Anti-Scab Legislation Tabled

We are still reviewing the new anti-scab legislation that was tabled today by the federals Liberals. For now, we are proud to have contributed the pressure to make this happen. The following is reposted from the CBC.

Liberals table anti-scab labour legislation, fulfilling a key NDP demand

The NDP is seeing one of the key demands of its agreement with the Liberals fulfilled today as the government tables long-anticipated anti-scab legislation.

Bill C-58 would ban employers from using replacement workers to perform the work of unionized employees who are on strike or locked out of their jobs.

"When we say the best deals are made at the table, we mean it," Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said Thursday. "So today is about keeping parties focused on the table and providing more stability and certainty to the economy."

According to the federal government, about 22,350 employers and and just over one million employees operate in the federally regulated private sector. About 34 per cent of those employees are unionized.

British Columbia and Quebec have similar legislation. New Democrats have attempted to bring in a bill of their own more than eight times over the past 15 years. The last time an NDP anti-scab bill went to a vote, in 2016, both Liberals and Conservatives voted against it.

Anti replacement worker legislation was one of the NDP's demands when it signed an agreement with the Liberals promising the government support on key pieces of legislation in exchange for progress on New Democrats' policy priorities.

The agreement specifically calls on the government to introduce "legislation by the end of 2023 to prohibit the use of replacement workers ... when a union employer in a federally regulated industry has locked out employees or is in a strike."

The pledge to introduce the legislation was also contained in the Liberals' 2021 election platform where they said it would "create a fairer collective bargaining process."

Exceptions and enforcement
The legislation states that employers could still hire replacement workers in special circumstances, such as situations where leaving a workplace unstaffed could pose a threat to health and safety, property or the environment.

Employers who abuse that exception could be reported to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), which has the power to investigate such claims.

The bill also would allow non-unionized contractors hired before a notice of a lockout or strike to continue working, providing they do so "in the same manner, to the same extent and in the same circumstances as they did before the notice was given," a government statement said.

An employer who violates the law could be prosecuted and, if convicted, could be fined up to $100,000 per day.

"If they cannot come to an agreement the matter can be referred to the [CIRB] to resolve … within 90 days," O'Regan said. "This is important, it does mean more certainty and predictability in collective bargaining."

The proposed amendments to the labour code would not apply to federal public servants, who are regulated under different legislation, or to provincially or territorially regulated employees.

Government officials speaking on background said all changes will come into effect 18 months after Bill C-58 gets royal assent, to give employers, unions and the CIRB time to adjust.

'Terrible news for small businesses'

Lana Payne is the national president of Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union. She said Bill C-58 is a win for everyone who has fought for stronger labour rights.

"This legislation has been a long time coming," Payne said. "The right to strike, to withdraw our labour, is integral to free and fair collective bargaining."

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), meanwhile, said Bill C-58 is "terrible news for small businesses."

"If passed, this bill could prolong the duration of strikes and increase their frequency," Jasmin Guenette, CFIB's vice-president, said in a media statement.

"There's a reason why similar bills were always voted down in the past. They put too much power in the hands of large unions, and they are a threat to the economy as a whole. It looks like this bill is introduced for political reasons and not because it's necessary."

Tense negotiations

Sources said New Democrats and Liberals worked closely together on developing the bill. A source with knowledge of the negotiations said they were tense at times, with the New Democrats threatening to be less co-operative in the House of Commons and to refuse to fast-track Liberal legislative priorities.

A source within Canada's labour movement confirmed they're expecting the government to table legislation to boost workers' rights during a cost-of-living crisis.

The source said the labour movement believes the legislation will receive pushback from businesses. But several sources who support the legislation say it could help prevent labour disruptions by forcing both sides to come to a deal sooner.

The labour source said the bill that will be tabled today could have been stronger.

The source said the legislation requires that all unionized federally regulated workplaces come up with agreements detailing when replacement workers can be used in the event of a strike or lockout.

The labour source said such agreements, known as "maintenance of activity" agreements, are only required for hazardous workplaces that have to keep running during a walkout for safety reasons, such as steel or chemical plants.

Because of the timing of the bill's introduction, it could be several years before workplaces have to comply with the new law.

But despite the bill's imperfections, the labour source said it's still "an advancement for working people."

Story by David Thurton, CBC 

This Canadian news article is reprinted so that we can share it to social media with censorship by META.