OTTAWA, Sept. 28, 2016 /CNW/ - The Liberal government has broken a promise to bring fairness to workplaces across Canada, wielding its parliamentary majority to kill proposed legislation aimed at banning replacement workers – before the bill could even be studied by MPs, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.
"The Liberal government has failed to live up to its promise of 'a fair and balanced approach to organized labour,'" USW National Director Ken Neumann said after the Liberals voted Wednesday to defeat Bill C-234 at second reading in the House of Commons.
"By using their majority to block this bill from even being studied in committee, the Liberals have demonstrated they oppose the principle of preventing the use of replacement workers," Neumann said.
"This government is siding with employers who use scabs to prolong strikes and lockouts. The Liberals have chosen to uphold a practice that denies workers' rights to free collective bargaining."
Bill C-234, a private member's bill, proposed a ban on the use of replacement workers in federally regulated sectors such as transportation, communications, banking and uranium mining.
"Bill C-234 deserved a full, all-party hearing in committee, in an era where scab labour itself has become big business, with agencies specializing in union-busting and providing replacement workers," Neumann said. "At the same time, workers who are forced onto picket lines are often struggling not to make gains, but to simply preserve wages and working conditions that took decades to negotiate. The Liberal government's response is to kill the bill."
Debate against the bill was filled with misconceptions about labour relations, Neumann noted. One Liberal MP – Rodger Cuzner, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour – used comments made by Neumann in a previous debate on different legislation to try to bolster an argument against banning replacement workers.
"I was distressed to think that a high-ranking Liberal, who claims to be a friend of labour, would twist my words to suit his agenda," Neumann said. "He and the rest of the Liberal caucus may choose to believe that employers don't provoke labour disputes. Unless they have lived the reality that many of our members have faced, they cannot possibly know the anguish and vulnerability faced by working people when they are trying to defend their rights," he said.
"I am absolutely convinced that employers would not be as willing to force workers out onto the street if they were prevented from hiring scabs to take our jobs," Neumann added.
"We will always support any effort to modernize the Canada Labour Code in a way that protects workers from arbitrary action by employers. We thank the NDP for introducing this bill and fighting to have it honestly and factually debated in the House of Commons."
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434 2221, [email protected]