Nova Scotia NDP table anti-scab legislation

Vehicle processing facility in province turns to replacement workers amid Unifor strike

Nova Scotia NDP table anti-scab legislation

The Nova Scotia New Democratic Party (NSNDP) has tabled legislation to ban the use of scab workers in the province during a legal workers’ strike or lockout.

The legislation would apply to federal workplaces.

“Workers need and deserve fair wages and safe working conditions and they have the right to bargain for them. Particularly when we are in the middle of an affordability crisis and we see record corporate profits and little being done by the Houston government to provide relief for everyday Nova Scotians,” said Claudia Chender, NSNDP leader. “Labour has been calling for provincial anti-scab legislation for years. We’re proud to stand with them today in tabling this bill.”

The legislation – Bill no. 435, An Act to Amend Chapter 475 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Trade Union Act, Respecting Strike Integrity and Worker Protection – notes that in case of a legal strike by workers or a lockout, no employer and no person acting on behalf of an employer shall “use the services of a person, whether paid or unpaid, to perform work ordinarily done by an employee in a bargaining unit that is on strike or locked out”.

The legislation also ensures that, during a strike or lockout, employers will not:

  • refuse to employ or continue to employ the person
  • threaten the person, including a threat of dismissal
  • intimidate, coerce or impose a penalty on the person.

The only exception under the legislation is if the employer and the trade union that is the representative of the bargaining unit that is on strike or locked out “have agreed in writing to specified work that may be performed during a strike or lockout for the purpose of preventing hazards to health and safety”.

Employers who would violate the legislation will be liable on summary conviction to a penalty “not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars for each day during which the failure to comply is committed or continued”.

Recently, the federal anti-scab legislation passed Second Reading with all-party support, noted the NSNDP. Also, provincially, British Columbia and Quebec already have similar legislation that bans the use of scabs during a strike, the NSNDP noted.

Unifor workers' strike at CN Autoport

The NDP tabled the legislation while workers at CN Autoport in Halifax – who are represented by Unifor – are on strike.

"These aren't people who are making a ton of money," NDP Leader Claudia Chender told reporters at the legislature on Tuesday, according to a CBC report.

"They are fighting for the wages that they need to pay the bills and take care of their families. They can't do that without anti-scab legislation."

CN Autoport and Unifor met with a conciliator on Monday, but could not come to an agreement as the employer put forward a worse deal for members than the last agreement, which they soundly rejected,” said the union.

Workers in Saskatchewan and Edmonton have also held their own labour actions. Earlier this month, the strike of 8,000 University of Toronto workers was averted thanks to a last-minute agreement.

The strike is now in its fourth week. And Autoport has been using replacement workers since the strike began, said Jennifer Murray, Unifor Atlantic’s regional director, according to a Global News report.

The move seriously undermines the bargaining process, she said, according to the report.

“Unifor is advocating for anti-scab legislation in every jurisdiction across Canada in hopes every worker’s Constitutional right to free and fair collective bargaining will be upheld,” the union said in a press release.

Support for anti-scab worker legislation

The NSNDP anti-scab worker legislation is making its way through the House of Commons with all-party support, "a feat in this partisan moment in Ottawa," said Chender in the CBC report.

"And that's because it's legislation that is really required to preserve the Charter right to collective bargaining and the ability to strike."

Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, via Facebook, also expressed support for anti-scab labour legislation.

“Autoport is using scab labour, violating the legal picket line of 239 striking CN Autoworkers in Halifax. Unifor Local 100 are on strike for fair treatment of workers and fair pay. Local members, union leaders and friends were at the Legislature today in solidarity,” it said on Tuesday.

Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill also expressed his support for banning scab labour.

"Philosophically, we support workers' right to strike and generally disagree with the use of scab workers,” he said in the CBC report.

However, Churchill said he wants to know the full extent and scope of the bill before deciding whether his party will support it.

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