Movement afoot in Quebec to outlaw high-tech scabs | National Union of Public and General Employees

Movement afoot in Quebec to outlaw high-tech scabs

Quebecor operating le Journal de Montreal with electronic strikebreakers 20 months after locking out workers.

Montreal (24 Sept. 2010) - A movement is building in Quebec to amend the province's anti-scab law to cover outside work performed for an employer involved in a strike or lockout.

Claudette Carbonneau, president of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux labour federation (CSN), met this week with provincial Labour Minister Lise Theriault to discuss the issue on behalf of 253 staff members who have been locked out for 20 months by the le Journal de Montreal.

Carbonneau says the law needs to be updated to account for technological change, which allows scab workers to operate without crossing picket lines or being physically present in the office.

"We aren't asking for the moon," Carbonneau said, noting that the law was written in 1977 when most work was done under one roof. "You were on the production line (then) or you weren't," she noted.

Quebecor, which operates the Montreal and Quebec City operations of the newspaper, has been using reporters and photographers who never set foot in its newsroom.

The union representing the locked-out employees won a Commission des relations du travail decision declaring such workers to be replacements – or scabs. But the ruling was overturned on appeal and appears headed to the Supreme Court of Canada for a final ruling.

Carbonneau says CSN does not want to wait years for the country's highest court to rule on the issue and is appealing instead to the province to update the law now.

Amending the anti-scab law to take into account new technology would "re-establish a balance between the parties," she argues. At the moment, she adds, Quebecor has no incentive to negotiate because it can continue to operate with scabs.

Several members of the national assembly in Quebec City have voiced support for the proposed change.

Quebec is one of two provinces in Canada with anti-scab legislation. B.C. is the other.

Quebecor is the same company currently trying to strong-arm federal authorities into granting it a preferential licence to set up a right-wing national cable news channel – commonly referred to as Fox News North – and force cable companies to include it as a mandatory channel for news subscribers.


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