Mr. Speaker, I am profoundly disappointed to have to rise today to speak to a motion that will ram through back-to-work legislation. Indeed, today is the day we leave behind sunny ways and see the dark days ahead for workers' rights in Canada.
I want to remind the government that Canadian workers have a constitutional right to free and fair collective bargaining and a constitutional right to strike. However, here we are, back to the future, in 2011. We have had a change in government since then, but the new boss sounds like the old boss, it seems, when it comes to legislating workers back to work at the behest of commercial interests, and in violation of workers' rights.
It is disappointing that this government came into office promising to be different, and as we have heard, promising to respect workers' rights, but when it really matters, at the very first opportunity to really stand up and be counted to answer the question from that famous labour song, Which Side Are You On?, this government chooses the side of its Bay Street friends.
It is unconscionable for any government, let alone a government that says it respects workers' rights, to undermine the collective bargaining process with the threat of back-to-work legislation. How can postal workers expect their employer to bargain in good faith when the government has already signalled that it sides with the employer? With back-to-work legislation hanging over the bargaining table, why would Canada Post bother to bargain? It knows that the government has its back. Just wait it out, and the workers will be ordered back to work.
What about the workers? We really have not heard as much about them and their rights from members opposite. Here are some facts to bear in mind. Over the past two years, the accident and injury rate for Canada Post workers has increased by 43%. In 2017, 25% of postal workers were injured in the course of their duties. Workplace accidents among Canada Post employees are five times higher than the average in other federally regulated sectors. In rural areas, women make up 75% of Canada Post workers. Rural postal workers work under unfavourable conditions compared to their urban colleagues. Since the postal transformation, the workforce has been cut in half and the workload and volume of parcels has increased by almost 100%.
Postal workers are experiencing extreme stress and anxiety due to working conditions that currently exist at Canada Post. All they want is to have their health and safety concerns addressed at the bargaining table. I think most Canadians can understand and support that.
I am ashamed that the government has seen fit to table this bill and ram it through Parliament. This bill would reinstate the working conditions of the CUPW and Canada Post expired contract. By CUPW's calculation, that means that in the four and a half weeks between now and Christmas, at least 315 disabling injuries will happen to postal workers; rural and suburban mail carriers, mostly women, will work roughly 250,000 hours for free; urban postal workers will work thousands of hours of forced overtime, missing evenings with their families without a choice; temporary workers will continue to be stuck at that first rung of the pay scale while delivering the holidays to us; and RSMCs will continue to be treated, as Canada Post says, with pay equity but not equality. This will be the direct result of the Liberal government's proposed legislation rammed through Parliament through an undemocratic process that stifles debate.
Postal workers are our friends, neighbours, customers and part of our community. We do not want them being hurt on the job, being paid unfairly, or being expected to work excessive amounts of overtime. They have a right to negotiate with their employer for fairer conditions. I do not think Canadians would begrudge any worker this right, and neither should this government.
I want to share a letter that was sent to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and copied to me. It is from Brian Jamieson, a postal worker from Victoria and a member of CUPW, Local 850. He says:
Canadian postal workers are trying to negotiate for safer work conditions and equality for all workers regardless of gender. I strongly believe that legislating them back to work will irreparably damage their ability to accomplish these goals.
One of the most important challenges postal workers are facing is inequality. Currently there are two faces to this inequality: gender inequality faced by [rural and suburban mail carriers] as addressed by Arbitrator Maureen Flynn in her recent decision; and the two tiered wage system new hires are faced with for doing the same work as their more senior counterparts.
In an article from The Globe and Mail...interim Canada Post CEO Jessica McDonald stated, “Pay equity is a basic human right and therefore pay disparity on the basis of gender is wholly unacceptable for Canada Post.” Unfortunately to date, none of the offers presented by Canada Post address pay equity for RSMCs (mostly women) in any meaningful way going forward. This seems to suggest that Canada Post's position on pay equity is somewhat insincere....
Would you consider it to be reasonable, or fair, for Members of Parliament in rural areas to make less money than MP's from urban areas simply because they are in more isolated or less population dense regions? Or worse, because they were women? I hope not. They do exactly the same work and have the same responsibilities as their urban counterparts. But this is what is happening at Canada Post, both with [rural and suburban mail carriers], and with a two-tiered wage system that holds employees hired after February 2013 to less pay than coworkers hired before....
Canada Post and CUPW have been negotiating for almost a year now, and to date, Canada Post has made virtually no movement on the issues I have outlined herein. Now that rotating strike action is underway, and as the Christmas season approaches, Canada Post is finally feeling the pressure, and beginning to talk on these key issues. It is my fear that back to work legislation will remove that pressure and provide absolutely no incentive whatsoever for Canada Post to come to an agreement around the many equality and health & safety issues that need to be addressed.
By tabling this bill, the government has decided to tip the balance in favour of the employer. Fifty thousand Canada Post employees have been thrown under the proverbial bus.
On January 30, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark labour law decision, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan. It concluded that the right to strike is a constitutional right.
In a democracy, free and fair collective bargaining must be allowed to happen. The power dynamic has always been and continues to be with the employer. Strikes are a last resort for workers when their employers cannot and will not negotiate, and it is not a step they take lightly, but that step is a right workers have in Canada, and it is protected under the Constitution.
It is offensive in the extreme that the government has decided to take sides in this process, and it is adding insult to injury that this legislation is going to be rammed through without proper debate. It makes one wonder who the Liberals really represent in this place.
In closing, as my colleague, the member for London-Fanshawe, has said, it is a black Friday indeed in Canada, for democracy and for Canadian workers.