CLC President Bruske to all levels of government: Show you stand with workers and implement anti-scab legislation now

March 14, 2024

OTTAWA – To protect workers and restore fairness at the bargaining table, we need strong anti-scab legislation, in every jurisdiction.

On February 27th, while Parliamentarians from all parties voted unanimously in support of Bill C-58, legislation that would ban replacement workers, 239 Unifor members in Nova Scotia went on strike. By the end of that very same day, the employer, CN Rail, brought in scabs. Although this is a provincially regulated workplace, it merits every politician’s attention.

“I’ve heard some concerning stories from workers who faced direct conflict during a strike, threatening their safety and livelihood. The horrific event that happened in Northern Ontario less than two weeks ago is a terrifying example. This should never happen,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Scabs, sometimes called “replacement” workers, are brought in during a lockout or strike to take regular workers’ jobs. The employers’ use of scab labour—pitting desperate workers against each other— undermines workers’ right to strike, intensifies labour disputes and escalates hostility at the picket lines – threatening the safety of these workers and their communities.

Quebec has had an anti-scab law for over 45 years and British Columbia for 30 years, these laws, and the proposed federal anti-scab bill, not only shorten labour stoppages, they reduce the damaging effects scabs have on inflaming disputes and bring back fairness at the bargaining table.

More and more private and public sector workers are turning to their unions to stand up and demand better. From employers and from governments.

“Workers know that walking the picket line is not easy.  And the threat of scabs being present in some jurisdictions is very real.  That amplifies the stress workers face when making decisions for themselves, their families and their communities.  That’s why, achieving anti-scab legislation at the federal level is critical,” added Bruske.

Workers in Nova Scotia, and in every province and territory, deserve to have their constitutional right to bargain and to strike protected, without the persistent menace of the use of scabs that would prolong work stoppages and incite drawn-out, desperate, and destructive conflicts.

Like non-unionized workers, union members have seen their wages fall in the face of the ongoing affordability crisis.

Workers have seen their purchasing power fall behind, as their wages fall behind inflation while wealthy CEOs are reporting huge profits. Meanwhile, their employees are forced to go to the food bank because they can’t even afford to shop in the store they work in.

“I met with workers who told me that before they are prepared to walk the picket line, they have to make a financial calculation. And in these uncertain and difficult economic times, this is not a decision to take lightly,” added Bruske. “These are kitchen table family discussions about whether you can afford to take the employer’s measly offer or if you are prepared to go out.  And let’s be honest, sometimes the decision is made for workers when they are locked out by their employer.”

In the meantime, politicians like Pierre Poilievre pretend to be a friend to workers. He remained completely silent on where he stood on banning scab labour for months while continuing to deliver meaningless one-liners and come up with petty slogans.

“If Pierre had a true change of heart and really wants to support worker’s rights, perhaps he should send a memo to his provincial counterparts in Nova Scotia and Ontario as soon as possible,” added Bruske.

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