Libby defends Canada Post workers' rights in Parliament

Check out a video of this speech at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWym5PNk9qY

House of Commons
HANSARD
June 23, 2011

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to follow our member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to speak today to this motion.

I want to say right at the outset that I feel shameful that we are here having to debate this motion regarding back-to-work legislation and that the first order of business that has come from the Conservative government is to force workers back to work and not give them a fair shot and a fair chance at collective bargaining.

I was first elected in 1997, and in December of that year we faced a similar situation of back-to-work legislation for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. What is ironic though is that at that time it was a Liberal government. The legislation that we are dealing with today is very similar to the legislation that we dealt with in 1997. The same incredible, outrageous fines, $50,000 for union leaders and $100,000 for the union as a whole, were in the Liberal legislation, and the same kind of restraints on the arbitrator that we see in the legislation today. Back then it was also a lower wage that was legislated, a wage restraint, than what had actually been at the bargaining table. It has been ironic to hear some of the Liberal members rise to say how they feel about this legislation when they forget their own history of what they did in 1997. I just wanted to remember that because I was a new member at that time and I remember that debate also went through the night.

I want to begin by thanking postal workers. I think they have had a really rough ride from the Conservative members in the House. They have been vilified, demonized and have been set up as the bad guys when, in reality, what the union and the members of the union want is a fair collective agreement. They do not want to see back to work legislation. They are willing to go back to the table.

Look at the circumstances that are now unfolding. We have a Conservative government that is using a sledgehammer and putting forward legislation, Motion No. 3, that we are now debating, that would actually put workers in such a constraint in terms of any collective bargaining that we might as well say goodbye to collective bargaining.

I want to reference that because some of the Conservative members have said that this is only about this situation, that it's only about the postal workers, that it does not affect anybody else other than, of course, the various people whose messages they are reading. But the fact is that the back to work legislation affects all workers in this country.

It may surprise members to know that even today Canada is not a signatory to one of the very important International Labour Organization conventions, ILO Convention No. 98, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention and so, that right is not even enshrined in terms of Canadian practice. Is it any wonder that we see this assault on Canadians workers? What happens to these workers is a signal of what is yet to come. For that reason we should be deeply disturbed and concerned about the legislation and how it would affect other workers, whether they are under a collective agreement or not.

The other issue that we have to be very concerned about is the implication and impact on pensions. Every Canadian is concerned about what is going to happen to their pension system. One of the issues in this particular round of bargaining is the employer trying to change the pension system so that workers would no longer have an assurance of what it is they can expect from their pension when they retire

This is a very basic value to all Canadian workers, again, whether they are unionized or not. For the employer, which happens to be a crown corporation controlled by the government, to run the gauntlet, lay this down and say it’s going to change the pension system is really a warning sign of what is to come.

As New Democrats, we know that we have to fight this tooth and nail with the labour movement, with progressive people in this country, because we can see the signal and we see the direction that the government is taking.

In addition, one of the proposals that the union has had to deal with is facing a two-tiered wage system. Again, this is about an employer now supported by a government that is trying to put in a wage restraint through legislation.

It is pretty outrageous when the government itself tables a proposal in the legislation that would actually decrease the wages that were put on the table by the employer, which in itself would start workers 20% lower than existing postal workers. We can see where this is going.

I find it very ironic that the government says it’s interested in economic recovery and stability on the one hand, but on the other hand everything it is doing is driving wages and working conditions down and making things less secure and more difficult for workers whether they are unionized or not.

These are all elements of this back-to-work legislation. The idea is that this is a one-off piece of legislation and we do not have to worry about it. In the debate unfolding today, which will go on for several days, it will become very clear that there are much broader implications for all workers in this country and it is something we should be concerned about.

Today in the House I tabled two private members' bills relating to what we call social condition; the recognition that people who are poor and have low incomes face discrimination based on their economic circumstances. I see a relationship between the tabling of those bills and what we are trying to do by removing discrimination from people who are economically disadvantaged or living below the poverty line and what the government is trying to do in this back to work legislation.

The fact is that when public policy goes in a direction that takes away people's rights, drives down wages and says collective bargaining will not be tolerated, that affects everybody. When unions do well and minimum wages go up, it benefits all workers in this country, including people who are living below the poverty line and struggling on minimum wages, whether it is $8, $9, or $10 an hour, depending on where they live.

These issues are related. We can see that the legislation that will be coming forward after we vote tonight, presuming this motion passes, will have a huge impact not only on CUPW members but on workers as a whole. Those in the labour movement are watching this with very keen interest. They are very concerned about what is taking place.

I noticed that one such union member, Fred Wilson who works at the CEP, noted in a blog on rabble.ca:
—the Conservatives have rigged this game completely. The outcome is now determined; there is nothing left for free collective bargaining to accomplish.

I would certainly echo those comments. I feel the sense of shame and distress about the road we’re going down.

The government didn’t have to intervene. We often hear that the Conservatives do not like to intervene in the marketplace. Why is it in this case they decided to intervene on the side of Canada Post? Why is it that they have not said anything about the lockout of the workers that is taking place?

We have heard Conservative member after Conservative member attack the union and those who are trying to get a fair deal with their employer, and yet I have not heard one word from any of those members about what the employer has done. The reality is the government is backing the employer. The government is saying it is onside with Canada Post 100%. Where’s the balance? Where’s the idea that fairness should exist?

We are very opposed to this motion. We are opposed to the process of bringing in closure on the bill that will be before us tonight.

We believe in collective bargaining. We stand for the rights of workers to get a fair deal as outlined by the International Labour Organization. We support Convention 98, as all people in this country should do. We demand that the government respect those rights, and think about the position it’s taking and what it’s imposing in such an unfair and discriminatory manner.

This Speech in Parliament was posted on June 24, 2011
Categorized:

10 Comments

Go NDP Opposition Go

Congratulations to the NDP for fighting fire with fire on the Canada Post back-to-work legislation debate. It's no surprise that Harper would act heavily against labour but we sincerely have the NDP to thank for their sustained defense of the rights of workers and unions.
Locking out the workers and then blaming them for shutting down mail delivery as they are legislated to accept a bad offer with no rights, is an affront to western civilization as we know it.
Congratulations to Libby Davies for her continued winning streak in elections for her riding. It looks like you're in for the fight of your career with this Conservative majority. Stay strong, we're happy that we have you as our representative in all of this.
Bravissimo.

mail

Stop this nonsense and put thru the legislation.

Small business NEEDS our mail.

maybe we should put YOUR paycheque in the mail!

Incredible...A like-minded crusader...

I came here because I just kept hearing about Libby...I wanted to know more. Far left may not completely describe her. Instead of discussing her flaws, I wanted to voice my agreement with this post. There is no point in me stating what employment background I hail from (private, public sector, etc). I prefer to look at facts, logic and that painful thing called "common sense."

I take this next little quote directly from Libby herself, "Federal New Democrats are proud to forge a partnership, to foster economic opportunity, to fight discrimination, and to work together for healing and hope for the future. " (This was taken from her letter regarding "National Aboriginal Day"). Notice the "foster economic opportunity"?

Would anyone like to tell Libby how many small businesses this strike closed down single handedly?
Or how many checks were not delivered to those devoted to "fostering economic opportunities"?

Maybe someone should also advise her that "to fight discrimination" one should probably not prejudice against the private sector employees who do not get the wonderful benefit of having a union. (It's unfortunate no one got us drunk enough to figure that a strike was a good idea...)

The bit about "healing and hope for the future" was a good line too. Apparently, debt levels have nothing to do with our future. Canada Post is a dead institution. If one would like proof, contact me and I will inform you about their revenue vs. net income ratios and how those determine management efficiency. The same ratios in the private sector would mean death immediately. But how does Canada Post do it if they are indeed a "private company"? Hmmm...

I do believe she wishes the absolute best for the Canada Post employees and like every other citizen, I appreciate the service it provides. "it provides"...is key. I do not appreciate when it does not. She however, like most lefties, seems to want to make sure that public employees get everything they are, yes I will say it, entitled.

While I did not mean to offend anyone insensibly, I did want to offer a look at this that was from the viewpoint that discrimination fights equality. And in this case, private and public are not equal.

Please see me at http://confusedpigeons.weebly.com for more conversation. I am always willing to learn and God knows I have a lot of it to do yet.

Postal Workers

I am a postal worker and have been watching the debate that is happening in Parliament right now, I wanted to pass on to all NDP members an Liberals that are supporting us.Thank you all for the time and effort you are putting in for all workers. I stayed up all night with you. The reason I feel the need to contact you with this right now is I would like you to bring up the fact that our strike vote was supposed to be held prior to the federal election but was postponed until after the election,they knew they would not be able to buy a vote if the public new this was their intent.

Thank you for fighting the fight,

Patti Gibbs

.

filibuster for all workers

Dear Libby thanks for all of you for doing this. it's way overdue that parliament actually works for the people who pay for it. I'd like to see the NDP develop a cartoon (much like Tommy Douglas's Mouseland), using the "little red hen" story. If we don't all wake up soon, and work together for a better society, we are doomed. When people criticize postal or unionized workers, they don't understand that the alternative is a race to bottom for wages, benefits etc. We all want good paying jobs and if the government would work toward securing a better CPP for all Canadians, maybe Private pensions would not be such a huge bargaining issue. It's insecurity and fear that have created this monster. I also still believe that living in a socialist society, where we are all offered equal opportunity and respect, is better than a dictatorship which I believe is where we are heading if we allow government intervention every time they think there's a problem. Open the doors to the Post Office as it was, and let them work out their issues. We have a great postal service, and I trust postal workers to be diligent and honest. Handling our mail is worth a good wage, and I would not want to ever lose it. Good job and keep up the fight. hp

Go NDP GO !!!!

Keep up the good work NDP, there are a lot of people out there that understand how important it is what you're doing.

Dear Miss Libby Davies

Dear MP NDP Miss Libby,
I’m postal worker for last 17 years. I work in Chatham (ON) Post Office.
I would like You to know I support strongly NDP as only party looking up for all Canadian workers.
As a postal worker I strongly disagree with tactics of CPC :
-Community boxes far away from homes, where seniors have to walk to pick up their mail – especially in bad weather. Discriminatory service to customers – one has door to door delivery others – community boxes. Saves money to CPC but this method cuts the job places!
CPC does not care about service to Canadians, CPC cares only about large mailers (publishers, flyers senders, big corp. big businesses)
CPC does not allow to latter carriers to deliver mail if apartment # is missing, name is spelled wrong or postal code is wrong. We know our customers, we know the proper addresses, why CPC is demanding to return to sender this kind of mail? Do they get ready for the permanent replacement of humans by the machines?
-I‘m watching the debate on CPAC third day and I hear the cons MPs reading e-mails from retired postal workers – I hope those workers are enjoying their retirements with good pension , which, by the way I would like to have when I’m 70 years old.
Please keep up a great job, do what You do for us and all Canadian workers and young people and their future.
Thank You very, very much. - Joanna

Niki Ashton

You gotta love that bright new light from Thompson Manitoba Niki Ashton eh?

The Right to Negotiate

Thank you for standing up for our right to freely negotiate. Mr Harper so willingly stomped on our right the negotiate, and he will continue to do so until Canadians stand up to this bully.
Denise Doherty

Postal Workers

Hi Libby,
Thanks for your support of the Postal Workers and of collective bargaining in general. The other big issue here is that of pensions and how little support there seems to be for them these days. I'm dismayed to hear how few Canadians appear to understand the implications of not doing our best to provide pensions for workers, especially as we see the ever growing skewed distribution of wealth in this country. Your speech was right on target - keep up the good work!