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A historic vote in the House of Commons advances anti-scab legislation

June 20, 2024
Picture: A group of people taking a photo during a rally outside of the Parliament Hill. They are wearing winter clothes and standing on the snow. Some of them are raising blue flags with the Métallos and USW logos. The Canadian Parliament building is visible in the background.

A historic, unanimous vote in the House of Commons on the proposed anti-scab bill (officially known as Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations) has taken it a significant step further, by allowing it to be studied in committee. While this type of legislation, designed to protect the rights of federally regulated workers during a labour dispute, has been proposed several times in the federal Parliament, this is the first time it has taken this step.

“The United Steelworkers union has known for a long time that anti-scab legislation would help restore the balance of bargaining power while protecting workers’ constitutional right to strike and reducing the duration of labour disputes,” said Marty Warren, USW National Director. “That’s why we’ve been involved for decades in the fight to see this legislation finally passed at the federal level.”

It is at the committee stage that a bill undergoes in-depth analysis. Committee members receive briefs and have the opportunity to hear from expert witnesses. They then study the bill in detail, proposing amendments to improve it and finally report back to the House, for a final vote on the amended bill before it goes to the Senate.

“The Steelworkers are obviously following this process very closely,” added Warren. “We’re keeping up the pressure to close loopholes and eliminate unnecessary delays in the implementation of this bill and let it serve as an example for jurisdictions that have yet to adopt this type of legislation.”

Since the introduction of this bill in the House of Commons, which followed the example of Quebec and British Columbia, the newly elected New Democratic Party (NDP) government in Manitoba has announced that it will introduce similar legislation for workers in that province. Opposition parties in other provinces have also proposed similar bills in their own jurisdictions.

This article appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of USW@Work magazine.

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