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Unifor says close the scab loophole to federal wage subsidy

April 27, 2020 - 12:00 AM

April 27, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is calling on the federal government to close a loophole in Bill C-14 that will allow unethical employers using scab labour to qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

“Companies that have chosen to use scabs to prolong labour disputes should not benefit from the scarce emergency funds designed to help legitimately struggling businesses and organizations,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “COVID-19 financial support should not be used to weaken workers’ bargaining power.”

Bill C-14 will enact the CEWS, a program designed to provide employers with a subsidy of up to 75 per cent of wages, capped at $847 per week for each employee. April 27, 2020 is the first day that the federal government will begin accepting applications for CEWS.

Unifor points to the example of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) in Saskatchewan, where the company has locked out refinery workers for 144 days and has flown in scab labourers and housed them in cramped conditions. The local community has expressed concern that the scab camp is a health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FCL recently rejected recommendations to end the dispute from independent mediators appointed by the provincial government. Unifor says employers like these can’t be rewarded with federal CEWS funds.

“Co-op’s repeated refusal to compromise has been made possible by its use of scabs,” said Dias. “If those scabs are subsidized with federal CEWS cash, the government will further tip the balance in favour of a company that saw over $2 billion in profits between 2018 and 2019.”

While the CEWS appears to disqualify companies using independent contractors, FCL “management” ranks doubled leading up to the lockout, meaning Co-op may qualify for CEWS. There is also nothing in Bill C-14 to prevent the firm supplying Co-op with scabs (such as Sterling Crane, Stuart Olson, Brock Group, or Agilus Work Solutions) from applying for the CEWS.

Unifor is also calling on all employers to maintain workforces or recall laid off workers under CEWS.

Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).