CANADA'S LEADING INFORMATION SOURCE FOR THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY

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CANADA'S LEADING INFORMATION SOURCE FOR THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY

CANADA'S LEADING INFORMATION SOURCE FOR THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY

SOAP BOX: Banning replacement workers is all about politics

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By Robin Guy, Vice President & Deputy Leader, Government Relations, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Over the past few months, Canadians have seen waves of strikes disrupt their economy. From the West Coast ports strike this summer, to the St. Lawrence Seaway strike this fall, Canada is building a reputation as an unreliable trading partner.

To put it into perspective, a recent Scotiabank report stated that Canada is losing more hours worked to striking workers than it lost at any point during pandemic restrictions. And all signs indicate more labour unrest is forthcoming.

Although politicians claim to be addressing Canada’s productivity challenges, they are advancing anti-replacement worker legislation that will reduce productivity, further erode our global reputation and keep Canada from simply getting things done.

The government understands the risks. In fact, its own discussion paper on anti-replacement worker legislation stated that the majority of studies on prohibiting replacement workers showed they came with more frequent strikes and lockouts. If that research is correct, the ban could harm the economy by subjecting Canada’s federally regulated telecommunications and transportation infrastructure — the trains, planes, trucks and ships that form the sinews of our supply chain — to frequent and lengthy job actions.

Replacement workers allow organizations in rail, ports, telecom and air to sustain a basic level of “lights on” continuity that preserves critical services for Canadians. These workers, typically non-union employees of an organization facing a work stoppage or contractors with a long-term relationship with the organization, are an essential backstop for our economy, able to step in on a temporary basis — in the interests of Canadians — until a work stoppage ends.

There are serious ramifications for all Canadians if we prohibit these workers from keeping those lights on. Simply put, no need or benefit from banning the temporary use of replacement workers can justify losing critical services, given the risks involved. Not to mention that numerous studies, dating back decades and across multiple jurisdictions, have demonstrated that banning replacement workers discourages investment and leads to lower wages, fewer job opportunities and more frequent and longer strikes — with all the attendant economic damage.

Canada’s long-established collective bargaining system has been carefully crafted to encourage employers and unions to reach agreements at the bargaining table. This new legislation would tip the balance of power in favour of unions and inflict serious damage on Canada’s economy. Our already-fragile reputation as a reliable place to do business would be further at risk, and the government will have undermined Canadians’ ability to receive the services they require.

Parliamentarians are aware of the dangers associated with banning replacement workers. But instead of doing what is in the best interest of the country, they continue to play politics. Canadians will suffer the consequences.

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