Replacement workers: the Quebec Employers Council rejects the straight jacket being sought by the unions

MONTREAL, Feb. 1 /CNW Telbec/ - The imbalance in favour of the unions created by the anti-scab law has gone on for close to 35 years, and it would be inopportune for the government to further aggravate the matter by making the legislation even more restrictive than it already is. This is the crux of the declaration the Quebec Employers Council will be making in the National Assembly this afternoon as part of a consultation being held by the Commission de l'économie et du travail in conjunction with the labour dispute at the newspaper, Le Journal de Montréal.

"The unions are profiting from a unique situation in an effort to try to put all Quebec employers into a straight jacket," asserted Employers Council president, Yves-Thomas Dorval. "We are categorically opposed to any new restriction, and we deplore the fact members of the Assembly would enter into this dynamic, as though the interest of the general public was at issue when it is specifically the interest of unions versus employers."  

The Employers Council believes the anti-scab law has led to a favourable imbalance for the union by limiting the right of an employer to maintain the company's activities during a labour dispute, while no such restrictions prevent unionized members from working elsewhere and also being entitled to derive revenue from union funds receiving tax breaks while retaining their preferential right to get their job back once the labour dispute is over.

A needless and detrimental law that should be abolished

Far from wanting to strengthen the anti-scab provisions, the Employers' Council believes the time has come, in the event of a reopening of the Labour Code, to abolish them. The brief tendered by the organization invokes a number of reasons why the law should simply be abolished.

  • The social climate has changed dramatically over the last few decades and the labour dispute violence that prompted the legislator to adopt anti-scab provisions is now a thing of the past.

  • Many studies have shown these provisions do not improve labour relations, but instead they contribute to the worsening of relations by increasing the probability of work stoppages and the length of such shutdowns.

  • With the exception of British Columbia, such provisions do not exist anywhere else in North America, and they hamper Quebec's economic well-being by reducing investments and preventing the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.  

  • The provisions abuse the rights of employers and, potentially, the rights of the workers themselves, and they can thus be constitutionally challenged under the   Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On the matter of the law's constitutionality, the Employers Council issues a reminder in its brief of the reasons that prompted the organization to suspend its court challenge in 1992. It further notes it has not given up its right to a future challenge, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the members, if faced with a new situation, decide to reactivate this suspended legal avenue.

No to piecemeal changes

The Employers Council will be using its appearance before the Commission to urge the parliamentarians not to act hastily and consider the modernizing of the Labour Code as a work site that goes far beyond the issue of replacement workers.

Like the unions, the employers raise a number of aggravations in the labour laws currently in force in Quebec. Among these are the absence of a secret ballot during union accreditations, the absence of participation by all of the workers of a bargaining unit at strike votes, the taxation of union dues and benefits, and union placement in the construction industry.

"By continuing to do what they have basically been doing for almost a half-century, with the piecemeal modifying of labour legislation that largely dates back to 1964 and which has become a real patchwork, the legislator runs the risk of imposing on the economic players a law that is devoid of coherence and fairness between the parties," concludes the brief by the Employers Council, which also deplores the fact that, in this consultation, the union organizations were granted double the amount of speaking time  than that provided to the employer associations.    

The Employers Council brief is available on the organization's website (www.cpq.ca).

The Quebec Employers Council brings together many of Quebec's largest companies and the vast majority of sector-based employers' groups, making it Quebec's sole employer federation.

SOURCE CONSEIL DU PATRONAT DU QUEBEC

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