Conservatives vote in favour of Liberal government bill banning replacement workers

Conservatives vote in favour of Liberal government bill banning replacement workers © Provided by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A Liberal government bill that would ban replacement workers from being used during strikes and lockouts at federally regulated workplaces is moving ahead after the House of Commons unanimously backed it Tuesday.

The legislation passed second reading with the support of the Opposition Conservatives. It was the first time the Tories took any position on the bill.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said the confetti isn’t falling from the ceilings yet, but reaching unanimous consent is “a good thing.”

“At the end of the day, we here are convinced that this will lead to greater stability and security for our supply chains, as well as a huge improvement for workers’ rights in this country,” O’Regan said Tuesday.

The legislation advances policy the New Democrats included in their political pact with the governing Liberals. It also fulfils a Liberal party promise from the 2021 election campaign.

But as the bill heads to committee for further study, NDP labour critic Matthew Green expressed concern that Liberals will attempt to alter the bill with “loopholes” — and the Tories with “poison pills.”

He promised his party will remain “vigilant.”

“New Democrats understand that the only way to fight against the raising costs and corporate greed is through collective bargaining, and is through unions,” Green said.

“And the use of replacement workers, scab workers, in times of negotiations literally takes food off the tables of Canadian workers.”

The Tories didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

In recent months, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has focused heavily on pocketbook issues and ramped up efforts to court support from blue-collar workers, as his party maintains a considerable lead over the Liberals in the polls.

But some union leaders have cautioned their members about supporting Poilievre, saying he borrows the language of the working class but represents a threat to workers.

At an NDP policy convention in Hamilton, Ont., last year, Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, told a packed room that Poilievre “poses a clear danger to every worker in Canada.”

“We remember those Harper Conservative union bills,” she said, referring to the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper and two bills that passed under his watch.

“They tried to weaken unions, making it harder to organize workers, tried to undermine our ability to represent workers.”

Both pieces of law — Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 — were repealed after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came into power.

The first was a private member’s bill that sought to force labour unions to publicly disclose how they spend their money. The second paved the way to allow workers in unionized environments to opt out of paying dues.

Poilievre supported both bills.

The unanimous vote on Tuesday was a “victory,” Buske said.

In a statement, she urged parliamentarians “of all stripes” to work together to amend the legislation.

As it is written, the bill would come into effect 18 months after it receives royal assent — a timeline that would almost certainly put its implementation past the next federal election.

Instead, Buske and the NDP want MPs to change the bill so that it comes into force immediately.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, is heavily critical of the bill and wants to see it taken off the table entirely.

In a statement, its president and CEO Perrin Beatty said the bill is “bad news” for the country.

“If this bill becomes law, the next time a strike shuts down rail or air travel, cell service or credit card payments, or port operations that keep products on shelves and fresh produce in grocery stores, the costs to all Canadians will be higher,” said Beatty.

“All because of the politicians’ decision to put politics ahead of Canadians’ best interests.”

Source: The Canadian Press