Legislation to prohibit replacement workers in federally regulated industry puts Canadians at risk

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Bill C-58 would impair service providers’ ability to maintain and repair critical network infrastructure should service-impacting events occur during labour disputes

OTTAWA, ON, Nov. 9, 2023 /CNW/ – New legislation aimed at preventing replacement workers in federally regulated industries could put Canadians at risk and cause significant harm to Canada’s economy, all in the pursuit of addressing a problem that does not exist.

Bill C-58, tabled in the House of Commons today, would prohibit the use of replacement workers in federally regulated industries, including the telecom sector, and would impair telecom service providers’ ability to maintain and repair its critical infrastructure should service-impacting events coincide with a strike or lockout.

The resulting negative consequences for Canadians – from the inability to call 911 for help in an emergency to the financial losses suffered by impacted individuals and businesses – will be significant. Evidence has shown that a prohibition on the use of temporary replacements workers result in more regular disruptions of critical services Canadians rely on, longer and more frequent strikes, an increasingly confrontational labour relations environment, and an increased use of back-to-work legislation.

The legislation also runs counter to the Government’s focus on the importance of ensuring the availability and security of critical telecommunications systems. Compromising the reliability and resiliency of our networks – which are fundamental to the safety and well-being of Canadians and to Canada’s economy – in the context of a strike is simply insupportable.

“It is illogical for the government to, on one hand, take extensive and detailed steps under its Telecommunications Reliability Agenda to ensure the reliability and resiliency of Canada’s telecommunications networks while concurrently proposing a ban on the use of replacement workers that would effectively impair the operations of telecommunication networks,” said Canadian Telecommunications Association President and CEO Robert Ghiz. “This is even more confounding when such a ban would disrupt the long-standing balance of bargaining power between employers and employees that has been effective in ensuring well-functioning relationships in unionized federally regulated work settings.”

The Canadian Telecommunications Association is calling on the Government to forego this unnecessary and harmful legislation that could put Canadians and their financial wellbeing at risk. If the Government continues to proceed with new restrictions on the use of replacement workers, it should be subject to thoughtful parameters developed in consultation with key stakeholders, including exceptions for the telecommunications industry.

Quick Facts:
  • The current legal framework applicable to replacement workers under the Canada Labour Code is based on tripartite discussions (labour, employers and Government) and achieves appropriate balance, as follows:
    • Workers have the right to engage in legal strikes.
    • Employers may use replacement workers temporarily during a strike.
    • Striking employees may be entitled to get their jobs back after the strike ends.
    • Employers are prohibited from using replacement workers to undermine unions.
  • Restrictions on the use of replacement workers is a solution to a problem that does not exist. The vast majority of employees in federally regulated industries work for large companies and are represented by sophisticated labour unions that have long-standing relationships with employers and can work effectively with them under the Canada Labour Code. These mature relationships create a balance that has already limited strike activity in federally regulated industries in recent years, with six strikes in 2017, 10 in 2018, nine in 2019, two in 2020 and two in 2021.
  • According to the Government’s own Discussion Paper, the majority of studies indicate that prohibitions on the use of replacement workers is associated with more frequent strikes and lockouts.1
  • A 2010 CD Howe study found a ban on replacement workers increased both the number (15% increase) and the duration (60% increase) of strikes. The study found that, while workers’ wages do increase temporarily after the implementation of anti-replacement worker legislation, “the longer-term effect is to reduce wages, perhaps as a result of the long-term decreases in employment or investment because of the negative long-term effects of such bans on the economy”.2
  • The Minister of Industry highlighted the fundamental importance of network reliability and resiliency through the introduction of the Telecommunications Reliability Agenda in September 2022.3
About Canadian Telecommunications Association

The Canadian Telecommunications Association is dedicated to building a better future for Canadians through connectivity. Our members include service providers, equipment manufacturers, and other organizations in the telecommunications ecosystem, that invest in, build, maintain and operate Canada’s world-class telecommunications networks. Through our advocacy initiatives, research, and events, we work to promote the importance of telecommunications to Canada’s economic growth and social development and advocate for policies that foster investment, innovation, and positive outcomes for consumers. We also facilitate industry initiatives, such as the Mobile Giving Foundation CanadaCanadian Common Short CodesSTAC and wirelessaccessibility.ca

SOURCE Canadian Telecommunications Association

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