Amendments to the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers and improve the maintenance of activities process


Part I (Industrial Relations) of the Canada Labour Code sets out the legal framework for unionization, collective bargaining, dispute resolution, and legal strikes and lockouts in federally regulated sectors. It applies to a broad range of federally regulated industries, including interprovincial and international air, rail, road and marine transportation, banks, telecommunications, as well as postal and courier services. In total, about 22,350 employers and about 1,030,000 employees are covered by Part I of the Code. Of these, about 34% are unionized.

The bill proposes to amend the limited prohibition on replacement workers under Part I of the Code as follows:

  • Employers would be banned from using employees and managers hired after notice to bargain is given to do the work of striking or locked out workers. Contractors, regardless of when they were hired, would also be prohibited from doing the work of striking or locked out employees.
    • However, contractors hired before notice to bargain was given and who were doing substantially similar work to that of striking or locked out employees could continue to provide those services, so long as they are doing so in the same manner, to the same extent and in the same circumstances as they did before the notice was given. They could continue to do their own work, but not that of striking or locked out employees.
  • Employers would still have the ability to deploy their existing workforce, except members of the bargaining unit involved in the work stoppage, so long as they did not hire those individuals after the start of bargaining.
  • Employers would be allowed to use replacement workers to prevent threats to life, health or safety; to prevent destruction or serious damage to the employer’s property or premises; or to prevent serious environmental damage affecting the property or premises.
  • A violation of the replacement worker prohibition would be an unfair labour practice under Part I of the Code. If a union believed an employer was illegally using replacement workers, they would file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).
  • The CIRB would investigate complaints and, if necessary, would order the employer to cease the illegal use of replacement workers. Violating the prohibition would also be made an offence, and, if prosecuted and convicted, an employer could be subject to a fine of up to $100,000 per day.

In addition, the bill proposes to amend the maintenance of activities provisions under Part I of the Code as follows:

  • Parties would be required to enter into an agreement no later than 15 days after notice to bargain has been given and would be required to immediately file their agreement with the CIRB and the Minister of Labour. This condition would apply even if the parties agree that no activities need to be maintained.
  • If the parties do not come to an agreement within 15 days after the notice to bargain has been given, they would be required to apply to the CIRB to decide which activities need to be maintained, if any.
  • The CIRB would be required to resolve these matters within 90 days and would also be empowered to expedite proceedings. The Minister would continue to have the authority to refer questions to the CIRB about whether an agreement is sufficient to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.
  • Employers and unions would be required to have a maintenance of activities agreement in place before they can issue 72 hours’ notice for a strike or lockout.

The bill would come into force 18 months after Royal Assent. 

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