An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Roger Clavet  Bloc

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

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 4, 2004
(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.

Replacement WorkersPrivate Member's Business

April 23rd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to this motion.

Today the House is debating a motion tabled by my hon. colleague, proposing to make significant changes to key sections of the Canada Labour Code. This motion, if passed, will ban the right of federal employers to use replacement workers during a labour stoppage.

These proposed measures should not be treated lightly. This motion is the most recent of a series of attempts by some members of the House to try to bring wholesale changes to federal labour law in Canada without consultation or compromise.

Let me be clear. We remain firmly opposed to the motion, just as we have been opposed to similar legislation or legislative efforts introduced previously in the House. Our position is clear. We do not support the proposed amendments in Motion No. 294, and there are four compelling reasons why.

First, our modernized Canada Labour Code works well. It provides adequate protection to employees involved in a legal work stoppage.

Second, the motion, if passed, will disrupt the balance that was achieved when the Canada Labour Code was modernized back in 1999. It will leave federal employers unable to operate at minimal levels during a strike or lockout. This in turn could result in productivity losses to our national economy at a time when Canadians can least afford it.

Third, it would make labour relations more adversarial in the country. Energies and resources should be focused on solving labour relation issues in a peaceful manner. This is a situation that no one can afford to have happen during times of economic uncertainty both in Canada and around the world.

Fourth, we do not see any compelling evidence to support the argument that a ban on the use of replacement workers would reduce the number or duration of work stoppages and benefit workers in a federal jurisdiction.

As I mentioned earlier, the motion is the latest in a series of similar legislative efforts. It is worth taking a moment to take note of that fact, because they share some of the common characteristics and deficiencies of previous legislative efforts over the last number of years.

Over the past two decades, the House had debated numerous private members' bills on the matter of replacement workers in the federal domain.

First, there was Bill C-201, tabled in April of 1989. Next, there was Bill C-317, tabled in June of 1995. There were two more attempts between 2002 and 2005 in the form of Bill C-328 and Bill C-263, the latter of which was defeated after second reading. Next, there was Bill C-257, tabled in May of 2006. It was also defeated on third reading. Finally, there was the predecessor to the motion before us today, which was Bill C-415. It died on the order paper at the dissolution of Parliament in September of 2008.

All these bills were defeated because a majority of members of the House recognized that what each bill proposed would be ineffective and would have negative effects on labour relations and on the economic health of Canada.

A common characteristic shared by some of the more recent legislative efforts is that they do not fully consider just how vital it is that a middle ground be maintained between unions and employers on the matter of replacement workers. They overlook what was accomplished when the Canada Labour Code was modernized in 1999. The existing replacement worker provision in section 94(2.1) of the Labour Code was the product of much consultation with stakeholders. It also provided an ever important characteristic, one that is the backbone of this country, and that is compromise.

Existing provisions do permit employers to at least try to carry on basic operations during work stoppages. However, it also protects the union's right to strike and its bargaining authority. The balance would have been lost if any of these private member's bills had been passed by the House to eventually become law.

Motion No. 294 before this House today is no different in terms of the disruption that it would pose to labour relations and the economic health of our nation. As with the private member's bills that have preceded it, this motion stands in complete opposition to the well-established facts about replacement worker legislation.

I will review these key facts in the House right now.

First, legislation of that nature is rare in Canada. Only two provinces have legislation that restricts the right of employers to use the services of replacement workers during work stoppages. Quebec implemented its legislation in 1977. In 1993, British Columbia passed its own regulations. Ontario had enacted similar provisions in 1993 but they were repealed in 1995.

That leads me to my second point of fact. After nearly two decades of experience with this kind of legislation in Quebec and in British Columbia, the results are not encouraging for Canadian workers. Statistical data analysis provided by the labour program suggests both of these provinces continue to experience work stoppages of long duration and the length of their work stoppages is not that much different from other jurisdictions in Canada that do not have the replacement worker legislation.

For instance, in the period from 2005 to 2007, the average duration of a work stoppage in Quebec was 43.8 days compared to 43.6 days in Ontario and 41 days in the federal jurisdiction. This data supports independent findings which maintain that statutory prohibitions on the use of replacement workers are not necessarily effective in reducing the duration of a work stoppage.

That takes me to the third key fact that I want to share with the House this evening. Since the 1980s, over 90% of disputes in federal jurisdiction have been settled without a work stoppage, and that is often with the assistance of federal mediators and officers. In the majority of cases, employers do not employ external replacement workers to keep their operations functioning. Instead, they reassign management and other non-bargaining unit personnel.

What does Motion No. 294 seek to accomplish? In light of the facts that I have shared with the House, it is unclear what the drafters of Motion No. 294 are seeking to accomplish with this latest in a series of legislative attempts to drastically revise the Canada Labour Code, the outcome of which would essentially outlaw any use of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction. It cannot be to bring about balance and fairness to labour relations in Canada. The proposed amendments would undo what has been achieved over the past decade. It cannot be a solution to help reduce the number of work stoppages. The experiences in the two provinces with anti-replacement worker legislation show us that they continue to struggle with lengthy work stoppages. It cannot be a solution that would help boost Canada's ability in today's competitive environment.

The proposed amendments call for changes that would bring instability and uncertainty to Canadian labour relations and would do so in the midst of significant global economic difficulties.

The facts and the risks posed by anti-replacement worker legislation are just as clear today as they were in the past. As with each previous legislative attempt introduced in this House, this motion calls for amendments that would ultimately harm workers and undermine the labour peace that both sides have enjoyed for years.

For those reasons, I remain firmly opposed to this motion.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-263 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

April 12th, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all chief whips and there is an agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), that the recorded divisions scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 on Bill C-236, Bill C-263 and Bill S-3 take place at 3 p.m. rather than at the beginning of private members' business.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Roger Clavet Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to conclude the debate on Bill C-263, which I had the pleasure and the honour of introducing in the House on November 4.

This anti-scab legislation seeks to prohibit the backward practice—let us not mince words—of using strikebreakers, or replacement workers or scabs, as they are commonly called. The objective is to ensure that the Canada Labour Code standards are more in line with those of the Quebec labour code.

As we know, Quebec has had an anti-scab act since 1977. This is a legacy of René Lévesque. As the member for Louis-Hébert, I am very proud to be associated, along with my Bloc Québécois colleagues, with a strong and progressive bill.

There is no question that the Quebec legislation has helped Quebec move forward in terms of labour relations, in addition to reducing the duration of labour disputes, curbing violence during strikes and lockouts and, particularly, improving the working environment.

Despite its positive aspects, the Quebec anti-scab legislation has had the effect of creating two categories of workers: those who benefit from such protection and the thousands of others who are deprived of that right, because their employers come under the Canada Labour Code.

Now, we all agree that the federal regulations are inadequate. The extremely vague provisions in the Canada Labour Code limit the use of scabs, but this is largely insufficient. Thousands of workers in Quebec currently subject to the Canada Labour Code are calling on parliamentarians to do something for them. They no longer want to find themselves helpless when replacement workers come in and steal their jobs.

In recent years, numerous labour disputes have dragged on without good reason, some in Quebec and some in Canada. For example, there were the strikes involving Radio Nord, Vidéotron and Cargill. People have not forgotten. They know that people suffered because they were replaced by scab workers.

All this is possible under our famous Canada Labour Code, which some colleagues in other parties still consider to be appropriate and adequate. However, this is no longer true, and that is why I introduced this anti-scab bill.

The Bloc Québécois are been trying for years to harmonize federal and Quebec legislation. In June 2002, my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord had tabled a petition supporting a similar bill bearing by 46,000 signatures. I hope the bill passes this time. We want to prohibit the use of scabs.

Finally, in my opinion, this bill is well suited to current conditions, and not conditions from 20 or 30 years ago. The Canada Labour Code must be reviewed in light of these changes and modern times to promote the rapid and, above all, as my colleagues have mentioned, peaceful settlement of labour disputes.

I will conclude this debate by repeating to the House that there is widespread support for this fair, equitable and modern measure. A consensus exists not only among my colleagues but among the unions and workers. In Quebec, even employer organizations have no criticism of the provincial legislation, because they find it appropriate and fair.

We hope that the House will finally adopt this bill, since it is progressive, liberal and even—dare I say—democratic. I want to thank all my colleagues in the House who have supported or will support this bill, because it is fundamental to our society.

I will close by pointing out that in November of 2003, right here in the Outaouais, I took part with my fellow journalists in a congress of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec. That was my profession before I got into politics. At this fine congress where there was much talk of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, there were workers from Radio Nord who were handing out information leaflets.

That day, I took the first political step of my life, before I was even a politician. I invited them to my table so that they could explain to the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes what a balance of power looks like when it is distorted and faked.

I promise to dedicate this bill to the workers of Radio Nord and to all those who have seen replacement workers come along and take the food from their mouths. These are the ones to whom we promise a bill that is worthy of their confidence, a bill that is more civilized and more humane.

I therefore invite all my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-263.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and humbled to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-263.

I appreciate the spirit in which the bill has been presented. Having spent a little over 30 years in municipal government, I have been very close to the negotiating scene in a variety of instances in private and public arbitrations and negotiations. I have seen the impact of labour strife when it occurs within a city or within a constituency and I appreciate very much the issues that have been raised.

The very delicate balance that exists with respect to the environment within which negotiations take place should be taken very seriously. The underpinning of natural justice is that each side in a dispute has an opportunity to have its rights represented.

With respect to the position put forward by my colleague who spoke before me, if we think of that level playing field in which the workers have the right to strike, the counterbalance to that in terms of the rights of the employer would be the right to still operate a business. As has been pointed out, the existing legislation provides for that balance. I would hope that we would not support this bill because it would skew the relationship and balance between employees and the right of employers to have their businesses continue.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on Bill C-263. However, I disagree with the provisions of this bill.

Hon. members are all familiar with the enormous challenges facing governments and Canadian workers in the 21st century. Today we are grappling with workplace issues, issues of globalization and new technologies we never dreamed of just a few years ago. Labour issues are a big part of the global economy.

More and more, the forces that drive our economy, affect our job markets, our employers, our employees and our policy making have a strong international dimension.

These forces exert a great influence on employers, employees and the collective bargaining process in general.

The issues need to be addressed by employers and labour alike. That is why we recently introduced changes to the industrial relations legislation in Canada.

Part 1 of the Canada Labour Code creates a strong framework for collective bargaining in the federal private sector. It provides a process and procedure for timely resolution of disputes. It was amended in 1999 after a lengthy review, including a study by an independent task force of industrial relations experts.

During review of part 1, the most controversial issue was that of replacement workers. Labour and management held firmly opposing views. Even members of the Sims task force, which conducted the review, were unable to reach a consensus on the issues.

Most of the parties that bargain under part I of the Canada Labour Code will agree that the approach adopted in the code, at present, is balanced.

The current provision in the Canada Labour Code is a compromise. Organized labour wanted a complete ban on the use of replacement workers during a legal work stoppage and employers wanted a completely free hand. The new provision does not impose a general prohibition on the use of replacement workers during a legal work stoppage. However using replacement workers to undermine a union's capacity to represent its members is prohibited and constitutes an unfair labour practice.

Throughout all of Canada there are only two jurisdictions that have legislation similar to what is proposed in Bill C-263. Two provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, have labour legislation that restricts the right of employers to use the services of replacement workers during work stoppages.

Despite their ban under provincial labour legislation, use of replacement workers is a lightning rod for controversy in many labour conflicts in Quebec and British Columbia. For example, in Quebec, investigations concerning the illegal use of replacement workers were requested in 52% of work stoppages in 1996. In British Columbia, complaints about the use of replacement workers were filed in 50% of work stoppages in 2002.

We also know that banning the use of replacement workers does little to shorten the length of strikes.

An independent study by university researchers conducted in 1998-99 concluded that a legislative ban on the use of replacement workers actually lengthens strikes by an average of 32 days.

Despite legislation banning replacement workers, longer strikes still exist in Quebec, including the recently settled dispute at the Société des Alcools du Québec, or SAQ, which lasted almost three months and involved 3,800 workers.

Clearly, if an increase in the frequency and duration of strikes can be attributed to banning the use of replacement workers, we need to think twice about legislating such a ban.

Under the Canada Labour Code, the Canada Industrial Relations Board is able to order an employer to stop using replacement workers if it is proven that the employer is doing so for improper purposes. This provision, and other amendments to part 1 of the code, is designed to protect employees' rights during work stoppages in Canada. It provides a balanced approach to the replacement worker issue.

We are firmly convinced that part I of the Canada Labour Code makes it possible to settle the question of replacement workers fairly, taking into account the concurrent values and interests of employers, unions and employees.

Certainly the proposed amendments in this bill would negatively impact the balanced approach found in current labour negotiations.

Part 1 of the Canada Labour Code is a complex and sophisticated piece of legislation. It was developed and fine-tuned over time in consultation with trade unionists, employer groups, academics, labour law administrators and other experts in the field.

Thanks to this collaborative approach, we have succeeded in developing legislation that meets the needs of both workers and employers.

Part 1 of the code represents a delicate balance between the rights and responsibilities of employers, unions and employees. As legislators, we must act responsibly. We must not undermine that balance by changing one small provision without carefully considering the impact on the whole.

The current provisions of the Canada Labour Code meet present needs and should not be amended at this time.

That is why I must vote against Bill C-263.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by reiterating my full support for the anti-scab bill. I am particularly interested in this legislation, since I worked with unions for over 20 years. Take my word: I witnessed time and again how important it is to prohibit the use of strikebreakers during a labour dispute. Quebec has had an anti-scab act since 1977. To this day, all the stakeholders, including Quebec employers, recognize the need for such legislation.

First, it is impossible for two parties to negotiate when a third party gets involved and changes the power relationship between the two. For example, let us suppose I want to buy a house and the owner would like to get $100,000 for it. I make an offer of $90,000. If a third party shows up and offers $110,000, he will automatically put me out of contention. It is the same principle when a union is negotiating, except that, in addition, the third party, namely the strikebreakers, undermines the workers' ability to have some bargaining power when dealing with the employer.

The use of scabs generates frustration, animosity and violence. It substantially lengthens the duration of conflicts. I will give some numbers to confirm my point. I want to refer to the famous Sims report, which is constantly used by opponents to the bill. Yet this report is full of major contradictions, and this is why I want to put into proper perspective some of the comments and figures that are included in it.

According to Andrew Sims, the main author of the report, between 1991 and 1994, 75% of the employers involved in labour disputes did not use replacement workers, preferring not to undermine relations between the union and management. The other 25%—that is in 12 of the 48 labour disputes governed by the Canada Labour Code—hired scabs. While Mr. Sims is opposed to anti-scab legislation, he agrees that scabs should not be used to exclude the union, or undermine its role. However, it is demonstrated that the employers who resorted to strikebreakers did so precisely to exclude the union, as confirmed by strikers' complaints of unfair practices and their personal testimony.

Also, as I said earlier, the use of strikebreakers significantly prolongs labour disputes. This is demonstrated, including in the Gunderson study entitled The Effect of Collective Bargaining Legislation on Strikes and Wages , published in 1994.

According to the Quebec department of labour, in all Quebec labour disputes involving the labour code of Quebec—where anti-scab legislation exists—roughly 5,693 person-days were lost between 1980 and 2003. In all Quebec labour disputes involving the Canada Labour Code, 16,032 person-days of work were lost during that same period. A quick calculation shows that disputes last almost three times longer for Quebec workers under the federal labour code than for those under the Quebec labour code. Furthermore, note that Quebec workers under the Canada Labour Code only represented roughly 5% of the entire workforce, which considerably increases our rule of three!

Disputes are longer because of the use of scabs. We have even seen strikes or lockouts last up to four years. Imagine your brother, your father or even you in a federally-regulated job and you end up going on strike or being locked out for nearly four years. Imagine going four years without a salary! How would you react? What would you say about this? The employer is negotiating in good faith? How do you measure good faith? Is there a time limit on good faith?

What would prompt an employer to negotiate if there is no financial pressure because of replacement workers?

In reality, as long as the company has enough supplies to survive a strike or a lockout, or as long as it can hire staff to do the same work at a lower cost, the unions no longer have bargaining power.

How do workers affected cope with this on a daily basis? How does it impact their family life?

The longer the dispute, the less tolerable the situation. Imagine the father or the mother being denied their income and watching the busload of scabs crossing the picket lines with impunity. Worse yet, there have been scabs who have requested union certification. That takes the cake! Their request was denied, but does this not show that employers who use replacement workers do not respect workers?

In a market where anti-scab legislation does not exist, the solution to the problem becomes full employment. Theoretically speaking, there would be no workers available, nor anyone interested in replacing a worker during a dispute. Clearly the employer benefits from a rate of unemployment slightly higher than the natural rate of unemployment, which is roughly 5%.

The use of strikebreakers not only lengthens and inflames disputes, it makes a harmonious return to work at the end of the dispute more difficult. Workers are very likely to remain bitter about the experience and angry with their employer and even the strikebreakers.

In some communities where there are strikes, replacement workers have been relatives of the strikers. Picture the scenario: a worker does without a salary in an effort to negotiate better working conditions, and a family member comes along to support management and impede negotiations taking the worker's place for less money. What will this do to family relations? Do you ever ask yourself? It is not hard to understand that, when more than one party is involved, they need support. If people are left on their own, the result is animosity, as mentioned earlier.

So the absence of anti-strikebreaking legislation carries a significant psychological cost. It affects human dignity and creates family and financial problems over and above the social cost of a strike or prolonged lockout.

Let us restore the dignity of the workers who are governed by the Canada Labour Code through no choice of their own. Let us eliminate the three categories of workers created by the absence of anti-strikebreaking legislation. There are workers covered by the Quebec labour code, those covered by the federal labour code and those commonly referred to as scabs, who do not enjoy the same rights as those in the first two categories and are not covered by legislation.

We must be proud of our workers and give them their full due in society. Let us be open and fair, since they are the cornerstone of a healthy economy. Without them, our society would not be what it is. The best way to support them is to give them our respect and consideration for the job they do. Let us vote in favour of Bill C-263.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on the important issue of labour policy in Canada.

The aim of Bill C-263 is to amend the Canada Labour Code so as to prohibit the hiring of replacement workers during a strike or lockout.

I am unable to support this bill today for the following reasons. I want to explain them to the House.

Part I of the Canada Labour Code seeks to establish a delicate balance of the rights and responsibilities of employers, unions and employees. It provides a reliable system of checks and balances enabling the parties to resolve their own disputes according to rules that, I hope, are equitable. I will come back to this point later.

If the use of replacement workers is prohibited, as Bill C-263 seeks to do, these rules would no longer be equitable or, at least, the balance would shift, and perhaps lack the necessary checks and balances.

As hon. members know, we recently brought in legislation to modernize part I of the Canada Labour Code and improve collective bargaining. We are seeing the benefits of these improvements every day. Part I of the code was amended in 1999. These amendments were the result of lengthy consultations with stakeholders in the labour community and included a study led by a former labour board chair, Andy Sims, Q.C.

The issue of replacement workers was carefully considered at that time both through consultations and debate in the House. During the consultations labour and management representatives were able to agree on a number of reforms. However, it soon became clear that there were two opposing camps on the issue of replacement workers and it is quite obvious who was on which side.

Members of the Sims task force were also unable to reach a consensus on this thorny issue. That is why we are now having this debate but without the benefit of the recommendations of the Sims task force.

The current provisions of part I of the code concerning replacement workers implement the majority recommendations of the Sims task force. The new provisions do not impose a general prohibition on the use of replacement workers during a legal work stoppage, but using replacement workers to undermine a union's capacity to represent its members is now prohibited as an unfair labour practice. Therefore, there are some measures to protect the employees in that regard.

I can assure the House that the parties who engage in collective bargaining throughout Canada under part I of the code have accepted this approach and are negotiating now under what is a reasonable system.

I have a few statistics. About 91% of all collective agreements renewed in the federal jurisdiction in 2003-4 were settled without a work stoppage, a strong contributor to the health of our economy. Key agreements were renewed without a work stoppage in many different sectors involving major employers covered by the Canada Labour Code, such as Bell Canada, VIA Rail, CIBC, Canadian Pacific Railway, the Vancouver Port Authority and so on.

A review of labour program data from the period 1992 to 2002 indicates that the average number of working days lost to labour disputes in the private sector was 18, compared to 19 days for private sector enterprises covered for instance by the Quebec Labour Code.

These figures demonstrate the skill that we bring to the resolution of contentious disputes. They clearly show that the Canada Labour Code is working.

Using replacement workers during an industrial dispute remains a contentious issue in Canada. The fact is that most major federally regulated employers do not hire replacement workers. It is my understanding that there have only been about 15 complaints over the use of replacement workers since January 1999. In other words, this many complaints taken to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. Of the three decisions issued to date, none of the companies have been found to be violating the law. The majority of other complaints were withdrawn.

Only two provinces in Canada have labour legislation which restricts the right of employers to use replacement workers during work stoppages: Quebec and British Columbia. Despite this ban under provincial labour legislation, the use of replacement workers remains a major issue in many labour conflicts in both Quebec and B.C.

For example, in Quebec investigations concerning the illegal use of replacement workers were requested in 52% of work stoppages in 1996. This raises another matter. If we are going to engage in something like this and we are doing it with this kind of a record in front of us, then I do not think it is a solution to anything. It is certainly not functional right now.

In British Columbia, complaints about the use of replacement workers were lodged in 50% of the work stoppages in 2002. In other words, it was about the same.

It is clear that the use of replacement workers is a polarizing issue for the stakeholders. Employee representatives and unions typically support a complete ban on the use of replacement workers. On the other hand, employers invariably argue in favour of their use. Both sides have legitimate reasons for holding the positions they do. That is why the Sims task force came up with the best compromise possible, one that has a balance between the two competing views.

There is an important point of principle here that we must consider. Some will argue that the employer's countervailing power to the union's right to strike is the lockout. That is not so. The countervailing power of the union's right to withdraw its labour is the employer's right to continue to operate its business. The new provision in the code was an attempt to balance the interests of both parties.

There is one other point that needs to be made. It is to determine whether the use of replacement workers makes work stoppages shorter or longer. A recent independent study has challenged preconceived ideas on the connection between the use of replacement workers and the duration and frequency of strikes.

That study has shown that banning the use of replacement workers is in fact associated with more frequent and longer strikes. This is in contradiction to the perception that the lack of any ban on the use of replacement workers in the Canada Labour Code contributes to more frequent and more lengthy work stoppages.

Our role as legislators is not to choose one camp over the other. It is instead to come up with legislation that does not respond to the specific needs of one party at the expense of the other. That is why the legislative amendments made in 1999 are such a faithful reflection of the recommendations of the Sims task force.

Our government feels that the balanced approach set out in Part I of the Canada Labour Code is the best approach to the issue of replacement workers in sectors under federal jurisdiction.

If there were a need to change that balance—and in this I am on the same page as the Conservative Party member who has just spoken—I would prefer to see another task force like Sims set up, with a new study, a consensus reached within the task force membership, and then recommendations to the minister. These might even be tabled in the House so that we could consider them, rather than acting as we are today in a kind of vacuum, without any such consultation. This would, I believe, help us make some progress with a bill such as this.

For all these reasons, I cannot support Bill C-263.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the time has come for this minority Parliament to make good use of the opportunities for change that are before us. We must not let this moment pass us by.

Supporting Bill C-263 to amend the Canada Labour Code would allow every member of the House who votes in favour of the bill to look Canadian workers in the eye and know that this minority Parliament had achieved a real and substantive change which would improve the lives of those workers and their families.

I want to thank my hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert for introducing this private members' bill.

This is not the first time that such legislation has been introduced in the House. For years, the Liberals and Conservatives have failed to protect the rights of workers, preferring instead to put the interests of their business associates ahead of the interests of Canadian workers.

The NDP fully supports amending the Canada Labour Code. Striking workers under federal jurisdiction deserve to know that their jobs are protected when they exercise their legal right to strike. They deserve to be protected from the practice of insidious, humiliating strike breaking because, let us be honest with each other, the use of replacement workers, scabs, is just that. It is flat out strike breaking.

The use of replacement workers has an enormous negative impact on workers, families, communities and even employers. Labour disputes tend to be longer and more bitter. The collective bargaining process is undermined and we see a greater number of violent confrontations.

The practice of bringing in scab labour is a dangerous game that too often in the history of this country has actually prolonged strikes for many months and in some cases even years.

When replacement workers are brought in and they cross the picket lines and striking workers see busload after busload of these workers taking their jobs, as I witnessed myself in the early 1970s at the famous Artistic Woodwork strike, undercutting their very ability to bargain a fair deal, it does not bode well for a future of harmonious labour relations.

In 2002 and 2003, Vidéotron was exempted from legislation prohibiting the use of replacement workers in Quebec, because the company was subject to federal legislation. The strike affected 2,200 Vidéotron employees, lasted 10 months and cost 1,000 working days due to the use of replacement workers.

In Ontario, legislation to prevent the use of replacement workers no longer exists, thanks to the Conservative repeal of the NDP's bill 40. As a result, in Chatham in 2002 a security worker hired by International Truck, Navistar to ensure its ability to use replacement workers, drove over a picketer and injured four others. Opponents of the bill would have Canadians believe that striking workers are the bad guys and they paint employers as the victims. I visited Navistar and joined one of those picket lines and I can say that was far from the case.

I have been on many a picket line. I have met with striking workers to find out what their concerns were. I can tell you that these hard-working men and women are the ones who keep Canadian industry rolling.

They are not out to hurt their employer, far from it. When they are forced to take strike action, it is often to defend their right to equitable treatment. It is never a decision lightly taken.

And what of the men and women who cross picket lines and take up the jobs of those workers on strike? They are very often underpaid workers who are highly vulnerable. In many cases, like the men and women on the picket lines, they too are just trying to put food on the table. Too often they are exploited by their employers. In many cases they are not even told that they are being hired to replace striking workers.

It is wrong to pit worker against worker. The employers who practise such tactics do us all a disservice. The government must take action to stop such practices. In British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario prior to the Mike Harris regime, already we have shown how legislation can be put in place to prevent the use of replacement workers. We find that the labour climate in those contexts is more amiable. Labour disputes tend to be shorter, the threat of violence is removed and there is greater mutual respect between labour and management. These are the facts; they are indisputable.

The federal government must set an example to all the provinces. In provinces where there is no legislation for protection against strikebreakers, workers' negotiating power is weakened and the ability of ordinary people to improve their working conditions is limited still more.

The federal government has a duty to foster a fair and equitable climate of work throughout the country. On the economic level, it makes complete sense for bargaining units to be able to meet on equal footing and for businesses to be able to avoid lengthy work stoppages and circumstances that create discord and bitterness.

Workers' organizations are important partners in building a prosperous and fair economy in the 21st century.

Supporting Bill C-263 is a long awaited and much needed measure that would demonstrate that the Government of Canada supports and believes in the workers' right to bargain for fair and equitable treatment without the threat of coercive tactics. It is time that this minority government worked for working Canadians.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find unanimous consent to amend the bill as follows:

That Bill C-263, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 12 on page 3 the following:

(2.9) The prohibitions set out in subsection 2.1 do not apply to

(a) a person employed as a manager, superintendent or foreman or as a representative of the employer in employer-employee relations; or

(b) a person serving as a director or officer of a corporation, unless the person has been designated to serve in that capacity for the person's employer by the employees or by a certified association.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 2004 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-263, introduced by my colleague, concerning the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts. There is a very important point of principle that we should keep our eye on as a House and as members.

When we go back to the Sims report of 1995, there was never total unanimity on the report's recommendations with respect to replacement workers. Certainly, the matter of replacement workers was a highly contentious issue in 1995, when that multi-stakeholder task force was struck precisely to advise the government on how it should proceed and how it should move forward.

This existing situation is a reasonable compromise that gets us to the heart of the matter. The current provision concerning replacement workers is a compromise like so much Canadian legislation.

During the proceedings of the Sims task force in 1995 the unions were asking for a complete prohibition of replacement workers during legal work stoppages, but the employers refused all limitation of that order. The task force came to the conclusion that a reasonable solution could be found halfway between these two extremes.

That solution was to allow the use of replacement workers provided the union can lodge a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board if it deemed replacement workers were being used to weaken its capacity to fairly represent its members.

This is the important point of principle that we should recognize. Some will argue that the employer's countervailing power to the union's right to strike is the lockout. That is not so. The countervailing power to the union's right to withdraw its labour is the employer's right to continue to try operate its business during a strike.

The 1999 compromise was intended to balance the competing interests of the parties. The task force said that employers should be able to try to keep their businesses operating as long as they were not using replacement workers for the purpose of trying to undermine the union.

Here is a quote from the task force. It states:

Replacement workers can be necessary to sustain the economic viability of an enterprise in the face of a harsh economic climate and unacceptable union demands. It is important in a system of free collective bargaining that employers maintain that option unrestrained by any blanket prohibition....It is only in exceptional circumstances that replacement workers are used for an inappropriate end.

That was the view of the multi-stakeholder deliberative process that led to the compromise situation we now see in the legislation.

I think this is a pretty fair compromise in terms of the values and interests of both the employers and the unions and workers.

The fact is most major federally regulated employers do not hire replacement workers. It is my understanding there have been only about 15 cases taken to CIRB and of the three decisions issued to date none of the circumstances have been found to be in violation of the law.

The changes to the code have been in play for about five years now. The current provisions of part I are as a result of compromise. They representing a balancing of the interests of labour and management.

The current provisions in Canada Labour Code work well. We should never break up a winning combination. As a result, I do not believe these provisions should be changed at this time.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today. I will begin by complimenting my Bloc Québécois colleague from Louis-Hébert on introducing Bill C-263.

As my colleague and whip from Acadie—Bathurst has said, our caucus is four-square behind this. It was not a good sign to hear from the Liberals, but I want to say to the hon. member that the NDP will be there this time, next time and every time it takes until this becomes the law of the land.

I was very fortunate to have served for a number of years in the Ontario legislature. One of my proudest moments as an MPP was to stand in my place and cast my very precious vote in favour of bill 40, which then made scabs illegal in the Province of Ontario, just as they are illegal in Quebec and B.C. Unfortunately, as a result of the 1995 election, Premier Mike Harris was elected and the law was eliminated.

I can tell the House that it is the intent of the Ontario NDP to continue that struggle to ensure that the day returns when scabs are not to be found anywhere in the Province of Ontario. However, today's debate is about Canada.

Federally, this caucus has a proud history and tradition of supporting many progressive pieces of labour legislation and, in particular, this bill when it was introduced by the member's colleague a couple of years ago.

In fact, our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, joined with the Bloc Québécois in welcoming the Videotron workers to Parliament Hill. He was there to represent our caucus and ensure that the strong feelings we have about workers' rights federally as well as provincially were understood.

I will not repeat all the good reasons why the legislation should pass because there is not enough time, but I do want tackle head on the issue that we heard from the Liberals and the Conservatives. I have to say that I would have been pleasantly shocked had the Conservatives taken any other position. I am very disappointed in the Liberals. Their main argument, as I heard it, was that if it is not broken, do not fix it. That is not sufficient. It is not even accurate.

First, it was pointed out by the sponsor of the bill that right now, in two jurisdictions in Canada, Quebec and B.C., two workers could be doing very similar work but one has the protection that when he or she goes on strike it will be a fair fight and scabs will not be allowed in, while the other worker does not have that right and faces the possibility of taking on an employer that has much deeper pockets than ordinary working people and their families and, therefore, that worker does not have a fair fight. That is what this is about. It is not trying to tip the balance one way or another. It is trying to ensure that there is a balance and that it is a real balance.

Let me say to the hon. members that when they think about this they should think about it on the individual level on that picket line. We are talking now about situations, which have existed in this country, unfortunately, far too often, where workers are on a legal strike but they do not have the protection of a law like this. After workers have been out for days and weeks and months it does not take long before every morning they see those buses going in, with the scabs inside, and the windows covered over with newspaper, or even painted, going in and taking their job, their ability to earn a living, pay the bills and put food on the table and provide for their children. Somebody is crossing that line every day. Even the most law-abiding citizens in the world can only take that for so long.

I have been on strikes. The Christmas season is coming and, regardless of one's religion, it is usually a time for exchanging gifts and it is certainly about children. I will tell members that it is really hard to look into the eyes of workers who have been on a picket line for so long that they do not know how they will provide Christmas presents for their kids. So, when that bus comes on that cold morning, it does not take much for somebody to snap. That is when we get violence.

I want to repeat something that is important, vis-à-vis what happened in Ontario. When Mike Harris looked at repealing the NDP law that banned scabs, the police associations, the union of the police, the ones out in uniform, urged Harris not to change the law. That might surprise some people if they were to think about the politics of it and some stereotypical analysis.

Think about it this way. Police officers are just working people too. They go to work every day. They do work for us. They want to go home at the end of the day and be with their families, just like the steelworkers at Stelco and Dofasco in my riding of Hamilton Centre. They know that when scabs are involved in a strike there is the potential for violence. The one thing that a police chief dislikes to do almost above anything else is to put officers in harm's way. We are allowing a situation to be created that history shows causes violence to very innocent people.

All we are trying to do with this law is to ensure that it is a fair fight. No one can tell me that it is a fair fight when a corporation or company can bring in replacement workers. The argument usually is that the workers can withhold their labour, so the company should have a right to bring someone else in to work and then it becomes a fair fight. There is no fair fight there. The corporation does not have to go home and face kids who want and need new shoes. The worker does.

If we want to make this a fair fight, then let us ensure that the corporation, the company or the government for that matter, has no more ability to generate revenue than those workers. Now we are a little closer to a fair fight. Now police do not have to move frightened, scared and angry strikers out of the way so that scabs can be brought in to do their jobs and keep them out on the picket lines even longer. We eliminate all of that and put the emphasis on negotiations and settlements.

I do not for a second believe that every single person inside that bus is what I would consider, based on my value system, to be a bad or evil person. Some of them are. They do not care about anybody else, they will take the job and too bad for everyone else. A lot of the scabs are new Canadians who do not know all of the cultures.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 2004 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening to Bill C-263, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code with respect to replacement workers during a strike action.

Before addressing this bill in particular, I believe it is important that we take the bill in the context of what has happened in this Parliament in times past.

In the 37th Parliament, a similar bill, Bill C-328, was debated and subsequently defeated. The reasons for that bill not passing then are relevant to our present discussions on Bill C-263 today, and that has to do with the amendment to the Canada Labour Code, part 1, in 1999.

Previous to that, HRDC undertook an extensive review that resulted in an amendment to the Canada Labour Code relating in part to our discussion today on the issue of replacement workers. The amendment to the Labour Code was precipitated by a task force report, chaired by Andrew Sims, entitled “Seeking a Balance”. I think the title speaks to what was attempted to be accomplished.

In that report, after extensive consultation with major stakeholders representing employers' interests, employees' interests, society's interests and the country as a whole, the majority recommended a provision in the Labour Code that would give employers flexibility to meet their operating responsibilities, but would prevent them from using replacement workers to undermine a union's legitimate bargaining objectives.

That is the balance that has worked since 1999. We have not had any instance where there has been a problem. There has been only one case that was to be referred to the quasi-judicial body and it was resolved before it got there. If it has been working, we need to allow it to continue working and not try to fix it. The minority report recommended a prohibition of replacement workers in its entirety, which is similar to the provision this bill is proposing.

A complete prohibition of replacement workers would force the parties to bargain in a closed environment, one which would not account for the economic realities of the marketplace, especially as we face them today. There are economic considerations both for the employer's benefit and the employee's benefit that require not only the preservation of the property, but the preservation of the business and the economic realities that it faces.

We find that we are, in the federal case, much different from what they would be in a provincial case because this jurisdiction covers essential services across the country and it affects not only one province but it affects Canadians across the whole country.

The relevant portion of the current section of the labour code, section 94(2.1), which Bill C-263 is attempting to change, is a result of the majority report and provides that no employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use replacement workers for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity.

This amendment to the Labour Code was an attempt 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. It attempts to strike a balance by prohibiting the use of replacement workers if the intent is to undermine a union's representational capacity.

It is not fair or accurate to say that it allows replacement workers in total. It allows them to the extent necessary and as long as it is not abused. So far employers have not been abusing that provision. It has been working. We know when there is a strike on. We know by the services, whether it is Bell Canada or the railways, that the service is being disrupted and the legitimate purposes of strike continues as the parties attempt to work things out. That must be preserved.

What is being proposed is significantly different from the solution that was reached by the stakeholders in the current Labour Code. The bill seeks to undo the substantial contribution of literally scores of stakeholders over a period of years and the subsequent full debate in the House of two bills, Bill C-66 and Bill C-19, which led to the amendments resulting in our current Labour Code.

I empathize with the intent of the bill, that any time the duties of anyone on strike are performed by someone else, the effectiveness of a strike is diluted and the bargaining position of the striking employees is weakened. Strike action is a valuable tool for employees who wish to bring resolution in the collective bargaining process, and the employees ought not to face punitive measures for taking action to which they are legally entitled. This attempts to balance that right and allows the provision for an unfair labour practice to be taken to a higher level.

The Conservative Party of Canada supports the right of workers to organize democratically, to bargain collectively and to strike peacefully. The Conservative Party is also committed to working with both unions and employers in areas of federal jurisdiction to continue developing dispute settlement mechanisms to minimize or avoid work disruptions to the benefit of both employers and employees.

In conclusion I would like to refer once more to the title of the Sims report, “Seeking a Balance”. After all was said and heard in previous Parliaments by countless witnesses on both sides of the issue, I believe they sought that balance and attained it. The balance exists and is now incorporated in the current part I of the Labour Code.

Many interests have been taken into account beyond just the interests of the employers and the employees. The report capsulized that our approach has been to seek balance between labour and management, between social and economic values, between variable instruments of labour policy, between rights and responsibilities, between individuals and democratic group rights and between the public interest and free collective bargaining.

We seek a stable structure within which free collective bargaining will work. We want legislation that is sound, enactable and lasting. We see the too frequent swinging of the political pendulum as being counterproductive to sound labour relations. We looked for reforms that would allow labour and management to adjust and thrive in the increasingly global workplace. That is the essence of it.

If Parliament wishes to re-examine this issue of replacement workers as part of a larger study, I believe considerable interest would be generated among the stakeholders to provide for a full and complete debate on this matter. That type of comprehensive debate and discussion cannot take place in the limited time we have in the House in the context of a private member's bill.

Without significant contributions from all of the affected stakeholders, I recommend that members of this House not support this bill in its present form. I agree with the previous comments, if it is fixed leave it that way.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 2004 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Liberal

Judi Longfield LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the discussion on the debate on Bill C-263, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). Even though I do not agree with the content or the intent, it is nevertheless an interesting topic worthy of considered debate.

We should discuss the issue of replacement workers in the context of the economic times we find ourselves in. To say we are living with challenges to industry and labour would be an understatement. The past decade has been one where the forces of globalization, trade and instant communication have changed the labour landscape forever. These forces, along with the corporate and economic restructuring, have placed great pressure on employers and employees and also on the existing collective bargaining environment.

Our economy is ultimately and intimately connected to our ability to manufacture goods and provide services to the world at competitive prices. Mad cow disease, SARS and disputed tariffs on our softwood lumber are just three examples of how industry can be undermined overnight. We are at the mercy of many things that we cannot control, including the price of imported oil and gas, the fluctuating value of foreign currencies in relation to the Canadian dollar, and unfair trade practices. All of these put our industries, including federal jurisdiction industries, at risk in the blink of an eye.

The workers that fall within the purview of the federal labour legislation are not immune to these changes. As the whole notion of work and the expectation of workplace partners change and evolve, the process of collective bargaining is just that much more complex.

Having legislation on the books that bans the use of replacement workers during an industrial dispute remains very contentious, so much so that 8 out of 10 provincial jurisdictions have chosen not to take this route. It is clear that it is a very polarizing issue for the stakeholders. Employee representatives and unions typically support a complete ban on the use of replacement workers. On the other hand, employers invariably argue in favour of their use. That was the position they held during the Sims consultation almost a decade ago.

I can appreciate that both sides have legitimate reasons for holding the positions they do. The extensive industrial relations expertise brought to bear during the Sims task force did not result in a unanimous recommendation on the use of replacement workers. However, when that report was released in early 1996, I believe it provided the best possible compromise, one that strikes the best balance between the competing expectations of the stakeholders.

Let us be clear on what those recommendations were all about. Sims said there should be no general prohibition of replacement workers but that there should be legislative recourse in the case of an unfair labour practice. That is why the task force recommended that the use of replacement workers in a dispute for the demonstrated purpose of undermining the union's representational capacity should be prohibited.

It also went on to say that in the event of such a finding, the Canada Industrial Relations Board should be given specific remedial powers to order the discontinuance of the use of replacement workers. Parliamentarians who were around at the time of the debate on Bill C-19 were also at odds over this provision, but in the end the consensus of most was that they should vote for balance. That is exactly what they did.

It seems to me that for our part as legislators it is not for us to take sides, but rather to come up with a rule of law where the needs of one side are not met at the expense of the other. That is why the legislative changes made in 1999 so closely mirror the task force recommendations. I would have great concern if we were to now arbitrarily, in isolation of other considerations, ban the use of replacement workers along the lines suggested in Bill C-263.

Banning replacement workers would reopen that old argument and dissension, and for no apparent purpose. It would jeopardize the compromise that was reached with such efforts and considered debate almost a decade ago. The long battle for a reasonable settlement on this sensitive issue would be reignited. New battle lines would be drawn. The debate would start all over again.

If it is indeed the case that the labour and management stakeholders in the industrial relations group will never find unanimity on this matter, then perhaps the very lack of agreement speaks to the need for us to continue to go on with a reasonable compromise. For us now to prohibit the use of replacement workers entirely would set back the course we set out with the changes in part I, implemented in the 1990s, which sought balance and compromise.

That is why the government is disinclined to make changes to the legislation that is working relatively well. Even though the hon. member's bill changes just a few provisions of the legislation, its potential impact could be substantial in upsetting the balance of expectation on the part of stakeholders.

I remain firmly of the belief that our current legislation is worded exactly the way it should be. The considerations of all parties at play are kept in balance. Both sides are evenly served. If the legislation is not broken, I do not think we need to fix it. Let us not go down that road again.

For these reasons, I cannot lend my support to Bill C-263.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 2004 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Roger Clavet Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

moved that Bill C-263, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois and my other colleagues from the House that it is a pleasure for me to lead off the debate on the second reading of Bill C-263. I introduced this bill myself in this House on November 4. It provides for an anti-scab law.

Much could be said about this bill, but I will come straight to the point. First, the Canada Labour Code needs to be amended in order to harmonize it with the Quebec Labour Code. This would ban once and for all the use of scabs.

Every effort must be made to pass Bill C-263, which aims at banning the retrograde practice, for that is what it is, of using scabs during strikes and lockouts.

For the Bloc Québécois, this is not a new focus of interest. We have been fighting for years about this. We believe that all political parties in the House will be interested in this bill to make labour relations more civilized.

Anti-scab legislation is essential in negotiations where both parties to a dispute, that is to say management and the workers, have to abide by the bargaining power. That is what an anti-scab bill is all about.

Anti-scab legislation also promotes industrial peace. Businesses, big or small, benefit by it. It is, so to speak, the cornerstone of balanced bargaining power. This can never be over-emphasized: there has to be a balance of bargaining power between employers and employees; otherwise, things do not work too well.

Moreover, it would put an end, among other things, to the existence of two separate categories of workers in Quebec. On the one hand, there are those under Quebec's jurisdiction who have this right. We will remember that Quebec passed anti-scab legislation at the provincial level in 1977, under the René Lévesque government. On the other hand, there are those who are denied this right because they work in businesses under federal jurisdiction.

The beauty of this bill is that it benefits workers in Quebec as much as their counterparts in Canada. I call upon the honour of all the hon. members of this House to ensure that all workers in Quebec and Canada enjoy uniform protection across all the provinces and territories, where the Canada Labour Code is concerned.

I mentioned earlier that the Bloc Québécois' interest in this kind of legislation is not new. We have lost count of the attempts made in the past 15 years or so to have anti-scab legislation passed.

But time after time, over the years, MPs, unions, associations, lobby groups, that is to say many people, have had their hopes shattered because, in many cases, bills die on the Order Paper. We do not want this to happen again. We hope all the members of the House can agree on that.

Allow me to give a specific example. A petition signed by tens of thousands of citizens was laid before the House by my hon. colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, in support of the workers who are asking the government to pass the anti-scab bill.

Let us take a quick look at the situation in Quebec and in Canada. Right now, only Quebec and British Columbia have legislation prohibiting the use of scabs. In Quebec, anti-scab legislation was adopted in 1977 under the René Lévesque government. Everybody is still agreed today that undeniable progress was made regarding labour relations. It is mentioned in every labour relations study and in labour circles.

What I am now wondering as a member of this House is this: why does Canada not follow Quebec and British Columbia and become the North American leader in labour relations? The Bloc Québécois is offering the parties of this House a wonderful opportunity to regain leadership in labour relations.

For example, in New Brunswick, the union leaders have demanded for some time that anti-scab measures be included in their provincial labour code. The situation is the same in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where unions are trying to convince their governments to adopt anti-scab legislation.

Let us take a closer look at the Canada Labour Code. Under section 94, specifically subsection (2.1), there is a ban on replacement workers but only if the employer uses these replacement workers, or scabs as they are often called, in order to undermine a trade union's representational capacity.

I believe that this provision is very weak. In such a case, the employer only has to say that he recognizes the trade union that is in place. Thus, an employer only has to ensure that the trade union's representational capacity is not undermined to be entitled to use scabs. This is quite an easy scenario. In other words, if an employer systematically refuses to negotiate while using scabs, it is only then that the Canada Industrial Relations Board may prohibit the use of scabs.

This is a ridiculously weak measure that opens the door to the use of scabs.

In June 2002, in this House, the then Minister of Labour confirmed this interpretation of the provisions. She even said that the Canada Labour Code does not prohibit the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage.

We see that the issue remains alive. For workers who greatly suffer from this in areas where the Canada Labour Code still applies, we need anti-scab legislation. Why is this important? There has already been a widespread consensus over the years, but more is needed, both for workers under provincial jurisdiction and under federal jurisdiction.

On today's labour market, anti-scab legislation is a necessity, because it would bring more transparency when there is a labour dispute. I do not think any worker or employer is against transparency.

The main benefit of such a bill would be the elimination of violence, which is unfortunately a frequent occurrence, and the bullying on picket lines when disputes drag on and on. I am not making this up. It has been proven over the years.

Disputes drag on because of the lack of a level playing field. That is why disputes sometimes get worse. When we consider the outcome of disputes, and the violence and vandalism in the past, nobody wants that to occur again.

Those are the perverse effects of strikes and lockouts. There are more. With a closer scrutiny, we realize that in a dispute, a strike or lock out, the employer's revenues go down. These disputes are not good for governments either.

The income of workers also go down. So does their purchasing power. And this impact is not limited to a small community or region. The more a dispute lasts, the more its negative impact is visible. The same thing goes for disputes that drag on and generate serious social trouble. We have seen that in Canada in the past.

In Quebec, we also had very long disputes that had a considerable impact long after a settlement. Families affected directly by the dispute have a heavy debt load. There also family problems and psychological disorders because disputes are not settled fast enough.

When we researched this bill, a few figures gave me food for thought. In Quebec, we have an anti-strikebreaking legislation since 1977, thanks to René Lévesque. Going from there, I have a few data that are quite interesting.

In Quebec, the average number of working days lost due to labour disputes dropped from 39 days in 1976 to 32 days in 1979, two years after the anti-scab legislation was passed. Later, in 2001, this figure had dropped to 27.4 days. Generally speaking, thanks to the anti-scab legislation, there has been a reduction in the average number of working days lost. From 2002 to 2003, the number of workers involved in labour disputes in Quebec dropped by 18.8%. Those are figures which make us think or should do.

As I was saying, British Columbia passed anti-scab legislation in 1993, with significant results.

As a matter of fact, from 1992 to 1993, the percentage of time lost has dropped by 50%. We can see, therefore, that this type of legislation brings concrete results. One wonders why, after so many years, we are still hesitating to apply the Canada Labour Code to this type of legislation.

I have more significant figures, which speak for themselves in terms of the average number of working days lost from 1992 to 2002. Under the Quebec Labour Code, it is about 15 days, compared to 31 days under the Canada Labour Code. As we can see, there are significant losses in the case of the Canada Labour Code. Under the Quebec Labour Code, the number of days lost for every thousand employees, from 1992 to 2002, is 121 days. During the same period, under the Canada Labour Code, it was 266 days. Therefore, the number of working days lost under the Canada Labour Code is 119% higher than under the Quebec Labour Code.

So we can see we could go on and on citing figures for hours to comprehend that, for instance, the Vidéotron dispute, so much in the news, left deep scars and lasted over 10 months, resulted in over 350,000 days of work being lost in Quebec in 2002. At Sécur, another work dispute caused the loss of 43,000 workdays. These are worrisome numbers.

It is easy to understand in the light of what I have just stated that any parliamentarian who wishes to associate their name, no matter how closely, to a modern, just and fair measure should vote in favour of this project, because it is a legislative measure which can make a world of difference between the law of the jungle and a society which is truly respectful of the rights of working people.

What is needed, first and foremost, is to go beyond mere partisanship. I call upon the goodwill of parliamentarians, because, after all, even though it is put forward by a member of the Bloc, anti-scab legislation is resolutely progressive; and it is also both liberal and democratic at the same time. Indeed, everybody faces that kind of situation. It is thus important to remind people of how urgent it is to act.

Let us take some specific examples, such as Vidéotron. As we know, that conflict lasted over 10 months. Indeed, 2,200 employees of that cable company were on strike or locked out from May 2002 until March 2003. This was a long labour dispute. Things deteriorated. Scabs were used and the company's facilities were vandalized. That whole mess could have been avoided if there had been anti-scab legislation governing the Canada Labour Code. There are many other examples.

In the case of Sécur, after 99% of the employees voted against the employer's offers, they went on strike in July 2002. At the time, Sécur held 75% of the market of valuables transport in Quebec, with an annual turnover of $55 million.

Sécur employees were delivering cash to thousands of automatic teller machines in Quebec. During the labour dispute, this task was fulfilled by other workers, business managers or replacement workers, as they are called. The result was that, once again, the situation deteriorated and ATMs were vandalized. That conflict lasted over three months.

There is also the case of Radio-Nord Communications, in the Abitibi. Here again, things were not very pretty. Scabs were used, with the result that the conflict lasted a long time. I could go on.

The Bloc Québécois raised this issue many times over the years, often through the voice of the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord, who never gave up.

I will conclude by saying that the battle continues. Today, it is the Bloc Québécois critic on labour issues and member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert who is taking over. Myself, as the member for Louis-Hébert, and the hon. member for Shefford, who is our deputy critic on labour issues, will also continue the battle because, in our opinion, it is important to bring the Canada Labour Code out of its great darkness. It is also important to act before it is too late.

Therefore, considering all the workers whose rights were denied over the years, considering all these victims of a totally obsolete Canada Labour Code, we do not have the right to forget and, more importantly, we no longer have any excuses not to act.