Manitoba labour unions react to Bill tabled in Ottawa that could ban temporary workers during a strike

Labour unions in Manitoba are hoping the federal government’s move to ban replacement workers during labour disruptions is also replicated by the provincial government. Edward Djan has more.

As legislation at the federal level is tabled to ban the usage of temporary workers during a strike, labour unions here in Manitoba are hoping the same could be done in this province.

Federal Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan tabled Bill C-58 Thursday which would ban the usage of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces during a strike or lockout.

“Across Canada, it is unlaw for an employer to use replacement workers to permanently replace striking union members, but they could do so temporarily, they could bring in replacements during a strike or a lockout,” explained Adam King, an assistant professor of labour studies at the University of Manitoba.

The legislation is being seen as a good step by labour organizations, but there are some concerns about how fast the government plans to implement it.

“We are very concerned about the timeframe of 18 months to try to enact this legislation we don’t believe that’s necessary at all. There’s a number of major rounds of negotiants that are going to occur. This is a very simple concept, if you are at the bargaining table you are not allowed to use replacement workers,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Western Regional Director at Unifor.

While Bill C-58 only covers federally regulated workers, unions in Manitoba are optimistic with the change in government in this province, that similar legislation could be introduced.

“It’s a good first step when you table legislation to ban replacement workers and scabs. They only to prolong a work stoppage,” explained Kyle Ross, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union.

“We are very hopeful because we know when they use those replacement workers, they pay them more than what they are paying the workers in the workplace.”

In response to whether anti-replacement workers legislation may be coming to Manitoba, Manitoba Minister of Labour and Immigration Malaya Marcelino, Manitoba regional director at the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in a statement to CityNews that, “the contributions of workers are important in strengthening our economy. I’m looking forward to working with business and labour leaders together on this issue.

“You are paying for costs for bringing in replacement workers, often the costs can be higher. It could be problematic, you could have inferior work being done.

Currently, both British Columbia and Quebec have legislation in place banning the use of replacement workers during labour disputes.

Those within the labour movement, especially in Manitoba say a ban on replacement workers during labour disputes would help level the playing field during negotiations and even shorten labour disruptions.

“It’s about protecting workers’ rights and giving them a fair bargaining process where one side cannot just act like a strike is not happening and replace them,” said Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

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