OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer
Protecting Air Service Act (C-33)
Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I spent 33 years as a union negotiator and I know that this action by the Conservative government has destroyed the balance created by the good men and women of this country who crafted our labour legislation years ago. The labour legislation that we have in Canada was deliberately exported by this country to the fledgling countries of eastern Europe when they became democracies, because it was seen as a model for the world.
This kind of action undermines that model. When one party is able to turn to its masters, the government, and say, “Please intervene and take sides in this dispute”, it undermines the continuation of that balance in our labour relations in this country. Despite the protestations on the other side of the House, that is exactly what has taken place.
We have upset the balance of labour relations and we are forever now going to have our labour relations affected accordingly, particularly in the federal sphere. However, do not think the provinces are not watching what is happening here. Parties to labour relations among the police, fire and ambulance services, which are all essential services, will now be paying attention because the government has decided that it can incorporate into legislation a guideline for an arbitrator who takes one side over the other. This guideline is all about the employer, not about what is fair to the employees. We run the risk here of destroying years and years of practice, precedent and jurisprudence with what seems to be a very simple act by the other side.
It is not enough that the government has decided that it needs to take sides; it did not even let the process actually finish. In all of my years as a labour negotiator, on many occasions the parties used the strike deadline itself as the mechanism to reach a collective agreement. In my own experience, we probably got to the eleventh hour, to 11:59, on a couple of dozen occasions. It is no surprise that Canadian legislation picks midnight as the time a strike can commence, because that is the time that people are most likely to reach an agreement. They are not likely to reach an agreement three days before when they give notice, which is what happened in this case. They are most likely to reach that agreement at midnight. That is when it happens. That is when both sides look at the cards on the table and decide that it is not worth a strike. That is exactly what happens 99 times out of 100. However, the government and the minister have not allowed that process to reach its full conclusion. That is shameful. That is destroying the Canadian labour relations model that we so gleefully exported to the rest of the world as a model for it to take.
As for the notion that Air Canada is somehow special and an essential service, the minister suggested that it is bigger than GM and Chrysler and that we do not legislate them back to work. The minister forgot to tell us that GM has shrunk enormously under its watch. It has closed four plants; no wonder it is small. It is because the jobs are disappearing in this country. The government’s job creation strategy is a job abandoning strategy. It did not interfere at EMD or Stelco where jobs were fleeing the country. It is shameful on the part of the government that it would abandon some workers and then step in and side with another bunch of Canadian company directors who have decided that they need this collective agreement and are willing to put spring break, whatever that means, in jeopardy. It was not the union that put it in jeopardy in the case of the pilots; it was management that put it in jeopardy. It is management that has very deliberately done that in order to provoke the government. Make no bones about it, because that is precisely what is going on.
The other notion that is missed here by the government is the notion that was spoken about by my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan about worker resentment. These workers gave up a lot. They gave large concessions nine years ago when Air Canada was in trouble. Those workers have taken nothing since, virtually no gains.
These are very important workers. These are people who keep the planes flying, both mechanically and physically. I certainly do not want to be on a plane where those workers resent the government, where those workers are resentful of the choices that they have been forced to make. I certainly do not think any of them would do anything stupid. I also do not think it is smart of the government to be provoking the workers of this country.