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

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Karine Trudel  NDP

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


Defeated, as of Sept. 28, 2016
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code to make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Sept. 28, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

September 22nd, 2016 / 5:15 p.m.
See context


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to address Bill C-234, an NDP private member's bill that would effectively ban the use of replacement workers within federal jurisdiction. I am, to the great surprise I am sure of my colleagues, going to be speaking against the bill and sharing a bit about what I think the negative impacts of the bill would be.

Let me start with a bit of the underlying context. When we talk about labour relations, it is very important to reflect on the concept of solidarity. Certainly a concept invoked by people from different political traditions is the idea of solidarity being rooted in empathy, that we should be concerned about the well-being of others, that we should stand with others and have empathy for the circumstances of others. Solidarity is a call to regard the humanity in others and to seek their good. Our economy is well served when we emphasize in particular, though, a lens of universal human solidarity, not exclusively particular-group solidarity. In other words, it is best served when we reflect on how particular decisions impact the well-being of everyone in society, not just members of particular individual groups, not just, let's say, members of our own group, be it an economic group or otherwise.

Through the lens of solidarity, I would suggest that members approach the bill by reflecting on its impact with regard to the interests of all concerned, of all who would be impacted by it: the interests of unionized workers, the interests of the business community, and the interrelationship between the interests of those groups; the interests of society as a whole, in particular the consumers of services that may be provided by businesses and unionized workers in areas of federal jurisdiction; and in particular I would say the best interests of the most vulnerable group in our society in many senses, those who are unemployed. A holistic ethic of human solidarity is about thinking of the common good of all, analyzing the interests of all groups, and in this way, the way I have sought to divide it up, of these four principal groups.

I do not think this bill is in the interests of unionized workers, businesses, the public as a whole, or the unemployed. I will spend the balance of my time reflecting on each of those groups and the impact of the bill on them.

First, what would be the impact of the bill on unionized workers? As I was preparing to make this speech, I read a speech given in this place on a similar bill by my predecessor, the MP for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, Mr. Tim Uppal. He had some very good things to say about this and he talked about studies on the impact of the bill on work stoppages. In his speech, he said:

Independent studies have looked at the impact of anti-replacement worker laws on work stoppages. Most found no evidence that a legislative ban had an effect on activity, but some found that a prohibition on replacement workers led to more frequent and longer [work stoppages].

It is not hard to understand how a ban on replacement workers would have that impact. A ban on replacement workers increases the amount of pain that a strike can impose on an employer. Some might argue it creates a perverse incentive to have more and longer strikes in the hopes of extracting additional concessions. However, workers are rarely well served by extended work stoppages. Certainly they are better served when agreements can be found earlier on without the necessity of resorting to a work stoppage. Obviously, during a work stoppage workers lose access to their wages and they lose the positive opportunities that come from being productively engaged in work. A bill that upsets the good and appropriate balance that we currently have in federal legislation by creating a perverse incentive for more work stoppages does not serve unionized workers. Unionized workers are not well served by an overly conflict-oriented work environment.

The current balance encourages negotiation and collaboration between workers and employers, but upsetting that balance has the potential to create a more conflictual work environment that will not serve either side and, with reference to this particular point, not serve unionized workers.

I will also say about unionized workers that we know that the economic well-being of workers is intimately tied, especially in the private sector, to the economic position of their employers. If an employer goes out of business, the workers involved lose their job. If employers face a particularly challenging economic time, they may be forced to lay off workers, or at least will not be able to offer increases in wages they might otherwise wish to offer. We can understand that the economic well-being of workers is tied to the economic position of their employers.

That brings us to the next point, which is the impact of this on businesses. Economic activity certainly requires certainty, so that businesses have an effective functioning economy when they are making decisions about investing here in Canada, about starting in the first place, and about expanding their operations. They want to know that they will be able to continue to do business.

If in certain circumstances they are prevented from the possibility of hiring replacement workers, that will create a significant amount of uncertainty. It will discourage investment. It will make it more difficult for them to work here and create jobs in Canada.

Again, we need to be concerned about the well-being of businesses, of job-creators, because of those economic interrelationships and because of this idea of universal human solidarity, which calls us to reflect on how, economically as well as in other respects, we are interconnected.

This kind of a measure, which would be devastating, as various groups have pointed out, to the activities of business in this country would be devastating to job creation. It would have a devastating impact on workers.

I want to talk about the impact of this on the public. When we are talking about federally regulated areas, we are talking about some very important sectors of our economy. We are talking about interprovincial transportation, rail, road, air. We are talking about things like grain handling, mining operations, certain crown corporations, museums, and many important areas of our economy.

If we do not allow replacement workers in certain circumstances, the public will lose access, or the public can lose access, to these vital services. That, obviously, will not serve the public very well.

With regard for the public, with regard to the importance of our museums, transportation, telecommunications, crown corporations, etcetera, I think members should reflect on the negative impacts of this bill, and certainly join me in defeating it.

Let us talk, finally, about the impact of this legislation on the unemployed. A replacement worker ban would prevent those who are unemployed from gaining temporary employment, which might well provide them with valuable experience and skills, and strengthen their position financially, and be a real asset to people who are able to take advantage of replacement work opportunities.

Again, nobody welcomes a work stoppage, but to stay that in a situation where nobody is working in a particular area, that those who are unemployed should not be able to step in on a temporary basis, perhaps learn some skills and gain some valuable resource, to suggest that they should not do that, I would argue, is unfair to those unemployed people.

It is interesting that sometimes the measures we see coming from our friends in the NDP do not consider the well-being of the unemployed. We could use the example of the unfortunate minimum wage hike happening in my home province of Alberta. The impact of that is going to hurt job creation. It is going to hurt the unemployed. The argument is that it helps those who have work. However, the negative impact on the unemployed, on those who are creating jobs and therefore on those who are negatively impacted by the loss of jobs is very clear.

I encourage colleagues to reflect not on narrow group solidarity, but on this idea of universal human solidarity, how this bill impacts the whole of the economy, and to look at these various different segments of society. I would also encourage my colleagues to join me in defeating this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

September 22nd, 2016 / 5:25 p.m.
See context


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to support Bill C-234—I am sure my colleagues will not be surprised about that—sponsored by my colleague, the member for Jonquière. The last debate on this valuable amendment to the Canada Labour Code was fruitful. All members who spoke raised important questions about both the bill itself and its manner of introduction in the House.

Before I speak to the bill in question, if I may, I will respond to some of the objections we have heard. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons expressed his distrust of New Democrats' motives. This was based on his experience in provincial politics and the NDP's own history of labour-related legislation. He claimed indirectly that this piece of legislation is part of “games that are played between the Conservatives and the NDP with respect to labour”.

I would like to remind him of the distinction between federal and provincial parties and agendas. I do not hold the federal Liberals responsible for the policies and decisions of their provincial counterparts. This attitude of suspicion really is not helpful for healthy debate and is corrosive, I think, to Canadian politics.

While I might not agree with the them, I respect all of my elected colleagues' opinions and I equally hold all of my colleagues to their word. This is part of good-faith discussions and negotiations, without which any bargaining process crumbles, whether in the House or over employment conditions.

My colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent took a principled position in opposing the NDP's amendment, and while I respect his commitment, I am saddened by his party's continued insistence upon outdated economic theory that sacrifices actual and practical considerations. He said, “Let us not forget that striking workers can always go work somewhere else”.

Individuals are not, at their core, economic beings or economic robots that just uproot and abandon their communities, friends, places, and memories for only financial considerations; and the government should not treat them as such. This brand of economic thought is blind to the realities faced by many working Canadians and, insensitive to the demands of everyday life, was really at the heart of some the previous government's destructive economic policies.

In addition, I would call into question various statistics and citations used by the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. First, we must all remember that correlation is not causality. The numbers are not, as the member stated, speaking for themselves, but rather, the member is speaking for the numbers.

Second, while he rightly pointed to the recommendations of the 1996 Sims commission, my colleague neglected to mention that the commission found that Quebec has managed without major difficulty since the general prohibition of replacement workers. He equally neglected to mention the minority opinion of commission member Rodrigue Blouin, who noted that there was neither consensus nor conclusive evidence for the recommendations. Blouin recognized that replacement workers undermine the fundamental principles of bargaining integrity. The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent did not acknowledge this. Nevertheless, I respect the member's position, his honesty, and his valuable respect for the equality of all members.

All members spoke to the balance that exists between employer and employee, thanks to the Canada Labour Code, and the threat of upending that balance. I commend my colleague from Regina—Lewvan for his excellent response to this criticism, which was not addressed in the subsequent debate, and I wish to return to this point later.

First, however, was the member for Cape Breton—Canso's argument for the need for a wide tripartite consultation process, instead of piecemeal changes through private members' bills. This process, through deliberation and study, would preserve the employer-employee balance.

My colleague's comparison of our amendment to labour law changes under the previous government is disingenuous. Bills C-377 and C-525, two bills given as examples, were introduced and shepherded through Parliament by the previous government, which held consultations in contempt and proactively stifled consensus-building discussion. Bill C-234 has been introduced the only way we know how.

The Canada Labour Code requires modernization. If the current government is willing to initiate this consultation process, I say, let us do it. The Liberals, however, will not do this.

We are nearing one year since the election. The government promised Canadians real change, and they have done better than the previous government, it is true. Of course, transparency and wide and thoughtful consultations are necessary to open government. The current government, however, is employing these consultations with partisan judiciousness, putting us in an awkward position.

Where was the broad discussion on arms sales to Saudi Arabia? Where are the consultations on Bill C-51, legislation that blatantly infringes upon charter rights and against which experts from coast to coast have been unified? In fact, where is any whisper that Bill C-51 is being put back on the table? How many more experts must speak out against Bill C-51 before the government acts?

In many cases, we have seen deliberate delay masquerading as thorough bipartisan concern. The government is willing to listen, it seems, only when it knows it will like what it hears. I should add that unlike my colleague from Winnipeg North, I am judging the government on its own track record.

I want now to return to the carefully crafted balance that my Liberal colleague spoke of previously. The phrase “sunny ways” we know was popularized by prime minister Laurier, a famous compromiser, yet we also know that Laurier's downfall was ushered in through some of the same compromises.

I strongly believe in compromises, in listening, negotiating, and thoughtfully coming to consensus, but on some issues, talk of balance is misleading. We cannot, for example, support aboriginal land claims and propose nation-to-nation dialogue, yet at the same time green-light pipeline development without consultation.

To say that we worked toward balance in this case is meaningless. We do not need to balance news coverage of climate change with deniers who ignore the science. Likewise, there is the idea that the current iteration of the Canada Labour Code balances, as the member for Cape Breton—Canso put it, “the union's right to strike with the employer's right to attempt to continue operating during a work stoppage”.

Management always has the upper hand in the current scenario, and Bill C-234 is merely trying to balance the playing field.

The carefully crafted balance the government claims exists at the moment between workers and employers under the Canada Labour Code appears to be the same as what exists between the opposition and the government here today. Management and the government will always have more resources at their disposal.

Furthermore, it is undeniable that the use of scab labour makes strikes more bitter, and sometimes violent. They also prolong the conflict. That does not really serve anyone.

As the eight-month-long strike at The Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax drags on, the Herald is losing subscribers and advertisers it may never get back. Workers are losing their regular paycheques and the work they so clearly love to do. Any readers that are left will have lost the quality paper of old.

Anti-scab legislation would help reduce days lost to work stoppages and would facilitate a quicker resolution to workplace disputes.

In Quebec, where anti-scab legislation has been in place since 1977, and in British Columbia, where a similar law has existed since 1993, days lost to strikes have actually decreased since these laws were enacted. These laws must be working, or subsequent governments would have moved to repeal them.

The bottom line is that nobody ever wants to go on strike, says Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, whose members are still on strike.

“When we went out, it wasn't because we want more, it was because management wants to take away so much. We are striking in self defense”.

She went on to say, “Strike pay is much less than what you are used to getting. If you live paycheck to paycheck it becomes a problem, and the company is using that as a weapon to bully us into surrendering. They have much deeper pockets than we do.... The balance is altogether tipped in the employer's favour”.

Bill C-234 will extend a ray of sunshine to Canadian workers under the Canada Labour Code. This legislation will restore good faith negotiations at the bargaining table, as both parties, employers and employees alike, will have something to lose by not coming to an agreement. This is not naive theory. This is a simple fact.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

September 22nd, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
See context


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, It is an honour to speak today to a bill that could affect the balance in labour relations in Canada. I am referring to Bill C-234, which would prevent employers governed by the Canada Labour Code to hire replacement workers in the event of a strike or lockout.

Although most labour relations in Canada are governed by the provinces, it is important to point out that part I of the Canada Labour Code governs labour relations in private workplaces under federal jurisdiction. It covers key industries in our economy, such as international and interprovincial rail and road transportation, air and marine transportation, and telecommunications. Certain crown corporations, such as Canada Post, are also governed by the Canada Labour Code.

The Code ensures that there is balance between the union's right to strike and the employer's right to try to continue operations during a work stoppage. The current Canada Labour Code provision already restricts the employer's use of replacement workers. Employers governed by the code cannot use replacement workers to undermine a union's representational capacity.

I want to point out that opinions on this matter have always been divided, with some people being very supportive of using replacement workers and others very much against it.

A few years ago, there was a full review of the code, and this provision was one of the ones added. At that time, it was viewed as an acceptable compromise between the employers governed by the code and the unions representing their employees.

Although I am sure the member who introduced Bill C-234 probably wanted to improve labour relations, it is important to understand that the bill could upset the balance of the rights and responsibilities of both unions and employers under the terms of the Canada Labour Code. I want to remind the members of the commitment we made to re-establish balance and fairness in labour relations with the groups covered by the code.

I want to emphasize right away that, given the scope of what is being proposed, such a measure must take into account the views of all stakeholders: employers, unions, the government, and even external stakeholders, such as universities and any others that might contribute in any way. This will require feedback from and the participation of anyone who could be affected by this measure.

With that in mind, we have already introduced important measures to correct the inequities created by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which upset that balance. Those bills had a serious impact on workers and unions in Canada. They put unions at a disadvantage, and we believe that those bills must be repealed.

Much like this bill, Bill C-234, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were private members' bills, so they were not subject to the rigorous consultation that should take place on such issues. We must not take the same approach on this issue.

The issue of replacement workers is too controversial, with employers and unions having opposing views. However, in the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through private members' bills without prior consultation with stakeholders.

We believe in an open and transparent approach to labour relations, one that promotes stability.

In the past, this type of reform involved consultations with employers, unions, and the government. For example, in 1995, a task force held extensive public consultations on part I of the Canada Labour Code, which deals with industrial relations. These consultations were held with unions, employers, and government stakeholders, as well as with academics and other groups that wanted to have a say on the issue.

The task force's report, entitled “Seeking a Balance”, served as a framework for significant changes to part I of the Canada Labour Code, which came into effect in 1999. Consultation and engagement help ensure that our policies are evidence-based.

The development of fair, balanced, and evidence-based labour policies is essential for both workers and employers.

We therefore do not support Bill C-234 because it does not meet this country's standards of openness and transparency, and it upsets the balance in labour relations.

The employer-employee relationship is essential to our economy. Good working relations result in stability and predictability in the labour force, factors that fundamentally support our economy.

We must therefore ensure that labour policies are in the best interests of Canadians because, in this country, we have a long tradition of labour legislation and policy designed to promote the well-being of all by encouraging collective bargaining and dispute resolution for the common good.

We are committed to implementing a labour policy that is balanced and fair for all workers and employers governed by the Canada Labour Code.

That is the spirit of our position on this very important issue.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

September 22nd, 2016 / 6 p.m.
See context


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to have the last five minutes of debate to speak to my bill C-234.

We talked about this bill in the House for two hours. It is a bill that seeks to modernize the Canada Labour Code. The time has come to do so. We have made progress. We have been talking about this for years. The bill has been introduced several times in the House. Under the proposed bill, if negotiations are under way at an institution involved in a strike or a lockout and the employer asks people to telework, then the employee could be identified as a scab. This is where modern technology has taken us.

Earlier today and yesterday, unions were being praised in the House. The government was said to be on their side. Modernizing the Canada Labour Code would be a testament to that. Bargaining relationships have to be on equal footing. There can be no imbalance. Currently there is an imbalance on the side of the workers. When a company is in a lockout or a strike, its employees are out on the street and scabs are called in, the imbalance is on the side of those in the street. The company continues to make profits, manufacture its product, and ship it across Canada. Therein lies the imbalance.

We have reached that point. It is 2016, as the government and members here like to keep telling us. Let us do it. Let us walk the talk. We were talking about consultations earlier. It is not complicated. We just have to vote for the bill at second reading and it will be sent to committee. The government will be able to draw its list of witnesses. We will be able to talk to them and travel if need be. We can bring in the unions, the employers, and listen to them and hear what they have to say.

If we shut down this debate right now, we will never know what people want. We have the option to vote to send the bill to committee.

This summer my colleagues and I talked a lot about long strikes. Conflicts drag on. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, a lockout lasted three years. Men and women were without jobs for three years while it was business as usual for the company. That is unacceptable.

We have to make changes. Even today, as we speak, employees of the Old Port of Montreal are on strike. They are going to start feeling the cold because strikebreakers are still arriving and providing essential services, while the employees are not being paid and cannot reach an agreement. This situation is dragging on because it works for the company.

On the one hand, the government praises unions and says that it backs them. On the other hand, when it is time to take real action, such as sending this bill to committee, it is dismissive and says that the bill creates an imbalance. I would like to hear what else the employees of the Old Port of Montreal have to say this evening. There is an imbalance. We have the opportunity to do something. Let's do it.

We are talking about 12,000 companies in Canada and 800,000 jobs. That is a lot. This morning, some of us had coffee in the cafeteria. The woman who served us is a union member. The customs' officer at the airport who helps us is a union member. The employees of the Old Port of Montreal, whom I mentioned, belong to a union. Those are the people we must help.

Amending the law does not create an imbalance. It simply creates a level playing field for bargaining.

I believe that we are at that point. It is time to modernize the Labour Code to ensure that, when there is a strike or lockout, it does not create an imbalance of power that prolongs the dispute. We need to allow employees to negotiate with their employers on an equal footing.

I am repeating myself, but we have the opportunity to send this bill to committee. Let us do just that. Let us hear from witnesses and then make a decision. Some people in the House already voted at second reading. Let us do it again. Let us go through the process again and do something to build the future for once. Let us amend the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2016 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

moved that Bill C-234, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to begin the debate on the bill to amend the Canada Labour Code.

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code to make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

In other words, the bill seeks to prohibit replacement workers, commonly known as scabs, at the federal level. Passing this bill would send a clear message to workers across the country that they have the right to bargain collectively as equals.

The NDP thinks it is important to promote workers' rights. I am introducing this long-overdue bill in my role as the deputy labour critic and on behalf of the progressive opposition.

In Canada, over 12,000 businesses and 820,000 workers are governed by the Canada Labour Code. We have been putting this measure forward for the past 10 years.

However, workers were clearly not a priority for the previous government. We were therefore not surprised that it rejected this measure. Today, we sincerely hope that the Liberal government will be open to this measure.

This bill will amend and modernize the Canada Labour Code in order to prohibit employers from hiring strikebreakers to do the work of employees in the event of a strike or lockout.

In other words, we want to put in place, at the federal level, the same types of provisions that already exist in some provinces, such as Quebec and British Columbia.

We also included a “Québecor clause” in the changes to the Canada Labour Code. Members will recall the events that occurred in Quebec during a Journal de Québec lockout, when the company took advantage of a loophole in the regrettable Quebec law on strikebreakers and continued to print the paper during the lockout.

The Court of Appeal sided with Québecor and ruled that the Quebec law did not prohibit telework. It is important to modernize the Canada Labour Code in order to prevent the use of replacement workers through telework.

We also added the use of other establishments to do the work of the bargaining unit that is on strike or locked out.

In my riding, Jonquière, I have seen a number of labour disputes. In a given year, there are labour conflicts right across Canada, but in my former capacity, I saw some in the riding of Jonquière.

It is tough to see workers who want to negotiate with their employer, because it is truly difficult. Renewing a collective agreement can create tension on both sides.

However, when the legal provisions ensure that we negotiate as equals, that establishes a balance of power. This ensures that both the employer and the workers can negotiate in good fath, and that is critically important.

Many stakeholders are calling for and supporting this bill.

Mark Hancock, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said:

CUPE welcomes this legislation, which would give employers more incentive to sit down and negotiate with workers and could lead to fewer and shorter strikes and lockouts.

In recent years, since we are seeing fewer strikes and more lockouts, it has become more common, during the course of negotiations, for employers to no longer want to negotiate while the employees are locked out. This legislation would help prompt employers to negotiate, because they can no longer hire other workers while the employees are locked out. It is therefore extremely important to negotiating as equals.

Another union president, Mike Palecek, president of CUPW, joined us at our press conference to support the bill. During the presentation, he pointed out the importance of promoting free collective bargaining and the fact that using replacement workers undermines labour relations.

Ken Neumann, the national director of the United Steelworkers, issued a press release on February 25 that states, “The Steelworkers union welcomes these changes to the Canada Labour Code. If passed, this law will stop the unfairness of employers using replacement workers during strikes and lockouts. Thanks to the NDP for once again introducing this bill that will benefit workers and employers and contribute to our nation’s productivity”.

It is important to know that this change to the Canada Labour Code, regarding both teleworking and preventing the use of replacement workers inside as well as outside the facility, is important to bargaining. This does not poison the debate, but can at least help to ensure negotiations occur on an equal footing.

I always enjoy giving a little reminder to anyone who still does not see the reason for the union movement. I want to point out a few things.

It is thanks to unions and the labour movement that we now have a minimum wage, paid overtime, occupational safety standards, parental and maternity leave, paid vacation, and protection from discrimination and sexual harassment.

Unions work hard every day to stand up for those hard-fought rights and to continue winning new rights for all workers.

Our unions are social unions that focus not only on the benefits that can be gained from collective bargaining, but also on the victories that can be achieved in the interest of society as a whole. For example, they fight to put an end to child labour or to ensure that an employee injured at work gets compensation through workers' compensation. They fight for public pensions and social programs that help people contribute to work, such as health care and child care services.

Although workers have made progress in the past few decades, a great deal of injustice remains. That is why starting with a small step and changing and updating the Canada Labour Code is important to me and the NDP.

We voted on a pay equity motion moved here in the House by the NDP not so long ago.

I thank all parties here in the House for supporting that motion, but I am disappointed that we are still fighting for pay equity in 2016.

At this time of economic slowdown, I think it is worth mentioning that the World Bank has found that a high rate of unionization leads to greater income equality, lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity, and a quicker response to economic downturns.

Speaking of equality, or rather inequality, I believe it is important to point out that there is a major problem in our society when the wealthiest 1% now possess more wealth than the rest of the world put together and the wealthiest 62 people on earth own as much as the poorest 3.6 billion people.

The Panama papers also reveal a strategy for massive tax avoidance.

In the end, it is not up to workers to pay the government back for all the money taken by major corporations, money that belonged to Canadians.

If I were asked whether we could better protect workers' right to negotiate their collective agreement and working conditions in a fair manner and as equals, I believe that the answer would be “yes”.

Not only can we protect workers' rights, but we can look to those who belong to the 1% to pay what is owed to the government in taxes. Protecting the right to negotiate is one aspect of the notion that we can build a fairer and more equal society. That is good for the economy, workers, and their families.

In my riding, one labour conflict went on for three years. During that time, families wound up homeless and broken. There were many separations, and we saw people who were completely lost and did not know where to turn. No one wants those kinds of conflicts. That is why we have to amend the Canada Labour Code so that we have a fair and equitable negotiation process.

The labour code can be improved based on the standards set in Quebec and British Columbia. We can ensure that people who are put out on the streets because of a lockout or strike during a period of negotiations will not have to worry. They will know that if the employer locks them out, no one will be hired to do the work in their place, often for lower wages.

The NDP knows that it is essential that both parties are respected when negotiations are taking place. The company and the workers must both be respected. We want to ensure that the parties meet as equals during negotiations.

It is simply unfair for employers to hire replacement workers to undermine workers' ability to exercise their rights, since the company continues to produce and make money. That is unfair to the workers who have been locked out.

We believe that the bargaining rights of workers who are on strike or have been locked out should not be undermined. That is really important. I hope that members of the House will understand the importance of modernizing the Canada Labour Code. It is 2016. We can and must do something for both companies and workers.

The option to use telework if more than one establishment is on strike or lockout does not allow for negotiation between equals. I hope that my colleagues here in the House will understand that it is vitally important to amend the Canada Labour Code.

I hope that my colleagues will support this bill, since over the past 14 years, some of them have introduced similar bills to amend the Canada Labour Code. I hope that the bill will make it to second reading, that we will examine it in committee, and that we will be able to modernize the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2016 / 6 p.m.
See context

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today to speak to this particular piece of legislation on behalf of the party.

I would like to provide some perspective on a private member's bill that touches on a key component of the Canada Labour Code and one that would have a serious impact on federal labour relations in this country. Bill C-234 proposes to change the legislative provisions relating to whether federally regulated employers should be able to hire replacement workers during strikes or lockouts.

While most labour relations in Canada are regulated by the provinces, it must be underscored that part I of the Canada Labour Code governs labour relations in the federal private sector. It applies to some key industries in our economy, for example, sectors including international and interprovincial railway and road transportation, maritime and air transportation, as well as telecommunications and banking. Some crown corporations, such as Canada Post Corporation, are also covered under the code.

There is a lot of history behind this particular issue. For example, in 1995, the then minister of labour established a task force that did extensive public consultations on part I, which is the industrial relations part of the Canada Labour Code. Those consultations included labour, employer, and government stakeholders, as well as academics and others. The issue of replacement workers was part of those discussions.

Labour and employer stakeholders held then, and hold now, very different views on the issue. In fact, the task force report, entitled “Seeking a Balance”, noted, “No issue divides the submissions we received more than the issue of replacement workers.”

That report formed the basis of the comprehensive amendments to part I of the Canada Labour Code that came into force in 1999. It is important to note that the provision that exists now was recommended by the task force as a reasonable compromise between the competing views of employers and unions. That had been decided in 1999.

The provision of part I of the Canada Labour Code already limits the use of replacement workers in federal private sector industries. The code balances the union's right to strike with the employer's right to attempt to continue operating during a work stoppage. As the report recommends, “There should be no general prohibition on the use of replacement workers.” However, the report identified using replacement workers in an attempt to remove the union from the workplace as an unfair labour practice, and rightfully so. This is known as undermining the union representative capacity.

At the time of the task force report, the current provision in the code was considered to be an acceptable middle ground between the position of the federally regulated employers and the unions that represent employees. This provision is considered a compromise and a balance between union and employer interests.

While Bill C-234 may intend to improve labour relations, it has the potential to upset the carefully crafted balance of rights and responsibilities between unions and employers under the code.

It is not only the content of Bill C-234 with which I take issue, but I would also like to underline a flaw in how we have been asked to consider such an important change for federally regulated employees and employers.

Consideration of such a measure should take into account the perspectives of all stakeholders who are regulated by the Canada Labour Code as this requires the views of those who stand to be affected by it. To be clear, a private member's bill does not allow for the proper consultations, and it does not provide sufficient opportunity for all stakeholders to express their views.

In the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through the use of private members' bills without prior consultation with the stakeholders. Members will no doubt remember that the government recently took bold steps to correct inequities introduced in Bill C- 377 and Bill C-525, which upset the balance of rights and responsibilities between federally regulated employers and unions.

Trade unions play a fundamental role in the relations between employers and employees. Unions work to ensure that their members receive fair wages and good working conditions in fair, healthy, and safe work environments. These bills put unions at a disadvantage and we believe they must be repealed.

Just like the current Bill C-234, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were private members' bills that were not subject to rigorous consultations. This is not the right way to approach such matters. We should not be looking at amending part I of the Canada Labour Code on a piecemeal basis. We believe in an open and transparent approach to labour relations, one that promotes stability and fairness.

Major changes to labour relations legislation have always been preceded by consultation between government, unions, and employers. I referred previously to the 1995 task force, which included an extensive consultative process, which was followed by ministerial consultations on the recommendations included in the task force report. However, this has not happened in the case of Bill C-234, and any changes on such a divisive issue would certainly need consultations with all stakeholders.

We cannot support Bill C-234 because it does not match our standards of openness and transparency in labour relations in this country. As I pointed out before, the code ensures balance between a union's right to strike and that of an employer to attempt to continue operating during a work stoppage. It is part of the balance between rights and responsibilities of employers and unions under the code.

Good labour relations are key elements of an economic system and indeed to the prosperity of this country. We have a long tradition in this country of labour legislation and policy designed to promote the common well-being by encouraging free collective bargaining and constructive dispute settlement. We believe in the strength of co-operation to develop good relations between employers and workers. If legislative changes are to be considered for part I of the code, let us do it the right way, through real and meaningful consultation and engagement with unions, employers, and stakeholders.

I know that in the member's comments reference was made to support from United Steelworkers. Let me read into the record the statement made by Ken Neumann when he was testifying before committee on Bill C-525. Mr. Neumann is the national director of United Steelworkers. He said, speaking about the past Conservative government:

We've seen this government operate in this way before - introducing major changes to the hallmarks of our democratic society through backdoor private member's bills. The Canadian Labour Congress rightly asks why tamper with a system that's working? The federal system is respected and supported, as a result of a consultative process that's been followed for decades for amending the Labour Code.

That comes from Ken Neumann from United Steelworkers. That is his opinion.

We have long recognized this in this country. Again, I would like to underline the fact that in the last four years we have seen it even more so. Labour legislation in this country has to be referred to a tripartite system, one that is consultative and is built through consensus. That is what we are committed to, to ensure that our labour laws are fair and balanced and that they represent the needs of employers and the rights and best interest of employees. That is what we are committed to and that is what we intend to deliver as a government.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2016 / 6:20 p.m.
See context


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise as a seconder of this private member's bill, Bill C-234.

In the debate about a previous government bill, Bill C-4, government members often spoke about restoring balance to Canadian workplaces. We in the NDP were happy to support that legislation, because Bill C-4 did restore balance to certification and decertification. However, we need to be concerned not only about the right to join a union, but also about the right to bargain collectively.

An essential component of balance in collective bargaining is that in the rarer cases where this process breaks down, both sides bear a cost. Employers do without labour while employees must do without their wages. That puts pressure on both sides to keep negotiating to try to find a solution.

The use of replacement workers, or scabs, destroys that balance by allowing the employer to continue functioning as though there is no labour dispute. We have had far too many cases in Canada of employers demanding severe concessions, locking out workers or provoking a strike and then using scabs rather than negotiating in good faith. One problem with replacement workers is that they can be used to prolong labour disputes.

Another problem with replacement workers is that they increase the likelihood of violence. The process of moving scabs across a picket line into the workplace inevitably puts the employer's security forces in confrontation with the picketers. That is a recipe for bad things. However, even where replacement workers are not actually used, the implicit threat of scabs gives management an unfair advantage in bargaining.

There is a very simple solution to all of these problems: to prohibit replacement workers during legal strikes and lockouts. This is not a new or theoretical solution. Two provinces already have anti-scab legislation and the longevity of anti-scab legislation in those jurisdictions is a testament to its success and to its workability. Quebec has had anti-scab legislation for nearly 40 years. British Columbia has had anti-scab legislation for nearly a quarter century. In both of these provinces, anti-scab legislation was introduced by social democratic governments, but importantly, it has been continued by subsequent right-wing governments. At the provincial level, parties of both the left and the right have accepted anti-scab legislation.

What about at the federal level? What did we hear from the Liberal Party? The member for Cape Breton—Canso tried to tell us that the existing provisions in the Canada Labour Code, which do not actually prohibit replacement workers, constituted some kind of appropriate balance. However, I have already explained why the real balance involves pressure on both sides during a strike or lockout. The real way to achieve balance is not to have replacement workers in the equation at all.

The sense in which the member for Cape Breton—Canso considers this a balance is that we have two sides, unions and employers. Unions obviously would like to have anti-scab legislation and employers would not want to have it. He does not think we can make a change without consensus.

That is kind of a disingenuous argument, because the current situation confers a huge advantage to employers, so of course employers will never voluntarily agree to give that up. It is for parliamentarians to make a balanced assessment, and that is exactly what this private member's bill proposes.

We have also heard the argument from the member for Cape Breton—Canso that this is the wrong process, that we do not want to look at one little element of the Canada Labour Code, that we need to do a big tripartite review of the whole thing. Well I say, bring it on. There has not been a review of the Canada Labour Code since 2006.

The member for Cape Breton—Canso kept saying that we could not do this without a big review of the Canada Labour Code. Let us have that review of the Canada Labour Code. I think that would be very much welcomed on this side of the House. That is not really a good argument not to adopt this legislation. Let us go ahead with the review.

I think the main argument, though, from the member for Cape Breton—Canso is this notion that it is somehow inappropriate to put forward this proposal as a private member's bill. Leave it to the Liberal Party to turn a question of principle into a question of process.

The grain of truth in this argument is the idea that the previous Conservative government did abuse private members' bills to make changes to labour legislation without the same sort of scrutiny that would have been applied to government legislation. That is a criticism that one can make of a government; and if the present government wanted to put forward legislation to implement a ban on replacement workers, obviously, we in the NDP would support that legislation. The reason we are putting it forward as a private member's bill is that the Liberal government has not put it forward on the order paper. It missed the opportunity to do so in Bill C-4. The only way we have to put forward legislation is through private members' bills.

We heard the statement from the member for Cape Breton—Canso that this is introducing a change by the back door. It is not the back door. It is the only door to which the NDP has access. Therefore, yes, from a process point of view, one could criticize a government for sneaking things through with a private member's bill. One cannot criticize the third party for introducing legislation through a private member's bill, because that is the only way it can happen.

What did we hear from the Conservative Party in this debate?

The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, first, suggested that anti-scab legislation was inappropriate in the federal sector because the federal sector includes these strategic industries, these kinds of essential services.

The way to protect essential services is not to allow replacement workers. If there are specialized people off the job in telecommunications and that is causing a national emergency, the solution is not to bring in scabs. The solution is, hopefully, to negotiate some sort of essential service protocol with the union. If that is not possible, there is the possibility of back-to-work legislation under the Canada Labour Code.

The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent said, well, we don't want to spend all our time in Parliament passing back-to-work legislation, which is kind of a funny statement because the Conservatives were content to spend all kinds of time doing that in the last Parliament when they were in power. Every major strike or lockout in the federal sector during the previous Conservative government attracted back-to-work legislation from that party. Therefore, I do believe that comment is a little out of context.

One of the concerns that the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent raised was that anti-scab legislation could force employers to settle labour disputes quickly.

I would suggest that is a feature, not a bug, of this private member's bill, that we actually want to bring these disputes to a quick resolution. One of the problems with replacement workers is that they drag things out, and one of the benefits of this legislation is that it would speed things up.

We also heard an argument from the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent that there were more labour disputes in Quebec versus Ontario and that this is all the fault of anti-scab legislation.

I would suggest there is a whole bunch of other differences between Quebec and Ontario, including the higher rate of unionization in Quebec. I think the better comparison is what happened within Quebec when anti-scab legislation was passed, because actually it was passed in response to an extremely high level of very disruptive labour disputes in that province, and the introduction of anti-scab legislation led to a great reduction in the number of strikes and the amount of picket-line violence in Quebec. Therefore, I actually see this as a good model for the federal sector.

In conclusion, I urge members to support this private member's bill, which they are free to do because it is a private member's bill. They do not have to vote on party lines. This legislation would strengthen the right to strike while, at the same time, producing fewer, shorter, and less violent labour disputes.