Ottawa launches consultations for ‘anti-scab’ legislation
OTTAWA — Ottawa will introduce legislation by the end of next year to ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated businesses, Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan said Wednesday.
O’Regan said the government would start the process by consulting with employers and unions on the development of the legislation.
Anti-scab legislation has been a long-standing goal of the federal New Democratic Party, and the introduction of legislation to ban it was one of the terms of the deal under which the NDP agreed to back the minority Liberal government until June 2025. .
The Liberals promised to limit the use of replacement workers in their 2021 election platform. However, Liberal and Conservative MPs voted against previous anti-scab bills introduced by the Bloc Québécois and New Democrats, despite decades of union lobbying.
O’Regan said the Liberal stance on such legislation has changed due to « substantial » changes in the labor market. « There are a lot more jobs now than there are people, » he said. « I think it changed things quite fundamentally. »
While acknowledging that the business community is « not entirely happy » with the bill, the Labor Minister said he believed such a law would represent « the natural evolution of workers’ rights ».
Senator Hassan Yussuff, former president of the Canadian Labor Congress, welcomed the government’s decision during Wednesday’s announcement, but acknowledged « there will be noise » from the Canadian business community.
Yussuff said he hoped the consultation process would be « vigorous. »
The Liberals had pledged to protect workers who have been locked out by their employers, but the NDP says anti-scab legislation must also prohibit the use of replacement workers during strikes.
According to the Canadian Labor Congress, this is an important distinction; it says nearly 85 percent of federal work stoppages are caused by strikes.
New Democrats say the legislation must also address the use of virtual replacement workers during labor disputes.
NDP MP and labor spokesman Alexandre Boulerice called Wednesday’s announcement « an important first step in empowering workers to fight for their rights. »
The federal government is seeking comments on the bill by December 16 from employers, unions, workers and national Indigenous organizations.
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