Summary

  • On March 29, 2018, NDP MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) introduced a private-member’s bill (Bill 34, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Replacement Workers), 2018) (“Bill 34”). Bill 34 has passed first reading.
  • Bill 34 seeks to bring into effect legislation that would prevent an employer from temporarily replacing striking or locked-out employees with replacement workers, with an exception for replacement workers used in certain “emergencies”.
  • It is not the first time this type of regulation, known as “anti-scab” legislation, has been introduced in Ontario. In fact, it was in effect in Ontario from 1993 until 1995.
  • Anti-scab legislation has historically been hotly debated, with its proponents arguing that an employer’s inability to hire replacement workers resolves disputes faster and reduces picket line violence. Its opponents, however, argue that this type of legislation does not actually resolve disputes faster and that it is unreasonable for employers to be forced to halt their operations unless they yield to the demands of the union.
  • France Gélinas previously introduced a similar bill in 2010, which was defeated on second reading (28-16). The NDP also recently attempted to introduce similar legislation federally. The federal bill was ultimately defeated (217-47), in part because it contained insufficient detail as to what would happen in Canada if essential service workers (such as those in banks and airports) were to strike.
  • Anti-scab legislation is currently in effect in Quebec and British Columbia.

Risk

  • If passed into law, Bill 34 has the potential to make a significant impact on unionized workplaces in Ontario. Should Bill 34 receive Royal Assent, the balance in labour relations disputes will shift considerably in favour of the union and most employers will find themselves effectively unable to continue business operations during periods of strike or lockout.

Action

  • Bill 34 has a long way to go before being passed into law. Therefore, readers should check back in as we will monitor the status of Bill 34 and provide updates with respect to its potential impact on the workplace.