Anti-scab law would shake trucking industry: CTA

OTTAWA — A labor union-spurred law that makes replacement workers and picket crossing illegal could “unnecessarily disrupt the stability of labor relations balance in the trucking industry,” says Canadian Trucking Alliance Chief Executive Officer David Bradley.

Speaking before the Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Bradley said that Bill C-257, which affects federally regulated companies, would easily give organized labor the upper hand during contract negotiations.

“The role of the regulatory environment should be to ensure a level playing field in labour negotiations in order to maintain an appropriate balance,” Bradley told the committee.

Labor unions claim C-257 will reduce strikes, while
businesses say it unfairly tilts negotiations in workers’ favor

As Today’s Trucking reported last fall, the anti-scab proposal introduced by Bloc Quebecois MP Richard Nadeau, passed a second reading vote in the House of Commons by 167 to 101.

It is now before the HUMA committee, which will refer it back to the House of Commons for third and final reading. If passed in its present form, the bill would prevent the use of any replacement worker except for management, during a strike or lockout.

Using bargaining union members who wish to work, contractors, and employees of a related company would also be prohibited.

While the level of unionization in the trucking industry is relatively low — about 20 percent of drivers in the for-hire sector versus 32 percent of the general workforce — the portion of the industry that is unionized is characterized by a stable labor relations climate, points out Bradley, adding that from 2000 to 2006, there were only seven work stoppages in trucking companies regulated under the Canada Labour Code, and there were no strikes or lockouts at all in 2004 or 2005.

“Therefore, from our perspective Bill C-257 is unnecessary — some have called it a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Under the regulation, Bradley thinks a protracted strike at a trucking company would put that organization out of business. “Trucking provides a perishable service. If Company A doesn’t want the freight at a certain price, chances are someone else will. But the competition is not just for freight, it’s also for qualified drivers. Thus driver mobility in the industry is high,” said Bradley.

Bradley added that if there were a labor stoppage in other federally regulated transportation modes — primarily rail — MPs should not expect that the trucking industry would be able to step in and keep all the freight moving. “Capacity constraints in trucking and the physical nature of much rail freight would prevent the trucking industry from taking up all the slack. The potential to have transportation services halted, ports closed and intermodal facilities shut down would be felt by all Canadians.”

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