Anti-scab legislation introduced in win for unions and NDP

Nick Seebruch
Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske at Thursday's press conference announcing the anti-scab legislation. Credit: CPAC

Nov. 9, 2023

A longtime priority of the labour movement took an important step towards becoming a reality on Thursday.

On Thursday, November 9 after months of negotiations and promises, the Liberals introduced anti-scab legislation into the House of Commons.

“Today is about keeping parties focused on the table and providing more stability and certainty to the economy,” said Liberal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan at a press conference on Thursday morning.

Known as Bill C-58, legislation would cover all federally regulated workplaces that have unionized workers.

There are some exceptions to the legislation, including allowing employers to use scab labour if not doing so would put public health or safety at risk.

Unions welcome anti-scab legislation

In the news conference announcing the bill, O’Regan acknowledged that an anti-scab law had been a priority for unions for a long time and several prominent labour leaders were in attendance at Parliament for the introduction of this historic legislation.

“Working people and unions have organized and fought for this moment for decades,” said Lana Payne, president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union. “Generations of workers have stood courageously on picket lines in this country defending their right to strike and to fair and free collective bargaining. Some have paid a hefty price. This legislation is for all those workers who never gave up. When we organize, we win.”

Canadian Labour of Congress (CLC) president Bea Bruske said that this bill represented an important step in union-employer relations as employers could no longer use scab labour as a tool to extend strikes.

“We have seen years of record corporate profits while workers’ pay lagged far behind. Workers are rightly demanding fairer wages, better safety standards and respect from their employers,” said Bruske. “If we ban the use of scabs once and for all, we can take a real step towards less labour disruptions, avoiding work stoppages and building a more balanced economy—while increasing the benefits and respect workers deserve.”

Anti-scab bill a long time priority for the NDP

For years the NDP have been trying to make anti-scab legislation a reality.

The NDP introduced an anti-scab bill in 2016 which was voted down by the Liberals and Conservatives.

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice introduced another anti-scab bill just one year ago in October of 2022.

Boulerice celebrated the introduction of the anti-scab bill on Thursday as a historic moment for Canadian labour.

“It’s the work of all the labour movement and generations of new-democrats,” he said on X.

The NDP is currently engaged in a supply-confidence agreement with the Liberal government, where the Liberals have agreed to deliver on certain NDP priorities in exchange for their support in the House of Commons.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh expressed his confidence in Bill C-28 saying that the legislation would not be as strong as it is without the pressure his party and labour leaders exerted on the Liberals.

“This bill would not have happened without us and the work of the labour leaders standing with me today. Together, we’re going to deliver workers the respect, better wages and working conditions they deserve. Left to their own devices, Liberals would have included massive loopholes benefiting the bosses during labour disputes,” Singh said.

United Steelworkers (USW) national director Marty Warren said that while the bill was not perfect, it was a big step in the right direction.

“We’re happy the Liberal government has gotten on board with this important legislation, but the work is not over. Now that the bill has been tabled, we’re not going to let up,” said Warren. “We need changes to this legislation to scrap unnecessary delays in implementing it and close big Liberal loopholes that would still permit many types of scab labour.”

[Top photo: Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske at Thursday's press conference announcing the anti-scab legislation. Credit: CPAC]