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Manitoba NDP Government Eyes Ban on Replacement Workers During Labour Disputes

December 24, 2023 9:15 AM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Manitoba Legislative Building

The Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is considering banning the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts.

The NDP government says the aim of an upcoming bill is to promote fair collective bargaining and minimize labour disputes.

Labour groups support it.

But the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce says the idea is unfair and will force businesses to close during strikes or lockouts.

The group’s president, Chuck Davidson, says Manitoba already has a fair process that allows employers or unions to seek binding arbitration in the event of a strike or lockout.

Premier Wab Kinew raised the idea of banning replacement workers last year when he was in Opposition and said the government would make its case to the public before acting.

The proposed change is part of a briefing note to the provincial labour minister, which says the province is also looking at making it easier for workers to join a union.

“Consistent with the protected right of working people to choose to join a union, the Labour Relations Act will be amended to provide workers and unions with the option of a single-step process to unionize a workplace, where a majority of workers … vote to join a union by signing a union membership card,” says the note, dated Dec. 18 and released Friday.

Currently, workers who want to join a union must vote by secret ballot, a measure brought in by the previous Progressive Conservative government.

The changes are expected to be presented in a bill as early as the spring.

“We’re not having proper dialogue on this in terms of what exactly are we trying to achieve with any kind of changes that they’re looking to potentially make,” Davidson said Friday.

“The concern that we have, obviously, is that we think that making a move like (banning replacement workers) shifts the balance strongly in favour of labour.”

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