Anti-replacement worker bill would upset labour relations balance: CTA

by Canadian Shipper

OTTAWA, Ont. — In an appearance before the Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA), Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO, David Bradley, said that Bill C-257 which aims to prohibit the use of replacement workers in federally regulated companies could unnecessarily disrupt the stability of labour relations balance in the trucking industry.

“The role of the regulatory environment should be to ensure a level playing field in labour negotiations in order to maintain an appropriate balance and not confer the upper hand to either party through regulation or legislation,” Bradley told the committee.

Bill C-257, a private member’s bill introduced by Bloc Quebecois MP Richard Nadeau in May, is now before the HUMA committee before being referred back to the House of Commons for third and final reading. If passed in its present form, the bill would prevent the use of any replacement worker except for management, supervisory or labour relations personnel. The bill would also prohibit the services of a contractor or anyone working for another company.

According to Bradley, “While the level of unionization in the trucking industry is relatively low about 20% of drivers in the for-hire sector versus 32% of the general workforce the portion of the industry that is unionized is characterized by a stable labour relations climate. From 2000 to 2006, there were only seven work stoppages in trucking companies regulated under the Canada Labour Code, and there were no strikes or lockouts at all in 2004 or 2005. Therefore, from our perspective Bill C-257 is unnecessary some have called it a solution in search of a problem.”

Bradley attributed trucking’s labour relations stability at least in part to the competitive climate that has existed since economic deregulation in the late 1980’s. “There are at least 10,000 for-hire trucking companies competing in the marketplace and in the event of a protracted strike at a trucking company that organization would soon be out of business: its competitors would move quickly to take over the freight. Trucking provides a perishable service. If Company A doesn’t want the freight at a certain price, chances are someone else will. But the competition is not just for freight, it’s also for qualified drivers. Thus driver mobility in the industry is high,” said Bradley.

Apart from the operational problems in trucking that would be caused if C-257 were to become law, Bradley also raised a number of societal and economic concerns. “In remote areas, many communities are served only by truck and delays in delivering goods to Canada’s most vulnerable communities could be devastating for its residents. In addition, the volume of just-in-time freight delivered by truck across Canada and into the United States is of particular concern. Disruptions in just-in-time delivery could affect our major trading partner’s confidence in the cross-border supply chain, resulting in reduced sourcing of products from Canada,” he said.

Bradley added that if there were a labour stoppage in other federally regulated transportation modes primarily rail MPs should not expect that the trucking industry would be able to step in and keep all the freight moving: “Capacity constraints in trucking and the physical nature of much rail freight would prevent the trucking industry from taking up all the slack. The potential to have transportation services halted, ports closed and intermodal facilities shut down would be felt by all Canadians.”

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