Back-to-work legislation undermines workers’ rights

April 29, 2021

The Canadian Labour Congress is condemning the Government of Canada’s decision to introduce back-to-work legislation against workers at the Port of Montreal.

There is a cruel irony that this legislation is being introduced on the National Day of Mourning for workers who have been injured or lost their lives on the job. The work of unions to strengthen protections of workers is a crucial part of the work of collective bargaining and has been a key part of the disagreement that led to the labour actions at the Port of Montreal.

It is utterly hypocritical for the government to declare its firm commitment to free collective bargaining while imposing the threat of heavy fines and penalties for exercising the right to withhold labour, safeguarded by the freedom of association guarantee of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

By tabling back-to-work legislation, the federal government invites every provincial government unwilling to fairly negotiate with its teachers, nurses, and government employees to similarly trample their Charter rights.

The invitation to the parties to conclude an agreement on their own terms rings hollow, since the government has just given the maritime employers every incentive not to negotiate. This reality is exacerbated by the fact that CUPE Local 375 made several offers to end their strike and return to the bargaining table, but the employer refused their offers with knowledge that the government would impose legislation favouring their position.

Withdrawing Canadians’ fundamental freedoms, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, because of the potential harm to Canada’s “reputation as a reliable global trading partner” is wrong.  Free collective bargaining is the essence of our democracy.

On behalf of Canada’s workers, we firmly oppose this legislation as a direct blow to the rights of workers in this country.

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