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'It’s archaic': Feds touting new anti-scab legislation

Historic legislation was recently tabled in the House of Commons effectively banning replacement workers during a strike or lockout.

And the federal labour minister was in Windsor, Ont. Tuesday to discuss the significance of the new bill.

“Labour had a big, big week this week. We introduced into the House of Commons anti-scab legislation,” said Minister Seamus O’ Regan to a group of union members at the Unifor local 200/444 union hall, where he also took questions from current and former workers on all ranges of subjects.

The federal Liberals and NDP joined forces to table anti-replacement worker legislation, Bill C-58 late last week.

O’ Regan told the union crowd the legislation would ban replacement workers in federally regulated sectors during a work stoppage like a strike or lock-out.

“Hanging over them was this notion that the dignity of their work, their work itself, could be substituted at any moment,” O’ Regan said. “It’s archaic.”

Similar legislation exists in B.C. and Quebec, but not in Ontario.

“Do the work, stay at the table and do the work,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. And you should do it too. And we'll continue to make the case.”

O’ Regan said members of the labour movement have been asking to ban replacement workers, often referred to as “scabs” since before Canada existed.

“It's a great first step and there have absolutely been hundreds of examples throughout the years of where replacement workers have hindered the rights of the collective bargaining rights of workers,” said Jason McMichael, head of government relations for the LIUNA Labourers Union.

O’ Regan said the legislation was created by consulting with the business community and labour unions.

“Did we arrive in a place where everybody's gonna be happy? No. Did we arrive at the right place? I believe that we did,” he said.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce disagrees, noting it could affect services Canadians rely on like transit, has the potential to upset the already fragile supply chain, make life less affordable and leave unions more inclined to strike rather than bargain collectively.

“The government proposes to tilt the scales in favour of the labour unions, regardless of the cost to our economy. But when our elected representatives choose sides in this way, who is going to stand up for the Canadian people?” said Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty in a statement posted on the chamber’s website.

O’ Regan countered 96 per cent of federal labour disputes are settled without government intervention.

“This table was not balanced. Replacement workers is not the way to go about labour relations in the 21st century,” he said. “And we're changing that.”

Breaking the proposed law would cost an employer $100,000 per day in fines.

It’s expected the bill will pass with NDP support in about 18 months. Top Stories

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