Minister O’Regan introduces legislation to ban the use of replacement workers
November 9, 2023 Ottawa, Ontario Employment and Social Development Canada
The Government of Canada believes in free and fair collective bargaining. The use of replacement workers can distract from negotiations, it can prolong disputes, and it can damage labour relations for years to come.
Today, Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr. introduced legislation which proposes to ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces during a strike or lockout. The legislation would also make important changes to improve the maintenance of activities process.
Bill C-58 would ban employers from using replacement workers to do the work of unionized employees who are on strike or locked out. An exception would apply in situations where there are threats to health and safety, or threats of serious property and environmental damage that could not be managed by the employer’s existing workforce. If a union believes the employer is using replacement workers in capacities beyond this exception, their recourse would be to file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), who would then investigate the issue.
The Government also recognizes that the current maintenance of activities process can be lengthy, further prolonging or complicating disputes.
To strengthen the maintenance of activities process, Bill C-58 would require employers and unions to come to an agreement early in the bargaining process to determine what work needs to continue during a strike or lockout, if any. The parties would have 15 days to do this. If they cannot come to an agreement, the CIRB would decide what activities need to be maintained within 90 days. The Minister would continue to have the authority to refer questions to the CIRB to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
This legislation would improve labour relations, protect workers’ right to strike, limit interruptions to collective bargaining, and provide greater stability to Canadians during federal labour disputes.
“We’re banning the use of replacement workers because we believe in collective bargaining. Our economy depends on employers and workers negotiating an agreement at the table. That’s where we get stability for our economy, that’s where strong labour relations are forged, and that’s where the best deals are made.”
– Minister of Labour and Seniors, Seamus O’Regan Jr.
Part I of the Canada Labour Code governs workplace relations and collective bargaining between unions and employers. This part contains provisions related to replacement workers and maintenance of activities, as well as dispute resolution, strikes and lockouts. It outlines the labour relations rights and responsibilities of employers, trade unions and employees.
Prior to 1999, employers were not prohibited in any way from using replacement workers during a strike or lockout. In 1999, Part I of the Code was amended to provide a limited prohibition on the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage, with the intention of undermining a union’s representational capacity. This limited prohibition was the result of recommendations made in the Sims Task Force’s 1995 report Seeking a Balance, based on extensive consultations with employers and unions at the time.
- What We Heard: Prohibiting Replacement Workers in Federally Regulated Industries and Improving the Maintenance of Activities Process under the Canada Labour Code
- Minister O’Regan releases the What We Heard report on banning replacement workers and improving the maintenance of activities process
- Minister O’Regan launches consultations to improve the collective bargaining process
- Overview of the parts of the Canada Labour Code
For media enquiries, please contact:
Office of the Minister of Labour and Seniors, Seamus O’Regan Jr.
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