Canada dispatch: new federal labour invoice would ban employer use of ‘scabs’ throughout strikes or lockouts – JURIST

Canadian legislation college students are reporting for JURIST on nationwide and worldwide developments in and affecting Canada. Mélanie Cantin is JURIST’s Chief Correspondent for Canada and a 3L on the College of Ottawa School of Regulation. 

Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations, 2012, is presently earlier than the Canadian Parliament.

Launched for first studying on November 9, the invoice is being sponsored by the Minister of Labour and Seniors, Seamus O’Reagan, and seeks just a few amendments to the Canada Labour Code. Most notably, the invoice would enact a ban on using alternative employees (colloquially often called “scabs”) throughout a strike or lockout and would power unions and employers to come back to the desk early on within the bargaining course of to determine the activities that would continue should a strike or lockout move forward. In a coincidental flip of occasions, the invoice was launched on the very same day because the official end of the historic strike by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (“SAG-AFTRA”) in the US.

The elements of the Canada Labour Code which can be being amended apply to federally regulated personal sectors, which embody banking, radio and tv broadcasting, interprovincial railways, and various other sectors. This essentially excludes the federal public service in addition to Parliament itself. The rights of these employees are set out in a distinct a part of the Canada Labour Code. Approximately 910,000 workers in Canada are “federally regulated” whereas the remainder of personal sector employees fall beneath provincial regulation.

Presently, the Canada Labour Code solely has a partial ban on using alternative employees “for the demonstrated objective of undermining a commerce union’s representational capability moderately than the pursuit of reliable bargaining targets” (section 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code). This part of the Canada Labour Code together with different reforms that obtained royal assent again on June 18, 1998 beneath Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, was hailed by some as a big victory for unions in Canada. Earlier than then, federal laws relating to using scabs didn’t exist in any respect.

For critics, nonetheless, this safety has at all times been far too slender. Certainly, part 94(2.1) solely covers using alternative employees for the required objective of “busting” unions. This makes it tough for unions, on whom the burden of proof lies in these cases, to ascertain the aim for which the employer is utilizing scabs. Underneath the present regime, employers can subsequently, in impact, use alternative employees with out violating the Code so long as they display some belief in the bargaining process that might dispel an allegation that they’re making an attempt to undermine a union’s representational capability.

On the opposite facet of the talk, members of varied Canadian enterprise organizations have decried the actions of the federal authorities. A joint letter from February 2023 spearheaded by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a business-focused non-profit group, has been recirculating in response to the official introduction of Invoice C-58 in Parliament. The letter criticizes the invoice, claiming it’ll harm the Canadian economic system. 80+ Canadian enterprise organizations have signed it.

Though correct anti-scab laws has existed within the provinces of British Columbia and Québec for a number of years, this has not but been replicated on the federal stage or elsewhere in Canada. The enactment of such laws has been a longstanding purpose for a lot of Canadian politicians from varied events (most notably New Democrats, Bloquistes, and now and again, Liberals) however has but to succeed.

The distinction, this time, might very properly be the existence of the so-called “provide and confidence” settlement between the governing Liberals and the New Democratic Get together (NDP) that has been in place since March 2022. This settlement primarily offers that the NDP will help the Liberal authorities on budgetary issues, “notably on budgetary policy, budget implementation bills, estimates and supply” and on confidence issues―in impact, this latter ingredient signifies that a no-confidence movement towards the federal government can’t succeed, because the remaining sitting members (Conservatives, Greens, Bloquistes, and Independents) wouldn’t have the requisite numbers to prevail with out the NDP’s help.

In alternate for this vital benefit, the Liberals will prioritize and help sure coverage objectives superior by the NDP, together with introducing laws banning using scabs throughout strikes and lockouts by the tip of 2023. Though the federal government waited till the Home of Commons solely had 20 more sitting days this year to introduce laws, it’s nonetheless encouraging to see such a invoice launched with actual prospects of eventual enactment.

Opinions expressed in JURIST Dispatches are solely these of our correspondents within the area and don’t essentially mirror the views of JURIST’s editors, employees, donors or the College of Pittsburgh.

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