For the third time in just one year, investigators with the Quebec Ministry of Labour have caught strikebreakers brought in by a company involved in a labour dispute. The United Steelworkers is now calling on the Quebec government to add some teeth to its anti-scab legislation.
Three scabs were found at Samuel & Fils, a metal processing company where about a hundred workers launched a strike earlier this year, to protest a collective agreement clause that would disadvantage new workers.
“This confirms our suspicions. We saw trucks coming and going, day after day, so it was obvious that the company wasn’t operating using only its managers,” explained the president of USW Local Union 9441, Alain Paiement.
The USW will pursue the process at the judicial level.
“As soon as possible, our lawyers will file an application with the court for a ruling an order to be issued. If the company really wants to restart its plant, it will have to return to the table to negotiate seriously. We’ve had enough of this employer’s shenanigans and hiring of strikebreakers in violation of the Labour Code,” said Staff Representative Silvy Vaudry.
Fines are not initially imposed on companies that bring in scabs – only after the Labour Court issues an order, which can take some time. These fines are rather limited, reaching a maximum of $1,000 per day.
“It’s a ridiculously low amount,”said Donald Noël, Steelworkers Area Coordinator for the North/North-West region. “These companies calculate the fines into their operating costs and laugh all the way to the bank heaven. The legislation should be stronger, and should provide for fines to be applied from the moment the violation begins. These fines should be high enough to act as a deterrent against such behaviour by companies,”
During a labour dispute in Quebec, only managers hired before negotiations begin are authorized to perform the duties that are normally performed by the unionized workers.
Just recently, investigators discovered that strikebreakers were also being used by CEZinc in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, where workers have been on strike since February 12. The same scenario played out earlier last winter, during the Steelworkers’ labour dispute at Ciment Lafarge in Saint-Constant.