OTTAWA, ON, Nov. 9, 2023 /CNW/ – Today, the federal Minister of Labour tabled legislation to prohibit the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage in federally regulated workplaces. At the outset, it is important to note that in this context what is considered a replacement worker is often either another employee of that same organization or a contractor with a long-term relationship, who steps in to fill the role of a bargaining unit employee on a temporary basis only.
Federally regulated employers touch the lives of Canadians every day. Without the use of replacement workers – accessed on a temporary basis during a work stoppage – shipping is halted, packages are not delivered, passengers can’t travel, and telecom services, from home internet to banking, are disrupted. Businesses large and small will be impacted and billions of dollars lost to the Canadian economy. The lives of Canadians will be needlessly and negatively affected with the potential shutdown, or serious disruption, of critical infrastructure services and the vital supply chains they support.
When such legislation is introduced, as the evidence clearly shows, two things happen. One, there are more strikes. Two, these strikes last longer. To date, not a shred of evidence has been presented by government, or any other stakeholder, of any demonstrable benefits a replacement worker ban will bring to the system of federal labour relations.
Of note, a ban on replacement workers gives small bargaining units (with hundreds of employees), located in large vertically integrated organizations (with thousands of employees), enormous power to shut down the entire organization for extended periods of time (examples include major airlines, marine ports, railways and telecommunications firms).
It should be noted that legislative proposals to ban replacement workers have come up at least a dozen times in the past 15 years. And every time, a clear majority of politicians, including at least 100 members of the current Liberal Party caucus, have voted it down, knowing the damage it would bring. The only change between now and then is a commitment made as part of a Supply and Confidence Agreement between two political parties in the House of Commons. Ideology is trumping good government policy.
Derrick Hynes, CEO of FETCO: “During this time of extraordinary strain on the labour relations system, as supply chains continue to recover from the economic ravages of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a replacement worker ban will create an enormous imbalance at collective bargaining tables, incentivizing strike action, with serious negative consequences for Canadians.”
FETCO is an employers’ association, representing 37 major federal companies. FETCO members collectively employ over 500,000 Canadian workers, mostly in unionized organizations, and all are regulated under the Canada Labour Code. FETCO advocates on behalf of our member employers on the development of sound policy in the labour realm.