Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky co-sponsors anti-replacement worker legislation

·3 min read
MPP Lisa Greztky said it's
MPP Lisa Greztky said it's

New Democratic Party MPP for Windsor West, Lisa Gretzky joined other NDP MPPs in re-introducing anti-scab legislation to prohibit the use of replacement workers during strikes.

Gretzky joined fellow MPPs France Gélinas from Nickel Belt, Wayne Gates from Niagara Falls, Jamie West from Sudbury, Jennifer French from Oshawa and others in speaking about the legislation on Wednesday.

The MPPs spoke in provincial parliament to "send a clear message" to Ontario conservatives that the province needs the Anti-Scab Labour Act 2023, said Gélinas.

Gretzky spoke about the Windsor Salt workers who have been on strike since Feb. 17.

"If you use salt to season your food, salt your sidewalks and driveways or use roads that have been salted in the winter months. It's likely from Windsor salt in Windsor-Essex," she said.

Gretzky said it's "absolutely appalling" that employers are allowed to bring in new workers to fill jobs during lockouts and strikes.

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Labour said in a written statement that "our ministry's responsibility is to stay neutral and encourage parties to remain at the table where 98 per cent of deals are reached."

"The workers at Windsor Salt are helping build a stronger Windsor, and we want them to reach a good, fair deal at the table as quickly as possible."

Jodi Nesbitt is the president of Unifor Local 240, the union representing Windsor Salt Workers. She said the use of replacement workers has only prolonged labour disputes.

"This action instead carries this poison of resentment into our communities and provinces that lingers many years after an agreement is finally reached," she said at Queen's Park.

"We know how to close deals. Employers need to know how to close deals, and to bargain in good faith without the use of scab labour."

Past use of legislation

The NDP brought in anti-replacement worker legislation in 1992 when they were in power. But the Mike Harris government repealed it shortly after taking power in 1995.

Larry Savage, a professor of labour studies at Brock University, said it was beneficial.

"In that short three-year period, we saw the number of strikes declined, we saw the incidences of picket line violence decline and we actually saw increased capital investment in the province of Ontario as the province was transitioning out of a recession," Savage said.

"A lot of the doomsday scenarios that conservatives like to paint around a ban on replacement workers about how it'll chase away business never really played out between 1993 and 1995 when that legislation existed in the province."

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Savage said this could be a way for the NDP to push the premier to show which side of the issue he is on.

"I mean, the premier has spent the better half of the last few years claiming that his government is working for workers," Savage said.

"And I think the NDP is trying to push this issue forward to force the Ford government to kind of reveal that when it comes to replacement workers, that the government's not on the side of organized labour."

Windsor Salt did not respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday.

Windsor Salt workers were on strike a month without negotiations with their employer Stone Canyon Industries, but talks were slated to start last week.

"I think it's a good thing and something that's probably been long-needed in place," said Windsor Salt employee Tom Faubert, who was on the picket line Wednesday.

"Because right now we have people inside doing our jobs, management and whatnot, doing our jobs at this point."

"I definitely think it's necessary. It's nice some of the politicians are stepping up bringing it to the house because we need something," said Danny DiCaro, who's been with the company 20 years.

"We need fair negotiations, fair bargaining, and that helps us and helps the company with safety with the job security."