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MPP West continues pushing to reinstate Ontario anti-scab laws

West told media that the use of scab workers hurts communities, and spoke to his experiences as a smelter worker on strike in 2009 
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At a press conference Nov. 23, Sudbury MPP jamie West continued his drive to push through the NDP's anti-scab legislation. 

At a virtual press conference Nov. 23 regarding the NDP push for anti-scab legislation, Sudbury MPP Jamie West spoke of his time on the picket line in Sudbury, saying that after a strike featuring scab workers, the community suffers. 

“In 2010, I was a smelter worker on strike and scabs crossed our picket lines on a regular basis,” said West. “We fought hard in 2009 when the strike began, and in 2010, the NDP brought forward anti-scab legislation.” 

West said he was at the legislature for the vote, sitting in the members’ gallery and said he watched the Liberal members count the number of Conservatives in the room and “collude” so that they could cancel their votes so the legislation wouldn't pass. 

“I watched as my MPP (Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci) scurried off into the back lobby, so he wouldn't have to be on record about voting. I watched his Liberals and Conservatives collude to turn their backs on workers. And I'll never forget that.”

He said that the strike, and the use of scab workers, left its mark on the city. 

“We're still not healed over this,” he said. “It's still difficult to see some people in the community. People go to hockey games with their kids and can't sit together or talk together. They turn their backs on each other and grocery stores. It is not a short term thing.”

The press conference featured speakers from several unions, including John Di Nino of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), JP Hornick from OPSEU/SEFPO, Gugun Deep Singh of ACTRA Toronto, Laura Walton, incoming president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and Myles Sullivan, the newly elected director of United Steelworkers (USW) District 6. Sullivan was first hired as a USW Staff Representative based in Sudbury in 2007. 

All spoke of the harm to their members when employers use non-union labour, as well as the safety issues that come with the less-skilled labour often used. 

Di Nino referred to strikes as “the only economic sanction available for employees.” 

The new Ontario Anti-Scab Labour Act, 2023, Bill 90 was tabled at Queen's Park in March of this year and passed its first reading on March 30. Bill 90 was jointly introduced by West, along with New Democrat MPPs Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West), Jennifer French (Oshawa), and France Gélinas (Nickel Belt).

The explanatory preamble to Bill 90 said the law would restore the provisions that were incorporated into the Labour Relations Act by the Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act, 1992 and subsequently repealed by the Labour Relations Act, 1995. The provisions being restored would prevent an Ontario employer from replacing striking or locked-out employees with replacement workers except in specified emergency situations.

The current bill before the Ontario legislature is the 16th time Ontario's New Democrats have tabled the legislation since it was repealed by the Harris government in 1995. West will be debating the latest Anti-Scab Labour Act on Nov. 23. 

Under Premier Bob Rae, Ontario’s first and only NDP government tabled passed a scab-labour ban back in 1992. It was repealed in 1995, after Conservative Mike Harris rose to power. 

Anti-scab legislation has been passed in Quebec and British Columbia, as well as federally, with protections there for federally regulated employees, and therefore does not apply to the provinces, said West. 

“We call on the new provincial Minister of Labour, David Piccini, and Doug Ford as the premier to pass this legislation and demonstrate that they're truly working for workers. The time has finally come to ban the use of replacement workers,” said West. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com.


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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