The Government of Canada introduced a bill aimed at banning the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces during a strike or lockout. An agreement between two political parties hints at successful passage, according to reports.

Bill C-58, introduced by Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr. on Nov. 9, would amend the Canada Labour Code to ban employers from using replacement workers to do the work of unionized employees who are on strike or locked out. An exception would apply in situations where there are threats to health and safety or threats of serious property and environmental damage that could not be managed by the employer’s existing workforce.

If a union believes the employer is using replacement workers in capacities beyond this exception, they would be able to file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board. The CIRB would then investigate and could order the employer to cease the illegal use of replacement workers, according to a government-issued report on the legislation. Violating the prohibition would also be made an offense, and an employer could be subject to a fine of up to C$100,000 (US$73,710) per day.

“We’re banning the use of replacement workers because we believe in collective bargaining,” O’Regan Jr. said in a press statement. “Our economy depends on employers and workers negotiating an agreement at the table. That’s where we get stability for our economy, that’s where strong labor relations are forged and that’s where the best deals are made.”

Employers would be banned from using employees and managers hired after notice to bargain is given to do the work of striking or locked-out workers. Contractors, regardless of when they were hired, would also be prohibited from doing the work of striking or locked-out employees. However, contractors hired before notice to bargain is given and who were doing substantially similar work to that of striking or locked-out employees could continue to do their own work but not that of striking or locked-out employees.

Legislative proposals to ban replacement workers have come up at least a dozen times in the past 15 years but have been voted down each time; however, this time there is a commitment made as part of a Supply and Confidence Agreement between two political parties in the House of Commons, according to Fetco, an employers’ association representing 37 major federal companies.

“During this time of extraordinary strain on the labor relations system, as supply chains continue to recover from the economic ravages of the Covid-19 global pandemic, a replacement worker ban will create an enormous imbalance at collective bargaining tables, incentivizing strike action, with serious negative consequences for Canadians,” Fetco CEO Derrick Hynes said in a press statement.