June 10, 1914

LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

I do not think it is fair to ask a man to work for nine hours a day in the Maritime provinces where he receives less pay than he does in British Columbia where he has to work for only eight hours. There is no law in* Canada governing the hours of labour; and I can understand that in certain trades the men have, by virtue of the strength of their unions, an eight-hour day. In the eastern part of the province, for instance in the city of Sydney-I will mot speak for Truro, because I do not know about conditions

in that town-and in the city of Halifax the carpenters work for only eight or eight and a half hours a day. I understand that there is legislation governing the rate of wages paid under a contract, namely, that the rate is governed by the rate of wages paid in the district in which the work is being carried on; but I do not think it should hold good in regard to the hours, there being no law governing the matter. The minister might investigate the matter during the summer and see if he does not agree with me in regard to it.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

Can the Minister of

Labour give me any information as to the trouble that existed last year between the Harbour Commissioners and the carpenters at Montreal? Is anything being done to settle the trouble that was in existence before the minister's trip to England?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS :

Two weeks ago we took that .matter up with the members of the Montreal Harbour Commission; and the acting chairman at that time agreed that, if there were any complaints made by the carpenters working for the harbour commissioners, he would be very glad to take the matter up with our fair-wage officer tnd fo do everything possible to make things satisfactory to the men. Many complaints have been made in that respect for years; we have from time to time sent the fail wage officer, Mr. Dubreuil, to Montreal to arrange matters with the Board

of Harbour Commissioners, and he has generally succeeded in adjusting them to the satisfaction of the men. A few months ago he did not succeed; the matter was taken up with the acting chairman of the harbour commissioners by one of the ministers, and the chairman undertook to meet the fair wage officer at any time that complaints were made and to do everything possible to meet his requests.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

If I understand the

minister aright, what he says now is not in regard to the past, but for the future. What transpired last year is still pending. I do not suppose the carpenters have received any satisfaction. I know that the minister, before his trip to England, told the harbour men that, on his return, he would do everything possible to settle the question.

I want the minister's interpretation of the fair-wage clause. If my memory is

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correct, I believe he has already given an interpretation of that clause to the labour men of Montreal. For instance, suppose a contract is let with the fair-wage clause attached thereto, and suppose wages increase ini the different trades during the operation of that contract, will the contractor be compelled, under the contract he has signed with the Government, to pay that increase?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

That would depend

altogether upon the wording of the contract. We have had different forms' of contract, some of them containing a minimum wage and also a general clause, the general clause providing that the contractor would have to pay the current rate of wages even if it was above the minimum rate fixed in the schedule. Wherever there has been a clause of that kind in the contract, we have insisted upon the contractors following the wages, and, if they increase, paying whatever the current rates of wages are. In some of the contracts there has been no such thing as a general clause of that character, simply a minimum clause. I brought before the Government, before I was laid away for a while, the matter of providing for a uniform provision in all the contracts touching labour, so that there would be no difference between a contract entered into by one contractor and that entered into by another. I expect to get that into shape as soon as the session is over, so that we will have no divergence. It depends now upon the wording of the contract. We found that, in some contracts made with a general clause, we were in a position to insist upon the contractor following the wages even if they went up; in others 1 have been unable to do it.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

This question is a very important one, because sometimes workmen are employed believing, that if there should be an increase in wages during the performance of the contract, they are supposed to receive it; and the minister states that the difficulty might be in the wording of the contract. I hope that in future all contracts will be made uniform.

There are sub-contractors who try to evade the law by claiming that they are not the direct contractors. There is a case in point in Montreal, that of the structural ironworkers on the Custom House, about which the minister knows. A rate of only

thirty-five cents an hour was specified in the contract, which was, of course, a mistake; it should have been more. But the sub-contractors state that they are not obliged to pay the fair wage because they are not the general contractors. I understand that this point is not well taken, because when a man signs a contract he is supposed to abide by the specification and the specification always has a fair wage clause attached to it. I ask the hon. minister to be sure that in the future no possible loophole is left in these schedules, so that the men will be put on an equal footing, and will know full well what they are going to receive.

Something has been done in .Montreal, especially on the Lachine canal where an officer sent by the Minister of Labour classified the men to their entire satisfaction. They had not been properly classified, and were not paid the regular wages. They were classified absolutely outside of the work they were performing. But the fair wages officer went there and made an arrangement satisfactory to the men in accordance with the fair-wage clause.

The Minister of Labour can never use too much prudence in so far as these contracts are concerned, because we are liable at any time to have to deal with an unscrupulous contractor or sub-contractor who will try to read between the lines of the contract, and create trouble for the men and for the department. I hope it can be obviated in future, and I am glad my hon. friend is taking steps to see that contracts shall be uniform, so that the men will be in a position to know exactly where they are.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

My hon. friend misunderstood me. I have not promised that in all future contracts there will be a clause providing that the contractor shall have to pay higher wages if the wages go up. What I promised was that I w'ould try to have uniformity in that respect in all the contracts. I might tell my hon. friend that we do not recognize the sub-contractor at all; we have nothing to do with the sub-contractor. However, if complaints are made that the schedules prepared by us are not being closely observed, we send out an officer who may see the sub-contractor and try to arrange with him to pay the schedule figure. But when it comes to exerting any pressure we do not deal with the sub-contractor at all. If we can make an amicable arrangement with him we do so; but if we

cannot then we fall back onthe contractor; he is the man that we hold responsible. I give very close attention to that. I know that men sometimes do not complain if they do not get the fair-wage prices, and every case that my attention has been called to I have had investigated. I have often had men paid as much as one hundred dollars for back pay where the contractor kept them below the minimum rate; and when he does not comply with the department's demands, we withhold the amount of money he should receive at the end of the month, or at the end of two months. In a great many cases we have secured back pay for men, and in every case we do our very best to see that the men are paid. I may tell my hon. friend that I have no sympathy whatever with contractors who, speaking generally, make very large profits out of work they do for the Government; and I think there is no excuse whatever for them to squeeze the men to the lowest cent they can get them for. I insist on their paying the highest wage that is provided for by the fair-wage officers.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

Does the minister not think that the Harbour Commission of Montreal should pay the current rate of wages paid by ordinary contractors in that city ? Why should the commission pay les3 than the contractors ? The commission argue that their work is not Government work and is under their control. I remember that in 1911 a difficulty concerning wages arose at the port of Montreal, and there was a strike on, in the settlement of which I had something to do; and the wages paid by important contractors in Montreal were the wages the investigating commission decided should he paid to the men. It was after the expiration of the agreement between the Harbour Commission and the carpenters that trouble arose last year. I do not see why the Harbour Commission, who can afford to pay as well as the best contractor in the city, should fall behind the law and not pay fair wages out of the public moneys they handle, in which the Government is directly or indirectly interested. It seems to me that the very highest wages should be paid by those who are in direct or indirect connection with the Government. The trouble that arose last year is past; we cannot settle that; but I suppose the present dispute can be settled. At the same time I would ask the minister to use every endeavour to force the Harbour Commission, if possible, at present and in future to pay the regular

rate of wages, which, at the present time is forty-five cents per hour in Montreal. The minister knows there is now some trouble in Montreal, because last Sunday he sent an officer there, whose instructions are to bring about an agreement of some kind, if possible. But the wages paid by our best contractors should also be paid by this board; and I reiterate my request that the minister apply the fair-wage clause. The men have been misled. I know that the minister, as a lawyer, has given the interpretation of the far-wage clause that I have given. He states now that it might be inserted in such contracts, but, of course, he cannot promise. It seems to me that there should be no difference in contracts whether they are large or small or in what part of the country they may be. If there is an increase of wages in one city during the performance of a contract, if the contract stipulates that such an increase in wages shall be given to the men employed on it, then that same rate should be paid in all cities; it should be uniform as far as possible. It would be unfair to take advantage of a small town or city. A fair-wage clause is a fair-wage clause, it does not matter where it is. I hope the minister will look this up and do the best he can. I do not wish the minister to think I am contending that the fair-wage clause should secure the same price for labour all over the country; I know enough about labour conditions to know that is impossible. But whenever an increase of wages is agreed upon, according to the finding of his officer, the increase should be made to apply all over the country.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I am thankful to my hon. friend for mentioning the case of the Montreal Harbour Commissioners. I have insisted upon their paying the same rate of 'wages that reputable contractors are paying in the same town or city. They are, in effect, spending public moneys and I think the public can afford to pay the workingman and the mechanic as much as other reputable contractors are paying. But my hon. friend is aware that in order to take work like the Montreal harbour and the Qubec harbour and other places out of the direct control of the Government these boards were created by a statute and, in a sense, they are independent of the Government altogether. They were appointed for that very purpose, so that they can carry on these great works in each particular harbour without any interference on the part of politicians or members of the Govern-

ment or any one else. We cannot change that except by statute; but we can use our good offices with them to induce them to pay what we think they ought to pay. We do not see any reason why a harbour commission should not pay a carpenter the same rate of wages as is paid by a contractor across the street, and I have been urging them to do that. They have promised now to consider, with our fair-wage officers, any complaints that may be made and to do what they can to meet the conditions that they may have to contend with. At the present time, without any very satisfactory provisions, we are unable to do anything else. We might use drastic means by dismissing the commission or something of that sort, but we have not gone to such an extent as that and I do not suppose my hon. friend would insist upon any such action.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

I would call attention to the appointment of fair-wage officers. I do not know whether the minister has been well advised or not, but I am pretty sure that sometimes fair-wage officers are appointed who know very little about the labour movement. For instance, I believe that last year the minister appointed one in Winnipeg who did not know the leaders of the labour movement there. He was asked if he knew Mr. Riggs, now an aider-man in Winnipeg, who has been identified with the .labour movement there for a great many years, and he said that he had heard of him. The same thing occurred in reference to a number of other prominent labour men. The minister may say it is probably better that the fair-wage officer should not know the labour men; but the minister must agree that if a fair-wage officer wishes to get information from the men's standpoint the only place he can get it in any city is at the labour temple where the labour men gather. For instance Mr. Dubreuil, whom I know and who is one of the best fair-wage officers the minister has-and I know his knowledge and ability as a tradesman because I have worked with him-when he wishes to get information in Montreal he goes to the labour temple. He does the same thing in every other city in the eastern provinces. I hope that in the appointment of fair-wage officers no attention is paid to politics because, of course, the position is absolutely independent of politics. The minister will understand that if a fair-wage officer does not have the confidence, to some extent, of both labour men and em-328

ployers he will not be able to do justice to the department or to either side. The minister cannot expect to have from him as good service as from a man enjoying that confidence. If the minister in appointing fair-wage officers would consult the trades councils of the different cities, I am sure that he would get good men, We all know Mr. Dubreuil. He is a good man. Mr. McNiven is also a good man and a practical man of experience. The late Mr. O'Donohue also rendered great service to the department through his knowledge of the real conditions of labour not only in his own city but throughout the country. It seems to me that in a Labour Department, as far as possible the labour world should be consulted.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I am glad my hon.

friend has brought up the question of the appointment of a fair-wage officer at Winnipeg. When I assumed charge of the department we had only two fair-wage officers for all Canada. It was considered advisable to have one in the West and I sent Mr. McNiven, a competent man, to Vancouver where he has rendered valuable service. It was ascertained that even living at Vancouver the territory was too large for him to cover if he had to come down as far as Winnipeg, Fort William and Port Arthur. I determined to appoint another officer having headquarters at Winnipeg. I took extraordinary pains to get a competent young man and finally, after consulting several parties, no politicians whatever, I did not ask any politicians to recommend a man in Winnipeg, I made the appointment.

I consulted a man who had had great experience in handling men, and on his recommendation I appointed Mr. Holt. Before putting him to work in Winn:peg I had him come to Ottawa, and he has been training in the office here for three months. I have no doubt whatever that my hon. friend has heard from somebody in Winnipeg something to the effect of what he has just expressed here, but in making appointments of this kind I do not simply accept the recommendation of anybody. I insist upon the man coming here so that I ican have an opportunity of seeing him, and in this particular case the man was trained in the office here for three months so that he could become familiar with all branches of the Labour Department. He has been in Winnipeg now for six or seven months, and has done a great deal of work

for the department. I am perfectly satisfied that he is doing his work and doing it iwell. [DOT]

Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, $25,000.

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LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

Has the minister had under consideration this session any amendments to the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I gave a great deal of *consideration to some proposed amendments to this Act, but we had not time to bring them down this session. It is my intention during recess to issue some kind of a circular-I will not send out the whole Bill -calling the attention of labour unions and employers of labour to suggested amendments in a general way, and asking what suggestions appear to them desirable.

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LIB
CON
LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

Has the minister given any consideration to the report of the Technical Education Commission concerning which there is a good deal of expectancy all over the country, particularly in centres of industry. In my province, for instance, our *miners and steel men are anxious to get better knowledge of their respective callings through the means of technical schools. (Some time in April last, there was a large gathering of tne mining engineers of Nova Scotia at Sydney, and I have no doubt the [DOT]minister has received a copy of the resolution they passed on that occasion urging that something be done in the direction of carrying out the recommendations made by the commission. I can readily understand [DOT]that the minister on account of his unfortunate illness has not been able to do as much work this session as he would have liked, but when the hot weather is over and he has fully recuperated I hope he will take this matter irto his earnest consideration. We look forward in all parts of Canada, particularly in the industrial centres, to something being done to implement that report.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

My hon. friend was not present when the hon. member for Pictou asked a similar question, but I do not object to repeating what I said then. My hon. friend will remember that it was proposed by the late Government to ap(-point a commission to inquire into industrial conditions and technical education in Europe and the United States. Realizing that education is one of the matters exclusively assigned to the various legisla-

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tures of Canada under the British North America Act, my predecessor communicated with the Prime Ministers of the various provinces asking them severally if they had any objections to the appointment of such a commission. I stated that the only object of the Government was to gather information on these matters and make a report for the benefit of the legislatures. All the Prime Ministers replied to that communication, and none of them made any objections, but the Prime Minister of Ontario and the Prime Minister of Quebec pointed out in their replies that under the British North America Act the legislatures had exclusive jurisdiction over education, and said that if it were distinctly understood that the whole scope of the commission was to gather information and submit it for the benefit of the legislatures they would have no objection, but that they wanted that distinctly understood. As my hon. friend is aware, the commission went beyond that in their recommendations. The report was not ready for distribution until last April, and more particularly the last volume which deals with conditions in Canada. As soon as the report was ready, we sent copies to the various Prime Ministers throughout Canada with the request for an expression of opinion as to these recommendations, and as to the position they would take with reference to them. We have heard from some of the Prime Ministers, but not all. This matter has been under the consideration of the Cabinet, and it was thought wise not to enter upon any definite scheme until we had heard from the various provincial Governments. Personally, I am very much in favour of doing anything in Teason for the extension of technical education and industrial training. I do not anticipate that the provincial Governments will object to getting some money for educational purposes. I think the Parliament of Canada will be willing to materially assist the local legislatures in providing for technical education and industrial training. I regard it as of very great importance to the people of Canada.

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LAB

Alphonse Verville

Labour

Mr. VERVILLE:

I do not suppose that any provincial government would refuse a grant from the federal Parliament for the purposes of technical education and1 industrial training. I am very sorry that the Government has not seen fit to take away from the Militia Estimates the amount I suggested to be used for purposes of technical education in this country.

I am sure that the minister will agree with me in saying that his department is not getting enough. The Labour Department has been relegated to the very last place among the departments ever since it has been formed. This should not be so, because it is a department that has greater demands made upon it every year, and it would have been a splendid thing in the interests of labour and of the country generally if it had been permitted to occupy its proper place in relation to the other departments of Government. We have been allowing this department and its work to go back year after year, when there is a feeling prevalent throughout the country that a certain amount of money should be expended upon the objects for which the department was created. For instance, what are we doing for the organization and maintenance of technical schools for the instruction of men and boys? There are a number of schools of this class already in existence, and they afford opportunities to men and boys to take either night or day courses. In the city of Montreal we will have quite a number of boys coming out from these schools who have taken the full course, and I can assure the minister that he would be surprised at the high degree of technical knowledge and skill which have been acquired by boys of seventeen and eighteen years of age. I have known first-class mechanics, skilled in different kinds of work, to make the confession, upon coming into contact with some of these boys, that the 'boys knew more about their trades than they themselves did. I am sorry that the Government has not seen fit this year to grant an amount of money for the encouragement and assistance of these schools. There is another matter which I wish to bring to the attention of the minister. What does the minister intend to do about the regulation of employment bureaus in the large cities? I believe a demand has been made upon him that some form of regulation should be provided, and I believe also that he has expressed himself in favour of it. The suggestion is that the department should have control of these bureaus, and if it had it would save a great deal of trouble. Notwithstanding the fact that a request has been made for such regulation, I do not see any Bill upon the OrdeT Paper to put it in a legislative form. Such a Bill could be passed in one or two days, because I am sure that nobody would be against anything of the kind.

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LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

While we have not

reached the item in regard to industrial training and technical education, I wish to say a few words, in accord with what the hon. gentleman (Mr. Murphy) has just said, along the lines of industrial and technical education as far as this Government is concerned. When the Estimates of the Department of Militia and Defence were up the other night I gave my opinion as to what this Government should do for technical education and the reason I did so was that the hon. Minister of Militia and Defence (Mr. Hughes) made the statement that more good was being derived from' military training than would be derived from technical education. That was a rather peculiar way of putting it and I took-the opportunity then to take strong ground against any such statement coming from the Minister of Militia. I am sure that the Minister of Labour does not agree with the Minister of Militia in that and I am also convinced that the people of the country do not agree with him. The commission that was appointed by the late Administration made a very voluminous report after having gathered valuable information not only in Canada and the United States but also in European countries. They made a number of recommendations. The minister may have been right in saying that the commissioners had gone outside of their commission in making these recommendations, but I would scarcely think that the commission would have been doing justice to themselves or to the people who appointed them if they had not done so.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I did not say, or I did not intend to say, that they went outside of their commission; I said that they went outside of the communication that was sent to the various provinces.

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June 10, 1914