Canadian Parliament Unanimously Passes Anti-Scab Legislation

On Monday, May 27, Canada’s parliament unanimously passed new “anti-scab” legislation that will prohibit federally-regulated employers from using replacement workers during a strike.

“This legislation is about protecting the right to fair and free collective bargaining, including the right to strike,” said Lana Payne, National President of UE’s Canadian ally Unifor. The bill “modernizes Canada’s labor relations system to reflect the current social and economic context of this country, where increased corporate power and wealth requires an effective counter-balance.”

The bill will apply to over 20,000 employers whose industries are regulated by the federal government, including airlines, banks, and telecom companies. Quebec and British Columbia — Canada’s second- and third-largest provinces, respectively — have had similar legislation on the books for decades covering most workers.

Quebec’s anti-scab legislation was enacted in the late 1970s after private security guards shot and injured eight striking workers during a strike called by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), the militant Quebec union which has been a close UE ally for decades. The resulting outrage gave the governing Parti Québécois, at the time a progressive nationalist party with close ties to the labor movement, the political capital to pass a bill that not only banned the use of replacement workers but also expanded union rights in several other ways.

The new Canadian federal legislation was introduced as part of an agreement between the governing Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, a party founded in 1961 by the Canadian labor movement. In exchange for supporting the Liberals’ budget proposals, the NDP insisted that the Liberals introduce anti-scab legislation. Unifor and other Canadian unions made it a major political action priority, mobilizing their members to put pressure on parliament. The bill ultimately gained support from all major Canadian parties, including the historically anti-worker Conservatives, who are attempting to appeal to working people ahead of likely national elections next year.

“With the incredible work of union leaders, of union activists, of workers, with the work of New Democrats who’ve been championing this for over 15 years … we can say today we will finally pass a law that will once and for all ban scab workers at the federal level,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told the CTV Television Network after Monday’s vote.

Unlike U.S. labor law, the Canadian bill features stiff penalties for employers who violate the law — fines of up to $100,000 per day.