August 30, 1950 (21st Parliament, 3rd Session)


Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Angus Maclnnis (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, in the few remarks I shall make at this time-and because of the urgency of the situation before us they will be few-I hope I can be clear. Certainly I shall endeavour to be brief.
We have before us a bill the purpose of which is to end the present stoppage of work on the railway transportation systems in Canada. With that purpose we are all agreed. As a matter of fact part of what I shall have to say will be in criticism of the government for its apparent lack of concern while the situation that led up to the strike was brewing, and of the lack of concern shown when the strike actually took place. The strike came into effect a week ago last Tuesday morning. So far as I have been able to learn from the radio and the press-the only means we had of knowing what the government intended to do-it was the government's intention not to do anything until parliament should meet a week later, and then, in the leisurely way parliament deals with these matters, to make provision for the ending of the strike.
I felt that that was not what was required in the circumstances. I felt also that, because
Maintenance of Railway Operation Act the government would be compelled to inject' itself into the dispute at some time, surely it should not let a week go by without doing anything. I could not get in touch with Ottawa by telegraph, which is the cheapest way and the one which appeals to me, so I took the next best means and by telephone got in touch with the leader of this group,-the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell). Before calling him I put my views in writing so that I could state them clearly and in the shortest possible time. I suggested to him that he should get in touch with the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) at once and ask him to call in the representatives of the labour unions and of the railway companies and put the matter before the labour unions in this way: "What are your minimum demands?" and then ask the employing companies: "What is' the maximum you will concede?" ->
Two days after the time I called, suggesting that the Prime Minister be communicated? with, he did call them in. But in my opinion he did not approach them with that sense of urgency the situation required. He told them,' "Now, try to get together to settle this matter." It seems to me he should have found out immediately what separated them, and then should have indicated what could be done to bridge the gap between them, if there was a gap. If that had been done 1 am satisfied that there would be no reason for this; bill; that the gap would have been bridged, because it was not very great, and when both parties were before the Prime Minister I am almost certain that they would be on theid best behaviour and it would be less.
There is another factor entering into this, matter which I must touch upon. The former minister of labour died. I should like to, have said something yesterday to express my own regrets at his passing, because,, though we sat on opposite sides of the house; for the greater part of the time he was here, we had a very close association and, may I say, friendship. The job of minister of labour is not an easy one; the portfolio is not one a person would ordinarily seek, because he is bound to be criticized, no matter what he does. There was one thing about the Hon. Humphrey Mitchell, the former minister of labour, which was of great importance: he knew labour matters, he knew labour men; he knew what was in their minds, and he also knew how to meet employers.
I have certainly nothing to say about the present Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg), except that he is one of the finest men I know and did an excellent job in the portfolio he held prior to his present one. But surely

Maintenance of Railway Operation Act the government have among their ranks-I am sure they have, because I know them- men who know the labour movement, and who, holding the labour portfolio, could be effective in the present situation in a way that the present minister for obvious reasons cannot be. I say again that I hope he will not misunderstand me, because I have nothing but the very highest respect for him. It seems to me that on every score the government allowed this situation to drift when they should have known that sooner or later they would have to come into the picture. They have now come into it at the most difficult point for themselves and the country.
Let me review the facts leading up to the stoppage of work. The agreement under which the labour unions were working expired on the 16th of June, 1949. About that time they opened negotiations with the employing companies. I do not believe anyone can say that the labour unions did not make every effort to reach an agreement. It seems to me that there was a lot of quibbling on the part of the companies. I have had some experience in negotiating labour agreements. I have toeen a member of a union that has always worked under an agreement, and my experience has been that if a collective agreement expires on a certain date-let us say June 16, 1949

the new agreement comes into effect as from that date. There should be no question about the date on which certain parts of it should come into operation. There might be some question about when the five-day forty-hour week should come into operation, but surely there should be no question about the date on which any increase in wages granted under a new agreement should come into effect. It should come into effect on the day the old agreement expires and the new agreement begins. It is either that or the workers are working part of the time undpr an agreement and part of the time without an agreement at all.
Therefore I believe that the companies did not negotiate in good faith. If I had any doubts on that score, they were eliminated by the action of the companies when they ipet in this building after the dinner adjournment last Saturday. I was having dinner at the Lord Elgin hotel, and I met a number *of the employees' representatives there, not by design but they also happened to be dining there. They seemed to be very optimistic that an agreement was in sight. They hoped to be able to obviate any differences they had and to complete an agreement when they resumed their meeting at 7.30 that evening. When they met at 7.30 the discussions and negotiations that had been going on when they adjourned at 4.30 were
[Mr. MacInnisJ

not continued. They were met with a statement by the chairman of the Canadian National Railways that there was no reason for continuing in session any longer, as the companies had come to the conclusion that an agreement could not be arrived at. Not only that; but Mr. Gordon also had a typewritten statement prepared for the press. Therefore between 4.30 and 7.30, instead of discussing with the representatives of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company how near they could come to meeting the demands of the employees, he was discussing with them a statement to give to the press terminating negotiations. In- my opinion that amounts to double-crossing not only the workers but also the government of Canada. As a matter of fact it seems clear that the chairman of the Canadian National Railways did not bargain in good faith, but intended to place this matter in the lap of the government so that an arbitrator would be appointed.
I agree with everything my leader said about Mr. Gordon. I mix with workers. I have been at meetings of strike committees in my own city of Vancouver, and I have never known workers to be so incensed at the actions and attitude of their employers as the railway workers in my province are at Mr. Gordon. One of the things they cannot forgive is that when he came to speak to them he did not come in a conciliatory frame of mind and talk to them as man to man. He came and spoke to them as a man to children. He said, "You go on strike and you will live to regret it." The workers of this country, the members of the trade union movement of Canada, have got beyond the stage where any employer can come to them and tell them where their best interests lie and that if they differ with him they will live to regret it. I am satisfied that it will take a generation of good labour relations to undo the harm that has been done by the chairman of the Canadian National Railways in the short time that he has occupied that position.
Let us consider the bill. It definitely does two things. It orders the men back to work, and provides for the appointment of an arbitrator to arbitrate, as has already been mentioned, not only the question of wages and hours but everything in dispute. These definite provisions in the bill are of a coercive character. They are contrary to past government policy in the matter of labour relations policy which was reiterated as recently as June of this year at the conference of the international labour organization in Geneva; and they also put into effect a policy that is repugnant to free labour everywhere. The point has been made that this bill deals only with a particular situation and does not affect

our industrial relations act. Nevertheless the workers are fearful-and I believe they have every reason to be-that if this bill passes, employers will take it as a precedent and that whenever workers make demands there will be no further bargaining in good faith because employers will expect the government to make the same provision for them; that is, an arbitrator will be appointed and then it will be left to one man to decide what the workers are entitled to.
There are in Canada some excellent men for arbitration work. There are also some men appointed as arbitrators who do not understand the needs of the workers, who think in terms of labour as a commodity. They forget or cannot understand that the commodity cannot be separated from the human beings who deliver it

human beings with aspirations, with hopes, with families to feed and educate. They do not understand those things; they do not think of labour as man, in all respects like themselves. They think only in terms of the least amount on which labour can continue to labour and reproduce its kind. It is with men of that kind, acting as arbitrators, that members of the trade unions are afraid they may have to deal.
I have not had much time to consider the amendment, but I will say that it would get our transportation system in operation quickly, and also that it has been tried before. Controllers have been appointed at various times, and so far as I know have done a very good job. What position I shall take when the amendment comes to a vote will be decided after I have had time to give it further study; but, as I have said, I believe it has much to commend it. If only for the sake of getting the roads operating at once and getting the principle of free collective bargaining into operation again I should be glad to go a long way indeed.
One could say much more, but let me conclude with this. As yet no one has said that the demands of the railway employees are unreasonable. Both the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National are now operating under the five-day forty-hour week on their lines in the United States; and those lines have not gone bankrupt. As a matter of fact their net profits this year are much greater than they were before those hours went into effect, and instead of being greatly increased the number of employees is somewhat less than before the forty-hour week went into operation. So there is not very much in the argument that they cannot meet the cost. But let us not forget that the railroads of Canada were given two, if not three, increases in freight rates recently, and that their financial position in 1950 is much better than it
Maintenance of Railway Operation Act was in 1949. I am not going to take the trouble to give the figures at the moment, but they are on record and may be seen by anyone who cares to look.
Let me repeat that the issue here is the question of compulsion, of putting into the hands of one man the power to determine the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of men; and to that I am opposed.

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