Anti-scab legislation forwarded by NDP MPPs from Oshawa, Niagara Falls and more


Published March 29, 2023 at 8:18 pm

NDP MPP and labour leaders put forward legislation to ban the use of scab labour during a strikes and lockouts. - via Ontario Federation of Labour.

A group of NDP MPPs, including representatives from Oshawa and Niagara Falls, have put forward legislation to ban the use of replacement workers (otherwise known as scab labour) while the usual workforce is on strike.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas put forward the Anti-Scab Labour Act in Queen’s Park on March 29, co-sponsored by Oshawa’s Jennifer French, Niagara Falls’ Wayne Gates, Windsor’s Lisa Gretzky and Sudbury’s Jamie West.

Their bill seeks to revive a ban on the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts passed in 1992 during the NDP’s only turn in government. Then-Labour Minister Bob Mackenzie amended the Labour Relations Act to enact the ban.

However, the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government killed the anti-scab legislation in 1995 almost immediately after their election.

The group of MPPs said they were inspired to push for a new ban after seeing the damage scab labour does to both the striking workforce fighting for better conditions and the replacement workers themselves who are put at risk by crossing the picket line.

“My community faced a yearlong strike from 2009 to 2010 at Vale-INCO in Sudbury. During that strike replacement workers were used,” Gélinas said, “Many of the replacement workers who crossed the picket line not only put their own safety at risk but also faced hardship for years after the strike.”

“Scab labour hurts people, families and communities. The use of scab labour leads to longer strikes and lockout.”

The NDP said they have tried to solve these concerns since the Harris years, putting forward this bill 16 times since 1995. Meanwhile British Columbia and Quebec have managed to pass similar bans on scab labour.

Additionally, the MPPs chose now to push for the bill in honour of their fallen colleague, former Welland MPP Peter Kormos. Following a 23 year career as an NDP firebrand in Queen’s Park Kormos died suddenly ten years ago tomorrow on March 30, 2013.

The NDP described Kormos as a “champion of working-class people and collective bargaining” during his long tenure as MPP, noting that he famously said  that to “allow corporate bosses to circumvent, to avoid, collective bargaining at the table by importing scabs is an outrage.”

Gretzky agreed,  having witnessed the use of scab labour during the Highbury Canco strike in Leamington earlier this month. She credited the practice for dragging out the negotiations for 23 day, during which time, Gretzky said, the company would not meet with labour leaders.

“Ontario workers demand and deserve anti-scab legislation. It is appalling that in Ontario we still have a system that allows employers to lock out workers then hire replacement or scab workers to take their jobs,” Gretzky said, “It undermines workers’ rights to a fair and free collective bargaining process.”

On March 7, after not hearing from the company for three weeks, 52 per cent of members of UFCW Local 175 Region Six voted to accept a new four-year agreement. According to UFCW Local 175 Chief Steward Scott Jackson the OPP had to be called in eight times during the strike as tempers flared on the picket line.

“We are still dealing with the fallout created by this. We are still struggling daily with the animosity and chaos this labour dispute created and I imagine it will continue,” she said.

The anti-scab ban would have wider impact than on just one specific strike, West noted. “It’s not just the immediate impact during a specific Labour dispute. Using scab labour takes advantage of desperate people. It uses them to create divides in our communities and then leaves them behind.”

“My community still bears the scars from workers in Sudbury and Nickel Belt being pitted against each other for almost a year during the 2010 USW strike,” he said. “There is no doubt that if the company was prohibited from using replacement workers an agreement could have been reached much sooner.”

“There is no incentive for employers to bargain in good faith, or at all, if they can simply replace locked out workers with scab workers,” Gates added, “The Ford Conservative government spends a lot of time saying they stand up for workers. Now is the time to do that and pass this bill.”

Finally French added scab labour endangers the replacements as well, essentially pitting working people against each other. She cited the recent strike of GDI Service workers who are contracted to clean Durham College and Ontario Tech University as an example.

The strike made “clear to me how unsafe it was for replacement workers to be cleaning laboratories without training, health and safety protocols or proper protective equipment,” French said. “Those replacement workers were dropped off in unmarked vans to run through residential neighbourhoods to get to the worksite. They had no protections.”

The bill has received resounding support from labour unions across Ontario including from the Highbury Canco UFCW 175 and the Steelworkers’ Toronto Area Council.

Canada’s largest trade union, Unifor, has long called for anti-scab laws from all levels of government. On the federal level the Liberal and NDP parties have committed to putting forward anti-scab legislation by the end of 2023.

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising