It was a cold and soggy May Day in Ottawa, but still they came, by the busloads, to demand justice and respect. Hundreds of Videotron workers from Quebec gathered on Parliament Hill, and proudly displayed the picket signs and flags theyve been waving since their employer locked them out last May. The 2,200 cable company workers from CUPE locals 1417 and 2815 finally signed a new collective agreement earlier this week, but they couldnt resist one last demonstration, to demand a federal anti-scab law.
Were happy to be going back to work, said one Videotron worker, Azmina Jiwan, as rain pounded onto her umbrella. But we would have gone back to work a lot sooner if there was an anti-scab law in place.
Quebec has had a provincial anti-scab law since the 1970s, but since Videotron operates under federal jurisdiction, the Quebec law didnt apply during the lock-out. As a result, the owners of Videotron were allowed to hire temporary replacement workers, and offer sub-standard service to its customers. But the Canadian law could soon change, if a Bloc Quebecois MP has anything to say about it. Monique Guay has introduced a private members bill against federal scabs, and its being debated in the House of Commons.
Guay was one of the speakers at the rally. We need a law that protects all federal workers in Canada, and treats their work with respect, she shouted into a megaphone. She was flanked by her leader, Gilles Duceppe, who wished everyone a happy May Day but then blasted Canadas next prime minister, Paul Martin. We know where he stands on this issue, yelled Duceppe. His company, Canada Steamship Lines, hires scabs during disputes. That is unacceptable, and we want a law that would change that.
Duceppe wasnt the only federal leader at the rally. Jack Layton, the NDP leader, offered his partys full support to the private members bill, and pointed out that his party was responsible for initiating anti-scab laws in Ontario and British Columbia. The Ontario law has since been repealed, by the current Conservative government.
The House of Commons will continue debating the BQs bill. As for the Videotron workers, they returned to Quebec, wet but content. Now that their collective agreement has been signed, they will be able to do their proper jobs again, starting next week.