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Canadian unions campaign for anti-scab law

3 March, 2016Canadian unions, including IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the United Steelworkers (USW), have welcomed national legislation tabled by the New Democratic Party (NDP) to stop replacement labour in industrial disputes.

The NDP is a union-friendly opposition political party in the Canadian parliament. The party presented a private member’s bill in the House of Commons to amend the Canada Labour Code to stop the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts.

The USW is urging its members and supporters to lobby their political representatives to support the bill. They intend to put pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Party to adopt a more progressive labour code.

“The Steelworkers union welcomes these changes to the Canada Labour Code. If passed, this law will stop the unfairness of employers using replacement workers during strikes and lockouts. Thanks to the NDP for once again introducing this bill that will benefit workers and employers and contribute to our nation’s productivity,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

Similar legislation exists at provincial level, in Quebec and British Columbia. It has led to fewer, shorter and less violent work disputes. The USW believes that amending the Labour Code to ban replacement workers at a national level will set an important precedent for industrial relations, and will:

  •  Make strikes and lockouts shorter since both sides will be under increased pressure to bargain.
  •  Create a less toxic workplace when workers return to work.
  •  Help make picket lines safer by eliminating replacement workers during strikes or lockouts.
  •  Restore balance to the system by taking away unfair leverage power from corporations to simply lock out and replace people.

The Steelworkers have bitter experience of the toxic environment created by drawn out disputes. USW members in Toronto were on the picket line for 22 months against attempts by multinational canning company Crown Holdings to force through contract changes, including a large pay cut. The dispute was prolonged by the company’s attempt to break the union by using replacement labour, and turned it into a bitter war of attrition.

Brian Kohler, IndustriALL’s contact person for North America, said “Although a private member’s bill, we hope and expect that the Trudeau government will take this opportunity to usher in a new and more progressive era of industrial relations in Canada, and we support the unions in Canada fighting for this change.”