Letter to the Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi, It’s Time for a Real Federal Ban on Scabs

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Picket line in Regina

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Labour

Dear Minister Tassi,

Re: It’s Time for a Real Federal Ban on Scabs

I’m writing to you on behalf of more than 315,000 Unifor members across the country, working in every major sector of the Canadian economy, to ask you to take action to help restore balance for all workers. As you know, in May, our union launched a public campaign to advocate for anti-scab legislation to stop employers from undermining the power of union members.

Unifor’s campaign included the research report called Fairness on the line: The case for anti-scab legislation in Canada. This important document features internal data and analysis we’ve never previously publicly released, detailing the cold hard facts on the negative impact scabs have on resolving labour disputes. We shared this report with Prime Minister Trudeau, Liberal Party of Canada Members of Parliament, other Members of Parliament, and provincial elected officials across the country.

Since the release of that report, we have discussed the issue with a number of MPs in meetings, and have received written responses from others. A few have suggested that we overlooked the existence of anti-scab language at the federal level within Part I of the Canada Labour Code. In order to respond to that suggestion, we have prepared a supplemental report for Fairness on the Line, which we have called It’s Time for a Real Federal Ban on Scabs.

As you will note in our supplemental report, “there is a contradiction at the heart of the Canada Labour Code’s provision on replacement workers. The passage in question allows employers to use scabs as long as they pursue legitimate bargaining objectives, but the very deployment of scabs delegitimizes the bargaining process and allows the employer to circumvent it entirely.” In other words, the so-called anti-replacement worker language in the Code is so inadequate as to be functionally ineffective.

Our supplemental report goes on to note that

Ultimately, Section 94 (2.1) of the Canada Labour Code fails to recognize that the primary logic behind the deployment of scabs is to negate the collective bargaining power of unions by circumventing our right to strike, therebypreserving the inherent power imbalance that exists in favour of employers. There can be no legitimate pursuit of bargaining objectives by an employer so long as they believe the withdrawal of our labour is a mere inconvenience that they can get around by hiring scabs.

I hope you take the time to read our supplemental report and discuss it with your colleagues. In addition, I would like to once again draw your attention to this new video, in which Unifor members who have experienced first-hand the kind of damage scabs bring to a workplace speak out about their experiences.

We look forward to the opportunity to continue our conversation on this important subject. Unifor and other unions in the Canadian labour movement have been actively advocating for effective anti-scab legislation for some time, and we hope this most recent public campaign will continue to build on that momentum.

What we are calling for is no less than a full ban on the use of scabs through an amendment to the Code. Unless such a ban is in place, our constitutionally protected right to strike will continue to be undermined and deep inequalities in favour of employers will continue to prevail at bargaining tables across Canada.


Jerry Dias
National President, Unifor

CC. All Liberal Party of Canada Members of Parliament