Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: Collective Bargaining is a Constitutional Right

On November 23, 2018, Jenny rose to speak up for postal workers:

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Drummond.

Before I get into the substance of the bill to be debated later tonight, I would first like to thank the postal workers for their work. I remember how excited I was as a young kid when I went to the mailbox and saw mail. I was particularly excited whenever I found mail with my name on it. I will never forget that or how important the postal workers are in the service they provide to all of us.

Because I travel a lot in my job, I am away from my children a lot. From time to time, especially when my kids were little, I would pop a letter, a card, or something into the mail for them. At two years old and three years old, they would get mail delivered to them. Sometimes the mail would arrive when I was already back home, but the delight in their eyes when they received that package, letter or card was something else. I think about the postal workers all the time, the work they do and how hard it is. I do not think any of us can really know how hard their job is until we have walked in their shoes.

I complain about carrying my bag when it is loaded with stuff, as shoulder hurts and my back aches. I think about the postal workers who every day, no matter what the weather is like, carry their mail carrier bags full of stuff and deliver it to our homes. They are kind of like Santa Claus to me. It is what they do every day.

As the member of Parliament for Vancouver East, I absolutely rely on them to deliver my letters to constituents, our ten percenters as we call them. I rely on them to deliver information to our constituents to let them know what we are doing, and for the information our constituents send back to us with their comments. They play a critical role in assisting me in doing my job. That is who we are talking about today. I want to thank them and tell them how much I appreciate them.

With that appreciation, as a parliamentarian, it is my role to ensure that their rights are not being trampled on. Yesterday and today, I sat in the House listening to speech after speech by the Liberals, who were crying crocodile tears about how they do did want to wield the big hammer with their draconian back-to-work legislation for Canada's postal workers.

It was funny how each speech was a template of the same talking points, devoid of reflection on what the real issues are for postal workers and what they are fighting for. It is funny how all of the Liberal members are somehow oblivious to the fact that when the government signalled two weeks ago that it would bring in back-to-work legislation, it would be actively undermining the essence of the collective bargaining process. It is funny how even yesterday, when the minister of labour was confronted about her stacking the deck against the workers and their right for better working conditions, she said with a straight face that she and her government were on the side of workers.

There is no question that when the Liberals set the stage for their back-to-work legislation on Thursday with their motion, they were speaking loudly and clearly to Canada Post's management that there was no need to even show up at the bargaining table, to bargain in good faith, to listen to workers' concerns about working conditions. The Liberals were saying that they had management's back. That is the message the Liberals gave to management, and all management needs to do is to run out the clock. That is the message none of the Liberals will acknowledge has been given.

For all the Liberals' talk about supporting workers and unions in Canada, what is clear with this bill, which will be before the House in just a couple of hours, is that they do not care one wit about the rights of working people. They do not give a toss about the working conditions of workers.

As the Liberals stuck it to the workers yesterday and today, their claim that they hope and dream optimistically that an agreement can be reached before they enact the legislation is nothing more than a joke or a slap in the faces of Canada Post workers, although the government members standing in the House repeatedly say that over and again. They should feel their ears burning now while reflecting on their actions and their meaning and ramifications for these workers.

I do wonder how the Liberals will look at their letter postal carrier in the eyes the next time they receive their mail or package at home or in their office. To be here in the House today to listen to this phony optimism about supporting collective bargaining is insulting at best. One might ask what is at stake. Why has this situation reached the point it has today?

It started with the unconstitutional legislation brought against Canada Post workers by the Harper government in 2011 to force them back to work. That is right. The law and order Conservatives violated Canadians' charter rights. That is what they did back in 2011. To quote Justice Firestone, the effect of Harper's back-to-work legislation for postal workers in 2011 was to “substantially interfere with—and to disrupt the balance of—a meaningful process of collective bargaining between CUPW and Canada Post.”

Under the Liberals, this legislation that will be before the House shortly will do exactly what Harper did in 2011. It would substantially interfere with and disrupt the balance of a meaningful process of collective bargaining. The Liberal government likes to claim that it is doing something different today, but everyone sees it for what it is. Their gig is putting their hand over their heart while wiping away their big crocodile tears. The gig is up. Everyone knows that the Liberals are stomping on the rights of workers.

In case the Liberals have forgotten, the right to collective bargaining is an essential component of the right of association, a protected right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With their charter rights having been trampled by the Harper government, Canada Post workers have been bargaining in good faith to improve their working conditions for today and tomorrow, believing that the Liberal government would respect their right to do so. What are they bargaining for?

This is what I learned from a letter from a postal worker. If Canada post workers want to take a vacation, or if they get sick or are injured, they have to find someone to sort and deliver their own route. That is correct. If an employee becomes sick or injured, it is his or her responsibility to find their own replacement worker. I want to know from the Liberal members if any of them think it is reasonable to expect a postal worker to find another worker to do their work if they are sick or injured.

Similarly, outside workers for Canada Post are forced to do overtime. This means that unless a postal worker has medical documentation stating that he or she cannot do the overtime for health reasons, they will be forced to do the overtime or face disciplinary action. It does not matter that the worker might have a doctor's appointment or that their child might be sick. It does not matter that the worker might have to pick up their child from day care. Postal workers have no choice but to do the overtime, or face disciplinary action. I want to know from the Liberal members if that sounds reasonable.

Yes, postal workers are injured at a rate four times the national average. How awful it is that postal workers want better working conditions. How dare they put pressure on their employer with these demands and their rotational strike?

By the way, postal workers want to improve services and standards for the public by expanding Canada Post retail services, delivery hours, and offer banking services and access via the Internet. In some communities, they do not even have access to banking services. Canada Post could fill that need. That is what they are bargaining for. Why is the government not allowing that to happen? Why is the government allowing working conditions to continue to deteriorate and not ensuring that every single worker can go home healthy because they work in a safe working environment? That is my question for the government today."

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