Canada’s largest labour union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, is cautiously optimistic about the beginning of consultations on federal anti-scab legislation, announced today by Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan, alongside NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice.

“Allowing employers to bring in scabs during a labour dispute doesn’t just tip the scales towards bosses, it’s like dropping a grand piano on the scale in their favour,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “We’re looking forward to taking part in these consultations and fighting to ensure workers in Canada get the protection they deserve.”

“Workers in Canada have a Charter-protected right to strike,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick. “The Supreme Court recognized this right in a ruling against the government of Saskatchewan in 2015, and it’s high time that right is recognized to its full extent under the law.”

The use of scabs pits workers against one another and removes any incentive for employers to negotiate constructively and in good faith to end labour disputes. Employers routinely draw out labour disputes to demand workers give up their pensions and benefits, while using scab workers to keep operations running.

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, who worked for CUPE prior to being elected, noted that Videotron used scab labour during a 10-month lockout in 2002-2003, and emphasized how much harder this made it for CUPE’s 2,200 members at Videotron to reach a deal. It is appalling that employers can lock out their staff and hire scabs to replace them.

BC and Quebec already have anti-scab legislation for workers under provincial jurisdiction, and CUPE hopes these consultations will spur other jurisdictions to adopt similar laws to protect workers’ rights.

“This is the natural evolution of workers’ rights in this country,” announced Minister O’Regan at his press conference. CUPE agrees wholeheartedly, and will ensure the consultations and forthcoming legislation reflect that.

CUPE notes these consultations are only happening because of the unrelenting pressure of Jagmeet Singh and the NDP in the current minority Parliament. The Liberals teamed up with the Conservatives to defeat anti-scab legislation tabled by the NDP in 2016.

CUPE represents approximately 35,000 members in federally-regulated workplaces, including airlines, communications, ports, public transit, ferries and rail, who would be benefit from federal anti-scab legislation.