Mr. Speaker, our government has gone to considerable lengths to bring about the renewal of Canada Post. We believe it is a uniquely important national institution that will continue to serve all Canadians from coast to coast to coast while also helping small, medium and large businesses thrive at home and abroad.
That mission to serve Canadians is at the heart of the new vision for renewal I had the honour to put forward earlier this year. This renewed direction took into consideration the evidence and perspectives gathered during the comprehensive review launched in May 2016, including the work of the independent task force, the report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, and input from Canadians.
I know the employees of Canada Post remain deeply committed to serving Canadians. They work hard every day to do exactly that. Our new vision for renewal is forward-looking, not nostalgic. We believe Canada Post and its dedicated employees will be serving Canadians for decades to come. Therefore, they must continue to innovate and adapt to the rapidly changing expectations of their customers and a competitive, dynamic business environment.
To create the foundation needed for renewal, we put in place new leadership with a mandate to implement that vision in collaboration with employees and their union representatives. In addition, this leadership is part of our work to incorporate greater diversity and broader perspectives within the corporation, including those of labour.
The new leadership has made significant efforts over recent months to reorient the relationship between the corporation and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in particular. On some fronts, progress has been made. Decisive actions have been taken to address some long-standing issues such as bullying and harassment.
The two parties worked hard to engage in a respectful dialogue on the need to work together to renew Canada Post. This dialogue is set to continue in the coming months and years, once a new collective agreement is signed.
Despite considerable efforts, this work has not yet translated into success at the bargaining table. My colleague, the , has exhausted every means to assist the parties to reach a fair resolution, and still no deal has occurred. We are at the point of placing in jeopardy Canada Post's ability to deliver for Canadians during the crucial holiday season. The scale of the backlog in the national network caused by rotating strikes over the past several weeks is significant. It will take some time to clear that backlog, especially as volumes are ramping up dramatically.
What we have seen to date is about to be amplified as we enter into the absolute apex of activity in e-commerce, starting today with Black Friday and continuing with Cyber Monday just a few short days away. Canada Post is responsible for 70% of those e-commerce deliveries. That is 70% of e-commerce deliveries in our country. The rotating strikes and the backlog are clearly taking their toll.
We know that two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises surveyed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business report being affected by the strikes. We know that costs are around $3,000 per business in terms of lost sales, cancelled orders, delays or costs due to the use of more expensive delivery alternatives.
We also know that, these days, more and more Canadians are shopping online, which has created a growing need for parcel delivery. During the 2017 holiday season, Canada Post delivered more parcels than in previous years. Clearly, the ability to send and receive mail is very important to Canadians.
In the event of a lengthy postal strike, we could start to see many companies, particularly smaller e-commerce companies, not survive the season.
The disruption is also becoming an international problem for Canada. Recently, Canada Post had no choice but to advise international partners to stop sending mail and parcels to Canada. Let me repeat: International partners have stopped sending mail and parcels to Canada. Our government is exerting enormous efforts to advance Canada's position in global trade, and action is required now to prevent postal disruption from undermining the successes that support so many middle-class jobs.
We have ample evidence of the harm to small and medium-sized enterprises that rely heavily on an efficient e-commerce delivery chain, and to charities counting on ramped-up fundraising through the mail during the holiday season.
Our government also recognizes the important services that Canada Post and its employees provide, especially for older Canadians, persons with disabilities, low-income earners and Canadians living in rural, remote and northern areas. These Canadians are hit the hardest during a postal strike.
This is precisely why we have been doing everything possible to help the parties reach agreements that work for everyone. It has been important to give the process every chance to succeed.
Our government has always recognized the right to collective bargaining. Federal conciliators and mediators have helped the parties through their negotiations for nearly one year. When the negotiations reached an impasse, we appointed a special mediator to take a fresh perspective of the situation.
To keep the momentum going, we once again appointed the special mediator in an effort to maintain that momentum, but no agreement could be reached. Voluntary arbitration was then offered and a special mediator was brought in for a third attempt to resolve the differences. When we say that all options have been exhausted, we mean it.
With negotiations completely stalled and weeks of rolling strikes going by, it has become clear that our government is left with only one remaining option.
This does not begin to describe the economic and reputational harm to Canada Post. Again, this is not a road we wanted to go down, but the stakes are too high. We must do what Canadians put us here to do, and that is to protect their interests. Now, with balanced legislation, we are acknowledging that non-intervention will cause harm to a broad swath of economic and social actors.
Canadians need an end to the impasse: individuals in communities of all sizes, small and micro-businesses, medium and larger enterprises and charities. We have an obligation, in the best interests of our constituents, in fact of all Canadians, to move forward with this legislation.
Canadians need Canada Post. They need the corporation's management, its dedicated employees and their representatives to deliver for them this holiday season. They need labour and management to get on with the longer-term job of renewal of Canada Post, so it continues serving the evolving needs of all Canadians for decades to come, providing safe and fairly compensated work for its dedicated people.
This is why we need to support this balanced legislation.
Mr. Speaker, there is a lot to say with respect to this issue, so I am thankful for the opportunity to put some thoughts on the record about what is going on here.
There is an important thing to acknowledge at the outset. The substance of what we are talking about is a rotating strike at Canada Post that was designed to not completely interrupt the operation of Canada Post. By and large, people have actually been getting their mail. We have heard the numbers from people on the ground and in the plants who deliver the mail, and I think the government, along with management, is grossly exaggerating the extent of the backlog.
Nevertheless, we are talking about people's right to strike. We are talking about the right of Canadian workers to strike. I think it bears saying that nobody goes on strike lightly. Strikes are not pleasant or fun for the people who take part. They do it because they ultimately feel like they have no other recourse than to withhold their work to get their employer to pay attention to the demands they are making.
In this case, some of the central demands are about the injury rate and unplanned, mandatory overtime. Reasons vary from strike to strike, but the ultimate point is that it takes a lot to get workers to a place where they feel that the only thing left for them to do is not perform their work and put pressure on their employer to hear their demands so as to come to some kind of reasonable deal at the negotiating table.
Nobody should think that postal workers out there are happy to be on strike or that this is their first option. It comes at a financial price to the workers on strike, including in the case of this rotating strike. Nobody is getting paid for the days they are not working.
It is important to say that, and it is important to emphasize the right to collective bargaining. That is how workers have made gains over the past 100 or more years in order to get safe workplaces and better wages.
It is a right that is so important that it bears mentioning that the right itself is being contested today and has been contested in the past. In the general strike of 1919 in my home city of Winnipeg, the central demand was for the right to bargain collectively. At that time, it was typical that governments would step in and help companies bust up unions to make collective bargaining illegal in a workplace, which incidentally is what this Liberal law will do in the Canada Post workplace. That is why tens of thousands of people, both unionized and non-unionized workers, went out into the street. It was not because of a wage demand. It was because people saw the importance of collective bargaining in order to make a difference in their work life, their family life and in the life of their community.
Indeed, when workers have had that right to bargain collectively, we have seen healthier communities. On average, workers are paid in the order of about $5 more an hour when they have a union as opposed to when they do not. We know that some of the great gains in workplace safety and health that have happened over the last 100 or 150 years have been because organized workers in their workplaces have pushed the envelope. They pushed the envelope politically by electing people out of the labour movement to come into places like this to push those gains and have them applied to all workers, not just to workers in a unionized workplace. Collective bargaining has made that possible.
It is important to emphasize again, because the government seems to have forgotten, that the Supreme Court has recognized this form of bargaining. It is about getting together in the workplace when something is wrong that is affecting everybody in the workplace, and going to an employer with a united voice to say that something has to change. They like their work. They are proud of their work. They want to keep doing their work, but they want to be treated fairly. They want to be paid fairly and they want to come home at the end of the day. That is a right that Canadians enjoy.
RCMP members who were fighting for that right and who were barred by federal legislation for 100 years from bargaining collectively fought that battle in the Supreme Court and won in January 2015, winning a victory for themselves and for workers across the country to have that confirmed.
The Ontario Supreme Court confirmed that right in 2016 when it ruled on the back-to-work legislation of the Harper government, noting that it was unconstitutional.
I expect that that will be confirmed again by the court, because we have back-to-work legislation, again, that impinges on the right of Canadian workers to bargain collectively in their workplace to do better for themselves and their communities. We have heard from the union representing postal workers that, unfortunately, it is going to have to take the current government to court.
What it wants is a government willing to respect and defend the right to bargain collectively without a court order. I do not think that is a lot to ask.
As I said, we are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the 1919 general strike. That strike lasted six weeks, cut across all industries, cut across already unionized members and non-unionized members, and the point was to safeguard this right. We have made a lot of progress since then.
It is amazing to me that even now, in the 21st century, after the court has said it is a charter right of Canadians to bargain collectively, after we have seen all the evidence of the good that collective bargaining has done for Canadian workers over the last 100 years, we would be in this place, of all places, arguing against a government that is introducing legislation to deny that right to a category of Canadian workers. I think that is shameful. I wanted to just back up a little and talk about the importance of collective bargaining in general and what it has done.
Now I would like to talk a little about another aspect of what we are discussing today, which is a motion that pertains to the back-to-work legislation that will significantly curtail debate on the legislation itself. It bears noting that we are not yet even debating the legislation itself. We only saw that legislation yesterday, and by the end of the day today, or in the wee hours of Saturday morning, that will all be said and done. It will be over.
We saw the actual wording of the legislation yesterday, and sometime just after midnight tonight this whole thing is going to be said and done with. I do not think that is what people expect when it comes to serious scrutiny of legislation. I think people expect there to be a role for Parliament in making these kinds of decisions. The fact of the matter is, when that is all the time there is, there is not.
Who are the people most directly affected by this legislation? It is the postal workers. They were not here on the Hill yesterday when the government tabled the legislation. They are out, across the country, for the most part, still delivering the mail. It is only a rotating strike. Most of them are at work. Any Canadian who is receiving a letter in their mailbox today will know that those postal workers are out working, as they have been since October 22 when the rotating strikes began. There were only a few days in any one particular area that actually had a meaningful disruption of service, and otherwise the mail has been delivered on time.
The question becomes, why is it that the postal workers do not have a chance for what is in the legislation to filter down? The government is making some argument here about how it is going to have a mediator, and how it is going to do this and that. It is anything to distract from the fact that it is actually taking away those workers' constitutional right to bargain at the negotiating table, which is what they and their duly elected representatives at the Canadian Union of Post Workers have said that they want to do. It is anything to distract from that.
However, postal workers are not going to have a chance to debate or talk about that amongst themselves, because they are out doing their job. The legislation was only made public yesterday. By the time this all wraps up and the postal worker who has been out delivering the mail, Monday to Friday, has an opportunity on Saturday to try to catch up on what has been happening here, what they are going to read is that they have already been legislated to work on Monday.
It is not just that politicians in this place want more time to discuss the legislation. That is not the only thing that is wrong with this super closure motion that does not even allow for as many MPs as would like to get up and speak to the legislation, it puts a limit on the debate of several hours. It is ignoring the usual rules of this place, which means that only 10 or 12 MPs, at half an hour each, would be able to rise in this place to give a speech.
It is not just that. It is also the time that it takes for information about what is happening here to filter down to the real people it affects, and then for them to be able to send feedback back here, in terms of what they think.
However, the Liberals are taking away that opportunity from members of this place and also members of civil society and the workers who are going to be directly affected by this back-to-work legislation. I say shame on the government for that.
I want to address some of the particular issues of this strike. We are now in a position where the government has decided to get involved. I would argue that the government should have been involved on the issues, not the bargaining process, a long time ago, because none of these issues are new. None of these issues are a surprise. The fact of the matter is that one of the principal reasons Canada Post workers are out on strike is because they have an obscenely high rate of injury in the workplace.
Canada Post has a long history. It is an institution that has been around for a long time, but that injury rate has not. In the last 10 years or so there have been major changes in the way that Canada Post does its delivery, the system it uses and the equipment that it has asked postal workers to use, which has correlated with a serious increase in the injury rate. The way they plan their routes has also correlated with an increase in the use of mandatory overtime and injury rate. That is what postal workers are out there for.
If we take those injury numbers and project forward between now and Christmas, if things go just as they have been going at Canada Post, we are talking about at least 315 disabling injuries happening to postal workers between when this legislation passes and Christmas Day. That is an obscene level of injury.
I worked in the construction industry as an electrician before getting elected to this place. If I had showed up on a job site and been told that in the last year 25% of the construction workers who walked onto the site were injured, members better believe they would have a hard time finding people willing to do that. Therefore, it is a testament to the dedication of postal workers. It is exactly because they take pride in their job, and exactly because they believe in the work they are doing and understand the importance of people getting their mail, particularly vulnerable people and seniors who depend on getting that door-to-door delivery. Postal workers understand that better than anyone. It is a testament to them and their dedication that they have been out doing that work.
However, it is tough to hear the minister impugning their motives and talking about needing to do this on behalf of the vulnerable, on behalf of people who need their cheque, when we know, because we have been seen the evidence of it to our offices in pictures and emails and everything else, that there was a missive sent out by Canada Post management ordering the withholding of those OAS, GIS or social assistance cheques. If I were a postal worker, frankly, I cannot use the word to describe how I would feel because it is not parliamentary, but I would be angry if I heard, after receiving an order like that from management, that the minister was getting up in the House and blaming a rotating strike for the fact that those people were not getting paid. We know full well that it is because management chose to withhold those cheques that people are not getting paid.
I would point to an example from 2011 when postal workers were not on strike but locked out. It was the company that said it wanted to put a kibosh on delivering the mail, because it would put pressure on the government, or give an excuse. I do not think Canada Post needed to put pressure on the Harper government to intervene, but it provided a fig leaf for the Harper government to come in and legislate them back to work. The company locked them out, but postal workers showed up voluntarily to deliver people's cheques, because they knew the effect that would have. They should have expected some reciprocity from the government.
However, the minister has the audacity to get up in this place and talk about how concerned she is about people not getting their cheques. What about the Canada Post workers that the company cut off on October 22 when the rotating strike began, who were on short-term disability and have not been paid since, or the mothers who were on maternity leave and budgeted based on a top-up in their collective agreement that the company summarily took away from them? What about those people? Where is the concern for them?
What about the people on long-term disability who were denied their payments because of the company? Where is the sympathy for them? Where is the action for them? There are crocodile tears, indeed, from this minister, who wants to get up and sing some big swan song about people not being paid, when we know that postal workers would be happy to make sure that those cheques were delivered.
This is a government that did not even have the decency to make sure that people who are on short-term disability, because they work in a workplace with one of the highest injury rates in the country, were getting their cheques from the government. It is too much, frankly. It really is. One can get pretty worked up about it, and I have, on occasion.
It is all pretty rich coming from a government that says that it wants to stand up for women in the workplace and that it believes in pay equity. One of the major issues of this strike, along with the injury rate, is the fact that rural and suburban mail carriers, who are predominantly women, are not paid the same for doing the exact same work as their counterparts in urban centres, where there is a higher percentage of men delivering that mail. That is one of the union's key demands.
We have the , on the one hand, getting up and bragging about pay equity legislation, which, if and when passed, will come into effect some 10 years from now. We are supposed to give her a pat on the back and be really proud of her for the great work she is doing, when the government is screwing Canada Post workers with this back-to-work legislation and not letting them get meaningful action on pay equity. This is something it could do now, just by getting out of the way, at least.
It would be better if the government gave a meaningful mandate to the Canada Post managers it hired and told them to get to the bargaining table and get serious about pay equity, get serious about reducing the injury rate, and actually listen to what the union is proposing, because the government wants a deal that brings that injury rate down and brings meaningful pay equity to postal workers. That is what the government should be doing.
Instead, from the beginning, there has been inaction. The Liberals talk about how negotiations have been going on for a year but have not gotten anywhere. That is because Canada Post management clearly does not have a mandate to make progress. Canada Post does not have a mandate to take the demands of the union seriously, when it comes to the workplace injury rate or pay equity, or we would have seen some movement, and we have not. There is a reason for that.
The Liberal government is now saying that now there is a crisis, and it has no choice but to do this. It has had a choice. The Liberals have had a choice since they formed the government to put a management team in Canada Post that was going to tackle these issues and make meaningful progress so that by the time they got to the bargaining table, there was a better relationship because there was evidence of it actually reducing the injury rate and making progress on pay equity. They decided not to do that. That is how we got here.
When the rotating strike began, and Canada Post made the callous decision to punish its most sick and vulnerable workers, the government could have sent a signal that this was not okay, that it was not going to be that kind of bargaining. If management at Canada Post thought it was to go on the attack to try to break this strike instead of taking meaningful action on those demands, it was going to have to answer to the government. Instead, the government stood silent.
We stood up day after day asking the government to do something about it, and it took a pass. If my colleagues think that did not send a clear message to Canada Post that it was going to get off the hook acting like a bunch of Pinkertons and strike breakers, they have another think coming.
Two weeks into the rotating strike, when the government signalled a readiness to bring in back-to-work legislation, it poisoned the well. From that point on, at least when it was public, there was no chance that Canada Post was going to provide a negotiated deal at the table, because it knew that the government was going to come in and save its skin. For the Liberal members to get up and tell us that they had no choice or that they have not been partisan in these negotiations is just a total load of crap. Wake up.
Mr. Speaker, one of my favourite expressions is that everybody is a democrat when they win. However, the true test to determine people's commitment to a principle of democracy is how they act when they lose, because the whole system is predicated upon people ascribing to a principle that in exchange for a peaceful exchange of ideas in a competition for votes, everybody agrees to live by the end result. That is how we know if someone really believes in democracy.
It is the same thing when it comes to labour rights. A lot of people profess to believe in free collective bargaining as a fundamental right. However, the true test of whether or not they really do is how they act when presented with a situation where they have to actually implement a decision.
In this case here, we are watching a government that has clearly showed its true nature, that when push comes to shove, it absolutely rejects the notion of and will trample over the rights of Canadians to exercise their right to free collective bargaining. I will develop that idea in a moment, but I want to pause for a moment to talk about process.
With respect to democracy, the Liberal government has tabled legislation that purports to limit debate of members of Parliament in this House on something as important as back-to-work legislation that will be implemented on a national scale, country-wide, on a major Canadian Crown corporation. It wants to limit debate to a few hours. That is unbelievable.
It does not matter where we sit on the merits of the question before the House. I think all Canadians who are fair-minded, all Canadians who value democracy, all Canadians who understand the need for a free and fair exchange of ideas in debate in this chamber will condemn a government that does not have the courage to allow the people in this House to fully express not only their thoughts on this legislation but also the interests and opinions of the constituents who we come to this House to represent. That is shameful and it is cowardly.
I want to talk about free collective bargaining. People either believe in it or they do not. The way we determine whether or not politicians or policy-makers really believe in it is how they act when the chips are on the table.
Here we have a rotating strike by Canada Post workers. We have job action that is being taken. What is happening? We are being inconvenienced. The country is being inconvenienced. Customers are being inconvenienced. Businesses are being inconvenienced. We all are being inconvenienced. That is what the purpose of job action is. It is the withdrawal of services or a lockout by management which is intended to put economic pressure on the other side and the members of the public as a means for resolving the issues between the parties when they are unable to do so by agreement. That is what job action is. That is what a strike does. That is what a lockout does.
Therefore, for the Liberals to say that they believe in free collective bargaining but they will interfere to make sure that nobody will ever actually be able to take that final job action, which is the final expression of the right to free collective bargaining, makes a mockery of their so-called avowed commitment to the principle of free collective bargaining. Saying that one believes in the right of free collective bargaining but not in the right to exercise the right to strike or a lockout is absurd. That is what the Liberal government is saying right now.
What I have noticed about the Conservatives and Liberals is that they tend to believe in the right to strike when workers are on strike and it does not have any real impact. However, the minute that workers withdraw their services and it actually has an impact on the economy, that is when they scramble for return-to-work legislation and strip those workers of their right to exercise their economic impact. Basically, people have a right to strike in this country so long as the strike has no impact. That is the net result of the approach by the Liberals and Conservatives to free collective bargaining and labour in this country, and it is wrong. It is unconstitutional and it violates Canada's signature on any number of international treaties where we say to the world that we believe in the right of free collective bargaining. We say that when we are out of Canada, yet in Canada we strip our workers of that right any time those workers take a move to act on that right and it actually has an impact.
The longshore union in this country does not even have a strike fund anymore. Why? Longshore workers always get ordered back to work. The longshore workers belong to a federally regulated union. They have taken the decision that under Liberal and Conservative federal governments that regulate them, they should not even bother having a strike fund because if they ever move to strike, within days they get ordered back to work. Why? When longshore workers go on strike, the government indicates to the Canadian public how important the value of their labour is to the Canadian economy. Again, workers can strike if they have no impact on the Canadian economy, but if they have a pivotal impact on the Canadian economy, then they do not have the right to strike. That lays bear the contradiction that exists in the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party in this House. There is only one party in this House that stands completely for the principle of free collective bargaining, and that is the New Democratic Party of Canada, and we are going to continue to do that.
I want to talk about the impact. In this case, the government is acting as if Canada Post is an essential service. I just pointed out that I have great respect for the value and importance of the work of Canada Post, but according to the legal definition under labour law, it is not an essential service. If the government wants to treat it as an essential service, then it can make an application to the Canada Industrial Relations Board and make the case that Canada Post should be declared an essential service. If that is the case, the government is then entitled to perhaps place some restrictions on the right to strike. The government has not done that, is not doing it and will not do it. Why? It is because Canada Post is not an essential service.
The very argument the Liberals want Canadians to believe, that they have to legislate Canada Post workers back to work because they are essential to the Canadian economy, the Liberals actually do not have the intellectual integrity to demonstrate that before an independent arbitrator to determine if that is the case because they know they cannot. Why? It is because there are alternatives.
Yes, of course, if Canada Post workers are on a rotating strike, or even if there is a full strike and they withdraw services, that will have an impact on Canada, but there are alternatives. There is UPS. There is FedEx. There is DHL. There is Purolator, although it is owned by Canada Post. I am not sure if it is affected by this job action, but assuming it is not, there is Purolator. There is any number of courier services across this country that can make sure things still move.
That is the difference between that and true essential services like health care workers, police, firefighters or air traffic controllers, where Canadians accept that there could be meaningful limitations on the right to strike because the withdrawal of those services may put public health and safety at risk. That is not the case with Canada Post and the government is trying to slide this regressive act underneath that sort of fabric of essential service when it knows that is not the case.
I want to talk about the middle class. The government constantly repeats “middle class” ad nauseam in the House, as if the Liberal Party is the only party that cares about the middle class. My Conservative colleagues care about the middle class and the NDP cares about the middle class. We all do. However, for the Liberals, middle class is almost like their trademark. They have made it a talking point. The true test of whether the Liberals really believe in the middle class is not what they say, because I have heard more rhetoric in the last three years from the Liberals than I have heard in my lifetime, it is how they act.
What is the best way to enter the middle class? It is to carry a union card, to sign a union card. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist, and any number of economists across the political spectrum will tell us that countries that have high rates of unionization have higher rates of people in the middle class. That is only common sense. Obviously, unions work to raise wages and improve working conditions. That is how people enter the middle class.
What do the Liberals do when what is happening in the private and public sectors and a union fights for improvements to its workers' wages and working conditions? They move to scuttle it. They move to restrict the ability of CUPW to improve the working conditions of its workers to enter the middle class. It is pure rhetoric on the Liberal side. The emperor has no clothes on this. If they really cared about the middle class, they would be letting CUPW and Canada Post bargain and allow CUPW come to a resolution, fight for its workers and gain improvements in the workplace that would assist them in moving to the middle class, but no, the Liberals are rushing to order them back to work.
I want to talk about workplace safety. About two and a half years ago, not one kilometre from here, I was present at a ceremony attended by the and all sorts of cabinet ministers and members of the Liberal Party. It was a function organized by Canada Building Trades Unions, where it unveiled its monument to the construction worker. It also served to remind us of those construction workers who have paid with their lives and injuries to build this country. It is a monument to injured construction workers. All the Liberals showed up and beamed with pride and it looked like they were completely happy about this and showed their support for the building trades and union leaders across this country as they stuck up for health and safety. Now how do they act? The single most important issue going on right now in the bargaining between CUPW and Canada Post is their rates of injury, and health and safety in the workplace.
We have already heard the shocking numbers that 25% of the workers at Canada Post have a workplace health or safety incident every year. These are the issues that the unions bring to the bargaining table. They are not asking, but are seeking and demanding a response from the employer. At the end of the day, unions only have one power. Management has all the power to determine the jobs, the terms and conditions in the workplace and unions can ask, can grieve, can seek to persuade someone else, can seek to persuade the employer who has the ultimate decision. The only power unions have at the end of the day is the power to withdraw their services. When that is taken away from a union, it has no power whatsoever. That is not collective bargaining any more. It is collective begging.
That is what the Liberal government is forcing CUPW to do. Instead of letting CUPW do its job, exercise its constitutional right and reflect the constitutional rights of its members and bring those issues to the table and refuse to go back to work and to continue to put economic pressure on Canada Post until they get improvements in health and safety in the workplace, the government seeks to interfere with that process.
Do the Liberals really care about health and safety like they professed on that day when that monument was unveiled and they clapped politely? No. Now they will throw that in front of an arbitrator and that, like a lot of other issues, will be swept under the rug.
The government claims to care about pay equity. Liberals have entered their fourth year of government. With a majority government they could have done anything they want in the last three years. They have entered their fourth year and now they pat themselves on the back for introducing pay equity legislation some time in the future with no money attached to it. Other than that, it is a great pay equity scheme.
What does CUPW do at the bargaining table? It is seeking to get redress for the inequities between the wages of men and women and between urban and rural carriers and workers. Again, what is the government doing with that? When the Liberals have a chance to really see actors in the Canadian economy get real improvements now to pay equity and to health and safety in the workplace, they seek to interfere in that process and derail it. That is some commitment to pay equity.
The rights of labour in this country have been hard fought for. They were not given to them. The rights of labour in this country were paid for by the sacrifice, by the sweat, and frankly, by the blood of workers from coast to coast who stood up and sacrificed for the rights of their sisters and brothers, sons and daughters and grandchildren to be able to live in a free, democratic country where workers have rights. The government shows again by this behaviour, this anti-democratic, anti-union behaviour that it is spitting in the face of that sacrifice.
I want to talk about what happens when we end job action by referring a matter to binding arbitration. I was a labour lawyer for 16 years before I was elected and I have lots of experience with this kind of situation. Something that everybody knows and the government members may or may not have the courage to admit, is that when they refer matters in the collective bargaining environment to an arbitrator in any kind of forum, whether final offer selection or any of the myriad of processes used to come to a binding dispute, they give the power to resolve the issues in dispute to one person. In that kind of environment, they always get a mediated, moderated compromise. They rarely get principled, real solutions to the crux of the issues in dispute. The only way labour really wins the day and has an opportunity to win its case is on the street when it is flexing its economic power and when it is taking the risk of having management exercise its economic power back.
Job action, as I have heard my colleagues say, is not taken lightly. It is not a picnic; it is a sacrifice. We have CUPW workers out there in the freezing cold who are receiving a fraction of their real wages. In fact, sick and injured workers have had their benefits cut off by Canada Post, as the most shameful, disgusting form of pressure to be put in a labour dispute, putting pressure on the most vulnerable workers who are sick and injured, and the Liberal MPs said nothing about it. They let Canada Post use injured workers as a pawn in a labour dispute, and they did not say a word about it.
These workers are out sacrificing, and when Canada Post loses business to companies like UPS and DHL and the other courier companies that are no doubt taking its work right now, they run the risk, when they go back to work, of not having that business there. There is risk, but that is the nature of a strike. It is economic conflict at its base. We do not like to say it, but that is what it is.
Again, I come back to my first point. People either believe in free collective bargaining in this chamber and in this country or they do not. If someone says, “I don't like the economic impact of a strike,” then they do not believe in free collective bargaining. He or she should have the courage to say that then. I challenge my Liberal colleagues, in 2019, to go to the union leaders, go to all of the union halls across this country, walk in there and tell them that they believe in the right to strike as long as there is no economic impact; and tell them that if there is any economic impact, then no, unions get ordered back to work and they will let some appointed person with no interest or accountability in the process make the decision for them.
I have been in this chamber 10 years, and the worst times I am in this chamber are when I see a government violate the constitutional rights of Canadians, and I am going to end with this. The right to strike is a constitutional right. The right to join a union and exercise all of the associated benefits of that is a constitutional right. A government that will interfere with that in this case will interfere with it in any situation. Therefore, we are not just standing up for CUPW workers today or for all workers across this country, we in the New Democratic Party are standing up for all Canadians who believe that this is a country ruled by a Constitution and rights. That means sticking up for them in all situations, not only when it is convenient to do so.