June 23, 2011
Nathan asks why the Government is interfering with collective bargaining rights
BACKGROUND: Following the decision of management at Canada Post to lockout workers, the Conservative Government immediately introduced ‘Back-to-Work’ legislation that infringed on the collective bargaining process and attacked workers’ rights – mandating wages that were actually lower than what management had offered.
In response, the New Democrats mounted a spirited defense of workers’ rights – debating the legislation around the clock for more than 58 consecutive hours. The debate highlighted the Government’s attack on workers and made space for continued talks between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP): Madam Speaker, while we are dealing with a very specific labour dispute between Canada Post, the workers and the management, and this government’s intervention, are we not also dealing with the more fundamental principle of how the government treats the legislative process that exists in law in Canada that has been supported by constitutional experts and in fact the Supreme Court that says that when workers have a dispute with management if they are in a union they can go and freely and fairly bargain with those that employ them?
For a government to intervene and impose a wage settlement, as it has done here, I am trying to find a precedent for a government having done that with an arm’s-length institution like Canada Post before, intervening on the actual settlement, not even allowing an arbitrator or mediator to work out the details. Is there not a fundamental principle for which the NDP members are standing in our places for time and time again today and potentially tonight and tomorrow?
Jack Harris (St. John’s East, NDP): Madam Speaker, I will be brief. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the fundamental right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the right to organize and to bargain collectively is part of the freedom of association. There is a case in B.C. where legislation that imposed restrictions on collective bargaining was struck down.
It is a very high level of right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government is attacking those rights in this legislation and that is one of the many reasons why we are opposing it.
[. . .]
Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my friend from Cape Breton and I have also been listening to the comments coming from the Conservative benches, in particular the Minister of Labour, who somehow managed on three occasions in her speech to misconstrue the entire situation by calling it a strike rather than what it is, which is a lockout. I do not know if that was wilful ignorance or a lack of experience in dealing with these kinds of things. We here on the New Democratic benches have a lot of experience in this.
Is the very reason that we have these labour laws in place not because some time ago when there were many strikes and many disruptions employers asked for some sort of fair negotiating practice alongside working people? To undermine this process takes us back to a time when we had more strikes, more disruption of services and they destabilized the very economy that Conservatives seem to care so much about but do so little about.
Read the full debate in Hansard