Anti-scab legislation receives royal assent

When do measures to ban use of replacement workers during strikes take effect?

Anti-scab legislation receives royal assent

Canada’s anti-scab legislation has received royal assent.

Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Industrial Relations Board Regulations, 2012 will improve labour relations, protect workers' right to strike, limit interruptions to collective bargaining and provide greater stability to our economy during federal labour disputes, according to the federal government.

"This is one of the most seminal moments in Canadian labour history,” says Seamus O'Regan Jr., minister of labour and seniors. “Thanks to all the labour leaders, activists and workers who worked so hard over many decades to finally make this happen."

The legislation will apply to employers and workers in federally regulated sectors covered by Part I of the Code, such as interprovincial and international air, rail, road and marine transportation, banks, telecommunications and postal and courier services.

The legislation was developed through extensive consultations with unions and employers and received unanimous support in Parliament.

The Senate passed the bill last week after it unanimously passed through the House of Commons late in May.

The legislation was first introduced on Nov. 9, 2023. It passed second reading with all-party support, noted the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party (NSNDP). It, however, has faced opposition form the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Changes introduced under Bill C-58

Bill C-58 bans employers from using replacement workers to do the work of unionized employees who are on strike or locked out. Exceptions would apply in situations where there are threats to the health and safety of the public or threats of serious damage to an employer's property.

It also requires employers and unions to come to an agreement early in the bargaining process to determine what work needs to continue during a strike or lockout to ensure the health and safety of the public.

The parties will have to reach an agreement no later than 15 days after notice to bargain is issued. If they cannot come to an agreement, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) will decide what activities need to be maintained within 82 days.

These measures will come into force on June 20, 2025, to give the CIRB time to prepare for its new responsibilities, according to the federal government.

“Bill C-58 will impact the dynamic of a strike or lockout in the federal sector,” says Rebecca Liu, an associate at labour and employment law firm Hicks Morley, via LinkedIn.

“Employers that fail to comply with the new restrictions may be subject to significant penalties. Federal workplaces should begin to plan now for how they may address this when the legislation ultimately comes into force on June 20, 2025.”

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