Replacement workers would be banned during strikes and lockouts at federally regulated workplaces under new legislation introduced Thursday in the House of Commons.
The bill, introduced by Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan, would fine companies $100,000 a day for every violation. It would apply to all federal workplaces, including federal Crown corporations, airports, ports and the federal public service.
The legislation includes exceptions for situations where replacing workers would be necessary to prevent threats to health and safety, or would help to avoid serious property or environmental damage.
O’Regan said union leaders have argued for decades that replacement workers undermine the collective bargaining process.
“Today is about keeping parties focused on the (bargaining) table,” he said. Collective bargaining can be hard, tense and messy, he added.
“And it works.”
The bill fulfils a promise the Liberals made in the 2021 election to ban the use of replacement workers if an employer locks its employees out. But it goes a step further to extend the ban to include strikes, a major component of the Liberals’ supply-and-confidence deal with the NDP.
Labour unions say 85 per cent of workplace stoppages are due to strikes, not lockouts.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Thursday that without his party and decades of pressure from unions, the bill would never have seen the light of day.
“After decades of battle, after decades of fighting, we are finally going to see a government bill that we forced to make happen, that’s going to ban scab workers in our country,” Singh said.
“This is about giving power to workers, taking away power from greedy CEOs and making sure workers can fight to get a fair share of the profits that they create with their own labour.”
Despite their agreement, there was apparent tension between the Liberals and NDP on Thursday as they held separate press conferences to discuss the bill, each with different union leaders at their side.
O’Regan said he hopes all parties in the House of Commons can come together to support the bill as they did last year to pass legislation ensuring 10 days of paid sick leave for workers in federally regulated industries.
Alessia Passafiume and Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2023.