QUEEN’S PARK—Today, NDP MPP France Gélinas introduced the Anti-Scab Labour Act, 2023 in the Ontario legislature with co-sponsors MPPs Jennifer French, Wayne Gates, Lisa Gretzky and Jamie West. The MPPs were joined by workers from Windsor and Oshawa who are presently on strike and can see firsthand the effects scab labour (replacement workers) has on negotiations. Ontario banned scab labour in 1992 when NDP Labour Minister Bob Mackenzie amended the Labour Relations Act; the ban on replacement workers was repealed in 1995 under legislation introduced by the Mike Harris government.
“My community faced a yearlong strike from 2009 to 2010 at the 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 time has come to close this loophole and ban the use of replacement workers like they did in Quebec and British Columbia decades ago” stated Gélinas. “This is the 16th time the NDP has introduced this bill and it’s time to make it the law.”
The anti-Scab labour Act, 2023 would prohibit the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout, except in the case of emergencies. It is being introduced this week in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the death of MPP Peter Kormos (Welland 1988-2011). Mr. Kormos was known around Ontario as a champion of working-class people and collective bargaining. “To allow corporate bosses to circumvent, to avoid, collective bargaining at the table by importing scabs is an outrage” Mr. Kormos once stated. Peter Kormos passed away ten years ago on March 30th 2013, he was 60 years old.
“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. It undermines workers’ rights to a fair and free collective bargaining process. Recently, Highbury Canco in Leamington used scab workers to drag out a labour dispute for 23 days, most of which the employer wouldn’t bargain with the union,” stated MPP Lisa Gretzky. “Workers deserve to be respected and protected. We must bring in anti-scab labour legislation in Ontario. It will shorten labour disputes, reduce safety risks at workplaces and make the bargaining situation fair for everyone involved. I am honoured to represent Windsor, a strong labour town with an incredible work force. I know they, and workers across the province, will benefit from this anti-scab legislation.”
MPP Jamie West shared his experience of walking a picket line where replacement workers were allowed to cross. “Our bill prevents an employer from replacing striking or locked-out employees with scab replacement workers because bringing in replacement workers lengthens these labour disputes and undermines the effectiveness of workers who collectively agree to withdraw their labour. I come from a union town and I’m proud of my blue-collar, working-class background. I know what it's like to be on strike and I witnessed our Labour dispute unnecessarily extended because of the use of scab replacement workers. 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. There is no doubt that, if the company was prohibited from using replacement workers, an agreement could have been reached much sooner. 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. We will continue to stand alongside workers and stand for the right to collective bargaining. We encourage others to support our workers in voting in favour of this vital bill.”
“I have been a member of the labour movement for 40 years. Over and over again I have seen workers’ rights trampled on when workers are locked out and employers use scab labour to do their jobs. 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. 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,” MPP Wayne Gates stated.
"At a recent labour dispute in our community, Unifor 222 cleaners on strike made it clear to me how unsafe it was for replacement workers to be cleaning laboratories without training, health and safety protocols or proper protective equipment. Those replacement workers were dropped off in unmarked vans to run through residential neighbourhoods to get to the worksite. They had no protections. Employers using people as pawns to prolong strikes and disrespect their own workers is gross. This government never sides with workers or safety, maybe today they will" Said MPP Jennifer French.
During the labour dispute at Highbury Canco the employer used scab workers to do bargaining unit’s work. This included management and new hires. It was extremely disheartening for all three shifts of picketers to see the scab workers being bused in. It became more and more dangerous on the picket line as drivers became more and more aggressive while they waited their five minutes in line. The OPP were called 8 times over the course of the strike, fortunately no one was hurt. With the assistance of our union president, Shawn Haggerty, and the Government conciliator, we were eventually able to get back to the bargaining table with the employer and hammer out an agreement. Tempers did rise on both sides and even though we are now back to work , 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.
Scott Jackson, Chief Steward Highbury Canco UFCW 175
When employers bring in replacement workers during a strike or lockout all it does is extend Labour disputes. The employer can simply walk away from the bargaining table, with the idea they can simply continue to run operations using scabs.
Brother Roopchand Doon, Vice-President of the Steelworkers' Toronto Area Council