose this bill. I am proud to be their voice in the House today. It is incredible to think that a government like the one opposite, which constantly says it wants to protect our communities, is not helping the workers in federal penitentiaries. That is ridiculous.
I am going to talk about more than just the fact that this is going to affect conditions for unions in federal detention centres. Bill touches on other aspects. I would like to cite some statistics for my colleagues opposite that might change their minds. Perhaps they will vote against Bill C-525.
Better wages negotiated by unions inject approximately $786 million into the Canadian economy every week. That is a lot of money. If we have so much money pouring into the economy, it is because of workers who got together and decided to form a union. I would like to thank them today.
Furthermore, as a woman, I am proud to say that unionized women make $6.65 more per hour than non-unionized women. That is huge.
I know that my colleague from wanted to talk about the World Bank, but unfortunately did not have the time to do so in his speech. Therefore, in closing, I will talk briefly about the World Bank and its views on unions.
The World Bank has pointed out the positive role unions play in domestic economies. In a 2002 document based on more than 1,000 studies of the impact of unions on domestic economies, 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.
We should all vote against Bill , which is clearly an insult to workers' rights.
Mr. Speaker, the only thing about this bill that I am somewhat satisfied with is the title. For once, the title actually reflects the content of the bill. Indeed, this bill seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act.
However, although I derive a small amount of satisfaction from the bill's title, the rest of the bill is unacceptable, particularly since it is completely hypocritical for the government to try to pass this legislation in the form of a private member's bill. This is comparable to what we saw in 2010, when some little-known Conservative member from western Canada sought to exclude long guns from the firearms registry by introducing a bogus private member's bill. Once the government got its majority, it used a government bill to make this sort of amendment.
At the time, to me that was a great cause for indignation. I had even written an op-ed piece in the media as an NDP candidate in the previous two elections. I was upset that analysts, who are supposed to know a thing or two about politics, were pushing the late Jack Layton to take a stand and have someone force people to vote along party lines on a private member's bill, in complete disregard for the traditions of this House and the parliamentary system we have inherited.
Fortunately, my former leader, Jack, showed leadership and allowed a free vote. He also managed to convince a number of my colleagues to change the way they had voted at previous stages in order to defeat that bill. I have such a great memory of that and, in fact, I would like to pay tribute to my late leader in that regard.
I would like to talk about something else that this bill affects. The changes to the rules that apply to the Labour Code, union membership and how unions operate are going to skew the rules and even give an undue advantage to certain players in our economic environment.
I had the honour of serving on the Standing Committee on International Trade and the Standing Committee on Finance. I can attest to the fact that the market always works. It is important to understand the conditions under which it works and how the usual market trends shift when there are no rules and we allow the players to act as they see fit. This usual trend was easy to see in the past. The multi-billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, is a prime example. He almost had a monopoly, the ultimate accomplishment for any economic player who wants to achieve real security.
Unions, governed by fair rules, act as a counterbalance to this concentration of power and the undue influence of a handful of individuals who, even alone, can shift the rules of the game in their favour. In the next five minutes I have, I will talk about my personal experience as a former unionized worker, and a non-unionized worker, in both the public and private sectors.