NOTES FOR REMARKS IN THE SENATE ON CONTRACT NEGOCIATIONS BETWEEN THE PUBLIC SERVICE ALLIANCE AND THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in support of individuals that we on Parliament Hill see and interact with every day. I talk about the people who cook and serve our meals; people who provide transportation; the people who clean and maintain all the facilities; the people who record and maintain transcripts of proceedings; people who provide services not only to us, but also to members of the other place and by extension all Canadians.

Normally we do not discuss internal labour relations in this chamber, but what has come to light over the course of labour negotiations currently taking place between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the House of Commons administration is that many of the people we interact with everyday on the Hill are denied the fundamental rights afforded working Canadians across the country.

At present, many employees working in the Parliamentary restaurant, printing services and reporting and text processing services have virtually no job security to speak of. They are sent home to collect Employment Insurance, often for months on end, with no warning. Their working hours are regularly cut with no warning. In fact, many have no work schedules whatsoever and are informed the day before, or in some cases the day of, whether or not they will be working.

What is worse, there are no objective, transparent processes with respect to how hours of work are allocated. There is, at present, no clear mechanism via which these employees might gain access to full-time jobs and, as a result, there are employees in some cases with over 10 years of service on Parliament Hill who have never been offered the opportunity to become full-time employees.

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These conditions are unfair and entirely unbecoming of institutions such as the House of Commons and the Senate. In fact, the conditions I have described are, quite frankly, unconscionable. Employees of the Parliament of Canada deserve better.

Employees and their union have been asking the administration of the House of Commons for a clear, transparent process of recognized years of service with respect to how working hours are allocated; for the House to extend the employment security commitment it has already made to some of its employees to all of its employees; for the House to make every reasonable effort to ensure that there is no work to do on the Hill before employees are sent home each summer to collect EI; and for employees to be given reasonable notice as to when they will be working.

What these employees are asking for is standard in the private sector, standard in the public sector and, in many cases, standard on Parliament Hill. I believe that these employees, friends and colleagues — people we see every day — and their families deserve some predictability and stability in their working lives and that their years of service to us should be recognized.

The House of Commons Board of Internal Economy is meeting early next week prior to further negotiations. I urge honourable senators to join me in calling on the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy to ensure that employees be provided working conditions that, at the very least, meet the standards of workers in both the private and public sectors and that fair and objective standards that recognize years of service be applied to all employees.

It is all too easy to take the people around us, who help us and provide us with important services, for granted. This we must not do. I hope honourable senators join me in my concern that these colleagues be treated fairly.