|Political Action - Anti-Scab Legislation
“Banning the use of replacement workers under the Canada Labour Code is good for the economy, it's good for workers’ rights
and it's good for Canada.”
|Labour rights have always been important for Canadian working families. That's why Canada's federal labour code needs to be
amended to include a ban on replacement workers or “scabs” during strikes and lockouts.
The preamble to the Canada Labour Code begins with the following words: “...there is a long tradition in Canada of labour legislation
and policy designed for the promotion of the common well-being through the encouragement of free collective bargaining and the
constructive settlement of disputes.”
The use of scabs and replacement workers flies in the face of this. Labour disputes are prolonged by the practice with a lingering
animosity that can infect a workplace for years. The use of scabs breeds anger on picket lines that can lead to violence.
Management is given an unfair advantage to drag its heels in bargaining, reaping profits from unpaid salaries (scabs are often paid
less) and compromising any hope for a fair settlement. Meanwhile, productivity drops.
Recent lockouts at TELUS and the CBC are glaring examples where the use of scabs in federally-regulated workplaces made
negotiations far worse. Millions of dollars were squandered as management ushered people through picket lines.
The TELUS example demonstrates a trend that is true in all instances where scabs are used. Productivity for firms hiring scabs
actually decreases both during and after labour disputes. Once the CBC was unable to use replacement workers (because of the
protests of pickets and public support for the locked-out workers), the dispute was quickly resolved.
The proof is in the practice
Quebec implemented anti-scab legislation in 1977, and has since reaped the rewards of workplace stability. The average number of
working days lost to strikes dropped from 39 days in 1976 to about 15 today, less than half the amount lost under the Canada Labour
Code. British Columbia passed anti-scab legislation in 1993 with a similar reduction in time lost due to strikes. The amount
dropped by 50% in the year following the introduction of the law, which remains in effect today. Vidéotron's dispute in Quebec in 2002-
2004 was under the Canada Labour Code and lasted ten months. It involved 2,200 workers. Scabs were used and the company
facilities were vandalized. Over 350,000 days of work were lost in a strike prolonged by the use of scabs.
Ontario banned the use of replacement workers in 1992, but lifted the ban a few years later following a change of government.
Despite the rhetoric used by the opponents of the law, the short period it was in place was characterized by few work stoppages,
moderate union demands and picket line peace.
Bottom line: it's just good policy
Banning scabs and replacement workers from workplaces under the Canada Labour Code would prevent disruptive, needlessly
long, and even needless labour disputes in vital sectors of our economy. It would also set a national standard that other provinces
would be pressured to follow, adding to the labour peace and improved productivity already realized in British Columbia and Quebec.
Federal politicians must step up to the plate and provide decent labour rights for workers and employers in Canada. Of course,
further improvements to working conditions under federal rules are needed, but introducing federal anti-scab legislation would
provide an important first step in this effort.
When working people do well, business does well... and we have a better country.
Source: Canadian Labour Congress
If it’s good for BC and Quebec, it’s good for Canada - Anti-Scab Legislation (June 25, 2006)
Anti-Scab bill fails to pass in House of Commons (April 25, 2006)