Ministerial Question Period: Legislation on Replacement Workers

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Colourful downtown St Johns, Newfoundland

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Welcome to the Senate, minister. My question is about a subject that you’ve already addressed, anti-scab legislation. I gather that the consultations are over. You said in October that they would end in December.

I have a specific question. You will undoubtedly look to the experience of Quebec and British Columbia. Are you planning to prohibit the use of both replacement workers working at the company and third-party subcontractors? In certain disputes, instead of hiring scabs, the employer has subcontracted the work to external companies.

Hon. Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P., Minister of Labour: Senator, we are far away from that.

In regard to the issue of replacement workers, I come back to the remarkable record that my team has at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, or FMCS, which is our mediation and conciliation team. The longer you can keep people focused on the table, and not on other things, the better. What we have learned are the lasting — and extremely scarring and emotional — effects of using scabs or replacement workers. It can poison a work environment for years, if not decades. When all of that is happening, the emotional turmoil of that and the physical time it takes in order to coordinate it distracts people from a solution at the table. That is where I’m coming from on this.

I want security and stability in our supply chains. I do not want further disruption. It will be crucial that we get this legislation correct and the regs that stem from it. At some point, senators here will have a hand in that, but I want you to know — and I will impress this upon you — that the stability of that table means the stability of our supply chains. The more that I can have unions, industry and business focused on finding an agreement that is long-lasting, the better. I do not think that finding third-party sources is going to do any of that.

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