An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Monique Guay  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 9, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2002 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words on Bill C-224, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code. The purpose of the enactment is to prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers.

I support the bill. I have looked at the whole bill. It is not lengthy or complicated. Clause 2 of the bill would replace subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code.

New subsection 94(2.1) says that an employer cannot directly or indirectly employ people to do the work of the people who are withdrawing their services. That sounds reasonable to me.

New subsection 94(2.2) would give an employer the right to take measures to avoid destruction of his property. That sounds reasonable as well.

New subsection 94(2.3) would limit the ability of the employer to abuse the rights he has been given under subsection 94(2.2). Again that sounds very reasonable.

New subsections 94(2.4), (2.5) and (2.6) would give the Minister of Labour the tools to investigate breaches of the act. That sounds reasonable again.

Finally, clause 3 of the bill would amend section 100 of the Canada Labour Code to provide a fine for the people found guilty of breaches of the act.

These are all reasonable clauses that should help employees and employers in their efforts to resolve differences in a very professional and rational manner.

As I said, I support the bill. I have long been a supporter of the fundamental right to strike. I have always been very reluctant to place any undue restrictions on an individual's right to strike. Bill C-224 is a way of making the right to strike more effective once a withdrawal of service becomes a reality.

All of us have seen many withdrawals of services in our lifetime. Some have been easygoing and friendly; others have become very loud and bitter. However in every case whenever replacement workers have been brought in, it has always made matters a whole lot worse. It has always raised the temperature of the people on the picket line. We all know what results when those things happen.

When people have been out on a dirty old picket line for days in the rain or snow, the sight of replacement workers being bused in is often too much for them to take. In that event we see that shouts replace dialogue and very often push comes to shove. Implementing Bill C-224 would reduce the acrimony and violence on the picket line.

Very often management will do as much as it can to replace workers who have gone out on strike. That is fair. Management is allowed to do that. It is allowed to keep the company operating if it can. However when the people in management start hiring people to help them, such as their friends, their neighbours and replacement workers, then we are talking about a different kettle of fish. This is where the acrimony and violence develops on picket lines.

A strike is about withdrawing one's services. It is not about having one's services replaced by people who have absolutely no right to be there.

We have to remember as well that life has to go on after the strike is over. Things get back to normal more quickly if there are no nasty incidents and no violence on the picket lines. Doing things professionally and rationally is in the best interests of both management and labour.

I support the bill. I hope it will help in reducing the incidence of violence and acrimony on the picket line.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2002 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to support the motion and Bill C-224, whose purpose is to create anti-strikebreaking legislation. This is a policy of the New Democratic Party. I am sure that I speak for all my colleagues when I say that I hope one day our country will be as progressive as the Province of Quebec with respect to our labour code.

The Canada Labour Code already has a section on this, but it is quite weak. There is a great need for a much stronger section in order to ban replacement workers.

I want to congratulate the hon. member from the Bloc for bringing forward this private member's motion. This is the kind of motion which over the years has been brought forward by NDP and Bloc members of Parliament. The member stands in a great tradition of persisting in trying to get various Liberal and Conservative governments to bring forward anti-scab legislation in the federal domain. I am talking about real anti-scab legislation, not the kind that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour sang the praises of earlier, which we know is not really anti-scab legislation.

It does not pertain to the kind of situation in which we want anti-scab legislation, that is to say an actual strike or lockout. As I understand the current article, it only pertains to whether or not a company is using it to undermine the union rather than the various other and more important ways that it can be used, and that has to be prevented.

As recently as yesterday, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Ken Georgetti, urged the federal government and MPs to support Bill C-224. He said:

In this matter, the federal jurisdiction is definitely outdated and backward compared to Quebec and British Columbia. The experience in both provinces has shown, without a doubt, that the express prohibition on hiring strike breakers has contributed immensely to civilized industrial relations during work stoppages on top of reducing significantly the statistics on work days lost to strike or lock-out.

Sometimes we forget that if we do things right it actually would have the appropriate consequences. I would want to take issue with those who would argue otherwise.

I was listening to my colleague from the Alliance. I heard an argument which I have heard elsewhere and which I find not to be correct, that is, that things have changed, that we do not need these kinds of laws now because everything is so much nicer, and that we do not have strikebreakers any more, or people who are on strike do not have to worry about goons or thugs. In some cases, the goons and thugs are the scabs themselves. They are actually hired for the purpose of treating striking workers in a particularly physically intimidating or violent way.

It was not so long ago I believe, in Ontario, at a strike which might have been in Chatham, where a striking worker was seriously injured by someone who drove a vehicle through the picket line. To suggest that somehow violence does not occur any more and that we have reached some new harmonious state of labour management relations in the country, or relationships between striking workers and other workers and people who are hired for the purpose of providing scab labour, is not true. I wish it was true but I do not think it is true. That is why we need this kind of legislation.

I have always felt particularly frustrated whenever I had occasion to visit picket lines in my riding where people have been on strike for weeks, months and sometimes years, and replacement workers had long since settled in. These people would walk up and down knowing that the work that they used to do was being done by someone else.

It seems to me that unless we can guarantee that these workers cannot be put in this kind of position we are forever guaranteeing something else, that is, if management is mean enough and nasty enough it will always win when it comes to a strike or a lockout situation. I say mean and nasty enough because sometimes management is not that way and does seek to go back to the table. However, the absence of anti-scab legislation really does create a situation in which the meanest and the nastiest can prevail if it wants to. That is not a good situation.

Not surprisingly, this often happens to me, I guess as a result of having been here so long, and I find that when issues like this come up I check the record and discover that I made a speech on this in 1995 or 1987 or 1983 when a previous private member's motion or bill was up or when we were debating back to work legislation and all the other occasions we have had in this place to debate the need for improvement to labour legislation in this country.

One of the arguments I tend to make, and I want to make it today, is that I always find that these debates illustrate a kind of philosophical gap between how we interpret the actions of working people and how we interpret the actions of people with money, or the owners, if we like. I hear members talk in situations when there are strikes of small businessmen or farmers or others being held hostage by longshoremen or railway workers or whatever the case may be. I sympathize with the situations that people find themselves in, but I wonder why we do not have the same sense of offence when a small number of money speculators holds a whole country to ransom.

Why is it that when the powerful exercise their economic freedom and say that unless they get what they want they are not going to behave in the economy the way they normally do, why is that when they do that, we say “that's the way the cookie crumbles” or that is the way the market works or that is the way business operates? If money speculators say they are not getting high enough interest rates out of Canada so they are going to undermine our economy, we say that is a reality we have to adjust to. But when working people say they are not getting paid enough and they are not going to work until they do get paid enough, we ask them to take into account the effect they are having on other people. We ask them to have a moral consciousness when it comes to their economic behaviour.

I like that argument. I think we all should have a moral consciousness when it comes to our economic behaviour and ask ourselves questions about what the consequences are for other people of particular economic decisions. But I always find it odd that it is striking workers who are asked to consider the welfare of the whole country, that are asked to consider the effect of their strike on a particular sector of the economy or on Canada's exports or whatever the case may be. When a business or corporation says the same thing, when it says that it has to do something because its shareholders demand it or its quarterly profit margins demand it or the money markets demand it, its economic self-interest is regarded as sacred. Yet the economic self-interest of workers is held in a different category. Often, it is held in contempt.

I have always found these kinds of debates to be interesting in that regard. I long for the day when all of us, worker and owner, corporation and union, everyone, will have to answer for how their economic behaviour affects the overall well-being of the economy in the country. But in the meantime, I will not settle for a universe in which we have this double standard, where workers are asked to behave in a particular way while people with the money, the power and the ownership can act in an opposite way and everyone regards that as perfectly normal.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale Ontario

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate on this important question of labour policy.

Bill C-224 seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code and more specifically part I of the code dealing with labour-management relations. As members will recall, there are three parts to the Canada Labour Code. Part I deals with labour relations issues, part II deals with workplace safety issues, and part III deals with workplace standards. The proposal to prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers pertains to part I of the code.

It was not that long ago that the Government of Canada went through a lengthy period of consultation with stakeholders in the labour community, including representatives of both employers and employees, prior to introducing amendments to part I that were debated and passed by the House.

The issue of replacement workers was considered carefully at that time, both through consultation and debate in the House. During the public consultation process it became clear there were two opposing positions being taken on the issue of replacement workers. Some thought there should be a general prohibition on the use of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts. The opposing view was that there should be no prohibition on the use of replacements.

The government sought to find a balance between these two positions. It proposed an amendment to part I of the Canada Labour Code to prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers if that action would harm the legitimate bargaining objectives of the unions. It was not to be a complete ban on replacement workers, but at the same time it would not allow employers to bring in replacement workers to prevent the union's legitimate bargaining objectives. That amendment was passed by the House as part of a package of reforms to the Canada Labour Code and came into effect in 1999.

There are still opposing points of view on the issue. Bill C-224 reflects one of these points of view but there remains two sides to the issue. One difference lies with being part of the government or being in opposition. An opposition member can afford to promote a particular point of view, but the government must take a stance with a broad perspective and act in the overall national interest.

That is what the government did when the matter was before the House earlier and that is what it would do now. I do not mean to dismiss the concerns raised by the member opposite. Indeed, we recognize she is representing a valid point of view that is held by particular interests.

We believe part I of the Canada Labour Code is able to deal fairly with the issue of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction by accommodating the competing values and interests of employers, unions and employees.

I will explain how the existing legislation brings a balanced approach to the issue. The law that came into effect in 1999 did not impose a general prohibition on the use of replacement workers during a legal work stoppage. However, the law did prohibit the use of replacement workers for the demonstrated purpose of lessening a union's representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives. Such action could be described as an unfair labour practice.

If a union or employee organization believes an employer is involved in unfair labour practices, as just described, it has the option of filing a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board. The board is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for the interpretation and administration of part I, and certain provisions of part II, of the Canada Labour Code. Its members include representatives from employer, union and independent third party groups.

If employees governed by the Canada Labour Code dispute the motives of an employer in using replacement workers they have the choice to go to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board which has the expertise and the mandate to deal with labour relations issues. It is the board's responsibility to determine the underlying causes of disputes and to help find agreement among the parties. In practice however, the Board receives few complaints of unfair labour practices under the replacement workers category.

How much of a problem is this? As a practical matter most federally regulated employers do not hire replacement workers during work stoppages. Instead, they reassign management or other non-bargaining unit personnel.

A recent study entitled “Impacts of Strike Replacement Bans in Canada” raised some questions about the conventional thinking concerning the relationship between a ban on replacement workers and the length and number of strikes. For example, the researchers discovered that a prohibition on replacement workers was associated with more frequent and longer strikes. These findings contradicted the perception that the absence of a provision in the Canada Labour Code for an outright ban on the use of replacement workers contributed to an increase in the number and duration of work stoppages. The study underlined the complex nature of this question.

The government believes the balanced approach that is set out in part I of the Canada Labour Code is the best way to deal with the issue in the federal jurisdiction. We do not see any compelling reason to change the law now.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2002 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

moved that Bill C-224, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I would like to tell all workers currently locked out, who fall under the Canada Labour Code and cannot reach an agreement, that it is with them in mind that I introduced Bill C-224 and that I am bringing it forward for debate in this place today.

I wish to thank all those who contributed directly or indirectly to the drafting of this bill and those who agreed to support it, including my hon. colleague from the NDP who wrote a letter of support. When I held a press conference, my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre came along to show support for the bill. I want to thank all these people for their support, both at my recent press conference and in today's debate.

I will begin by describing the purpose of the bill. This is a bill to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or have been locked out.

At present, no area of staff relations is attracting more attention than the prohibition on the use of replacement workers. These are also referred to as strikebreakers or scabs.

Regardless, there is no general prohibition on the use of replacement workers, or strikebreakers, in the Canada Labour Code, while this is prohibited under Quebec legislation. Hon. members are aware of the fact that, in Quebec, we have anti-strikebreaking legislation. Later in my speech, I will quote figures about the drastic drop in percentage of days lost since this legislation came into effect.

Subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code does contain a prohibition relating to replacement workers, but this prohibition must be read carefully because it applies only if an employer uses them “for the purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity”.

This prohibition is a very weak one, because all the employer needs to do is acknowledge the union in place, and therefore not undermine its representational capacity, to be entitled to use replacement workers or scabs. In other words, if an employer refuses to negotiate and then uses scabs, the Canada Industrial Relations Board can forbid their use. All that is necessary, however, is for an employer to negotiate, or pretend to negotiate, with the union for it to get around this prohibition and continue to use scabs. It can be seen, therefore, that this measure is ridiculous and opens the door to the use of scabs.

I am very pleased to see that the Minister of Labour is present in the House today during this debate, and I thank her for that, because this matter is a priority for certain companies at the present time, especially in Quebec.

In reply to a question I asked her in the House on June 19, 2002, she acknowledged this, stating:

The Canada Labour Code does not prohibit the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage.

This situation has created two categories of workers in Quebec: those who work in areas governed by the Canada Labour Code and those who work in areas governed by the Quebec labour code. What this means is that if the employer, even if the company is unionized, leaves the union in place but does not negotiate directly with the union, or if the employer allows tensions to flare up, it can hire scab workers under the current Canada Labour Code.

I do not know if members know what that does to workers when they see people going in to work every morning, doing their jobs and leaving at night when they are on the picket line and have no income. Quite often entire families suffer.

I can tell you that there is mounting discontent. Only Quebec and BC have legislative measures that prohibit the use of strikebreakers. The ban on scabs in Quebec and BC helps foster and maintain civilized negotiations during labour disputes.

I have a few statistics to share. They will most certainly get members of this House thinking.

There has been anti-scab legislation in Quebec since 1977, that is for 25 years. Hon. members will be surprised at the results. In 1976, the average duration of a strike was 39.4 working days. This figure dropped to 32.8 days in 1979, and to 27.4 in 2001. We have succeeded in providing employers and employees with equal power. We are able to get items on the bargaining table promptly, get negotiations moving faster, because there is legislation obliging us to sit down and reach an agreement that is good for the employer and the employees. Negotiators are involved, as are unions. There is give and take. We have seen many instances of this in Quebec, moreover.

The unions sit down with the workers to tell them “Come on now, if we want to save the company, we have to put some extra effort into this”. There are many examples of workers doing just that. Is it because this made-in-Quebec legislation, the anti-scab legislation, has given people a position of strength? This is not there on the federal level. It is time things changed, because there are situations where action is required, and required right away.

British Columbia has also had anti-scab legislation since 1993. Between 1992 and 1993, the amount of time lost to strikes dropped by 50%.

Here are some other statistics that speak for themselves. From 1992 to 2002, the average number of days of work lost under the Quebec Labour Code was 15.9. Under the Canada Labour Code—and hon. members will not believe their ears—the figure is 31.1 days, which is more than 95.6%. From 1992 to 2002, the number of days lost per 1,000 employees under the Quebec code was 121.3 days. Under the Canada Labour Code, the figure is 266.3 days, or more than 119.5% .

These figures do not tell the whole story, but they are troubling enough to force the government to seriously consider this important issue. The Liberal government has to explain to workers why it does not want to implement the initiative I am proposing today. But let me warn the government that workers will not give up. The labour minister can rest assured that neither will I.

I would like to talk about some labour disputes that are going on right now and that are really hurting the people. There is the dispute at Videotron. Things are really bad there. We know that a negotiator was appointed and that some people have been working really hard. It has been six long months now and they still cannot find a middle ground. I do not know how many issues have yet to be resolved.

Videotron workers were relying a lot on this anti-scab legislation. They had hoped that the bill would have been made votable, but unfortunately, that has not been the case.

If we could have voted for this bill, we would have given some support to these workers by ensuring that they could negotiate on a more equal footing.

This bill protects not only the employees, but also the negotiations. That is how I see it. It protects the negotiations. It ensures that people sit down and come to an agreement more quickly.

With the employees and the employer on a more equal footing, it is a lot easier to go back to work after a few days of strike or negotiations. People are much happier to go back to work, after negotiating an agreement that is good for the workers and good for the employer. It does not force the employer to agree to some kind of increase or anything like that, but it does force him to sit down more quickly at the bargaining table and find a middle ground.

A more equal footing ensures quicker negotiations and a better climate afterwards, when work resumes. Without such a footing, how do you think the workers at Videotron or Secur--which is another company whose workers went on strike for several months and were offered pay cuts--reacted? The workers had no bargaining power. They went back to work. Do you think they were happy to go back to work the following morning? Not at all. But they had to because they and their employer were not on a level playing field.

It is far from over. I have the feeling that in the years to come the number of labour disputes will increase, because more and more collective agreements will have to be renewed. We have reached the point where we need to negotiate new agreements. After 10, 15 or 20 years of big profit business, some corporations now have to sit down with their employees and negotiate. Other companies have run into trouble and now have to open their books and renegotiate with their employees.

It has happened in Quebec. This is something the unions have had to face on a regular basis. They have come to some agreements. Workers have even invested to save their companies. That is the spirit we need. It is a very responsible attitude, but we must be able to provide these workers with the tools they need to make it through and eventually succeed.

I would like to talk about another company that is important to me. For us here in the House, it may not seem important, but for me and for others as well, it is extremely important. I am talking about Cargill. Employees have been on strike for about 30 months now. Some 40 or so employees—just a small group of employees, but they are employees with specialized skills—have been on the street for 30 months. The company even had the gall to put up a fence, so its people would not have to see them picketing on the street out front.

When the situation comes to something like this, it is because somewhere, someone has not done their homework. It means that people do not have the tools they need to get to the table and to negotiate an agreement. Right now, the employer has no willingness to negotiate a settlement; none whatsoever. So, for three years now, these employees have been out on the street, with no income, in Baie-Comeau, where it is not easy to find work with another company or in a specialized area.

If we do not act now, the problems will extend beyond Cargill, Vidéotron and Sécur; there will be problems across Canada. It is even more maddening to experience these problems in Quebec, because we have anti-scab legislation. What is more, in Quebec, the labour code protects employer-employee negotiations. However, workers who are under the Canada Labour Code are out of luck and are not looked after by their government.

There will be a debate. We will continue to discuss it here in the House. I hope that all parties will take part and make a contribution to the legislation. I will end on that. Since 1989, we have been talking about this here, I could quote all the speeches. I have the names of members from all of the parties in the House who have introduced anti-scab bills. Even the Liberal Party has voted for such a bill.

I eagerly await comments from my colleagues, and I will come back to complete my comments during the five minutes I have left.

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 9th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-224, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill amending the Canada Labour Code and banning the use of scabs.

It is high time that workers were given the opportunity to negotiate in a fair and equitable manner. It is also high time that conflicts such as the one at Cargill for the last 30 months and at Vidéotron for the last five months were ended so that both parties can get their fair share.

I hope that all members of this House will vote in favour in this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)