COLUMN: Fundamental Collective Bargaining Right

Anti-scab legislation essential to protect workers’ rights, says Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP

Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MLA Carol Hughes writes a regular column on initiatives and issues that impact our community.

One of the most fundamental rights of workers in Canada is the right to collective bargaining. It allows workers to unite under the banner of a union and demand fair contracts at a fair rate of pay. It is an essential part of the Canada Labor Code, but these rights can be violated.

One of the ways employers can circumvent these basic rights is to hire non-members when employees go on strike or are locked out. These people are commonly referred to as either replacement workers, or a much less flattering term: scabs.

The use of scabs undermines the collective power of workers. It does this by removing the most essential power that a work stoppage is supposed to give workers to help end disputes: the ability of workers to exert economic pressure on a company when they cannot reach an agreement. logical collective.

Companies employ scabs to ensure the work they need gets done, which puts undue pressure on workers in a labor dispute and unfairly disadvantages them at the bargaining table, often prolonging strikes and lockouts and putting more pressure on workers to settle for less than they deserve without pushing management to the bargaining table.

The legality of using scabs varies across the country. In provincially regulated industries, only two provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, have laws against hiring replacement workers. In federally regulated industries, there is currently no anti-scab law, but that is about to change.

The Liberals, in their latest election platform, promised some form of anti-scab legislation in federally regulated workplaces, but only in the case of lockouts, where employers prevent workers from entering the workplace during negotiations. However, at a recent press conference, the Minister of Labour, with NDP Labor Critic Alexandre Boulerice at his side, announced that the government would introduce a bill that would prevent the use of workers replacement for lockouts and strikes in federally regulated workplaces. .

Before the government introduced the bill, an NDP private member’s bill (C-302) on anti-scab legislation was introduced by Elizabeth Bernard. It clarifies exactly what we expect from effective anti-scab legislation. The bill provides that no employer shall use, to perform all or part of the duties of an employee in the bargaining unit on strike or locked out, the services of a new employee, a contractor or another employee to replace the work of those who are on strike or locked out. a legal strike or lockout or face a significant financial penalty of up to $100,000 per day.

In addition, the legislation is reasonable in its requirements of the employer and does not preclude the limited hiring of employees to perform essential maintenance work to protect the integrity and safety of the workplace, prevent damage or destruction of equipment and machinery and prevent environmental damage to the job site that may result from work disruptions.

Bill C-302 should be the guide the government uses to implement anti-scab legislation or, better yet, should be the bill the government passes as labor leaders across the country support.

Anti-scab legislation has been introduced in the House of Commons eight times over the past 15 years.

Conservatives have obviously never supported attempts to prevent scabs from disrupting legal strikes or lockouts, as they tend to side with the interests of business, not workers. Although neither did the Liberals, the latest news that the government is now committed to putting in place real anti-scab legislation with teeth bodes well for workers.

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