Federal government tables anti-scab legislation

Yesterday, the federal Liberal government fulfilled one of the NDP’s key supply and confidence agreement demands by tabling anti-scab legislation in Parliament.

As reported by the CBC:

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.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has pointed out that Bill C-58 would not have been possible without NDP advocacy on the issue of anti-scabbing. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

The CBC article points out that if passed, employers found in violation of the law could be fined up to $100,000 per day.

As noted by Liberal Cabinet Minister Seamus O’Regan, prohibiting companies from hiring scab labour helps to incentivize meaningful negotiations at the bargaining table and ultimately results in better settlements faster.

When companies are allowed to hire scab labour during a strike, it ultimately only undermines the bargaining position of workers. Utilizing scab labour enables a company to continue operating during a strike, causing strikes to drag on, and increasing instability for workers and the general public alike.

Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan, notes that anti-scab legislation will bring more stability and certainty to the economy.

The global affordability crisis we currently face is also a factor to consider in the implementation of anti-scab legislation.

When struggling to pay for groceries, gas, rent, and utilities, strapped working families who may not wish to engage in scab labour are forced into a position of having to compromise on their values or get evicted. No worker should have to choose between supporting their coworkers or putting food on the table for their family.

The tabled legislation would only apply to federally regulated workplaces, which the federal government estimates cover approximately 1 million workers, 34% of whom are unionized. While passing the legislation is a positive step for workers in Canada, it also underscores the need for similar legislation in Alberta.

British Columbia and Quebec are the only provinces with similar legislation in place.

Quebec’s legislation stretches back to 1977 when the Parti Québécois government introduced legislation banning the use of scabs after a long period of job action in the province. BC’s legislation was introduced in 1993 by an NDP government, also following a period of substantial tension under a previous anti-worker government.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the right to strike is constitutionally protected under the freedom of association.

Passing Bill C-58 banning the use of scab labour would represent yet another important step in levelling the playing field of labour relations in Canada and help ensure that workers have the means to stand together to build better workplaces and a better world.