OTTAWA — For at least the third time in a couple of years, legislation to ban federally regulated companies from hiring replacement workers during labor strikes has been defeated.
The vote for the Bloc-led motion, Bill M-294, was moved up from mid- May to last Thursday when many Liberal MPs who were preparing for the party’s convention were not expected to be in Parliament.
Luckily for employers, including federally regulated trucking companies, enough Liberals (14) showed up to join the minority Conservative government in striking down the Bloc and NDP- supported bill, according to media reports.
As many interprovincial carriers and businesses well know, this is the 13th time since 2000 left leaning NDP, Bloc and even Liberal MPs have tried to slip anti-scab legislation through Parliament.
In 2007, two back-to-back private members’ bills (one Bloc, the other Liberal) were defeated by a majority of legislators who agreed that such legislation would prolong work stoppages around the country.
Just like M-294, those bills would have prevented the use of any replacement worker except for management, supervisory or labor relations personnel. It would also have prohibited the services of independent contractors such as owner-operators.
While only 20 percent of the for-hire trucking industry is unionized, such measures could cripple operations at a time when many carriers and their customers can’t bear further damage to the economy.
Proponents of the legislation argue instead that companies use replacement workers to weaken union resolve during a labor standoff.
However, FETCO — an organization representing federally regulated employers — points out that hiring replacement workers is rare among Canadian companies. Most of the time they’re brought on to keep companies operational during collective bargaining negotiations.
The association argues that union workers are already protected under the Canada Labour Code, which ensures their jobs upon returning back to work. But longer strikes that limit businesses’ ability to continue operations can harm a worker’s job security, FETCO points out.
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