Replacement Worker Ban Could Give Unions Disproportionate Power Over Canada’s Economy, MPs Told

Replacement Worker Ban Could Give Unions Disproportionate Power Over Canada’s Economy, MPs Told
The Parliament Buildings are seen beyond the Alexandra Bridge in Ottawa on Sept. 7, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Chris Tomlinson

An amendment to labour laws to ban replacement workers in the federal private sector during strikes could give unions outsized control over Canada’s economy, including potentially shutting down key infrastructure, employers told MPs.

Derrick Hynes, the CEO of Federally Regulated Employers Transportation and Communications Association, testified before the House of Commons human resources committee regarding proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code as part of Bill C-58, which looks to ban the use of replacement workers.

“A replacement worker ban gives very small bargaining units in large organizations an ability to shut down the entire organization,” Mr. Hynes said, as first covered by Blacklock’s Reporter. “This can happen at an airline, an airport, a railway, a marine port or in telecom.”

Mr. Hynes said that the proposal to ban replacement workers has been around for decades and has been attempted “at least a dozen times in the past 15 years” but has never been approved, saying prior elected officials knew “it was a bad idea.”

Bill C-58 was introduced in November 2023 and would apply to most federally regulated industries such as banking, airports and telecommunications, and railways. It will not apply to the federal public service or workplaces that are regulated by a province or territory.

According to the proposed reforms in Bill C-58, employers who attempt to use replacement workers during strikes will face fines of up to $100,000 per day. The bill also proposes certain exceptions for the use of replacement workers, such as threats to the life of any person, a threat to the destruction of or serious damage to an employers property or premises, and the threat of serious environmental damage affecting an employer’s property.

Christina Santini, director of national affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), told The Epoch Times the bill would indirectly negatively impact small and independent businesses and that in places like Quebec, which has similar legislation, there have been more work stoppages and strikes as a result.

“There’s less incidence of strikes at the federal level in the federally regulated private sector than there is in Quebec. And our concern is that this type of bill would result in more strikes,” Ms. Santini said.

“So we would like to see measures that would encourage negotiations to stay at the table and discourage work stoppages, or that would encourage parties to stay at the table versus walking away from it,” she added.

Todd Lewis, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, told the human resources committee that farmers are vulnerable during strikes, particularly in sectors like transportation, as they do not get paid if they are unable to move their goods. He proposed an amendment that all farming shipments and exports continue to take place even during strikes.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Robert Ashton, who also spoke before the human resources committee, defended the use of strikes as essential but said they were a last resort and that workers and unions would rather have “a fairly negotiated collective agreement at the table as fast as we can.

He added that the use of replacement workers was a “weapon of the bosses” as it allowed them to keep businesses running and pitted workers against each other.

United Steelworkers Union director Marty Warren called for the legislation to be passed and come into force ahead of next year’s expected federal election. He urged lawmakers on the human resources committee to remove a clause in the bill which would delay implementation to 18 months after the bill receives Royal Assent.

So far, the bill has passed first and second readings in the House of Commons and has yet to receive a final third reading which would push the bill into consideration in the Senate. The bill passed its second reading unanimously in the House by a vote of 318 to zero in February.
Tory support comes despite party leader Pierre Poilievre initially expressing some hesitation regarding the ban on replacement workers in November of last year when the bill was initially introduced.
Chris Tomlinson is a freelance contributor to The Epoch Times.