With telecommuting, anti-scab provisions may have lost their bite

Unsuspected effect of the pandemic and teleworking which then became widespread: the anti-scabs provisions of the Labor Code could well have thus lost their bite, be less effective.

These anti-scab provisions prohibit an employer from using replacement workers to perform employee work during a strike or lockout. It was the government of René Lévesque that had these provisions adopted in 1977, following several heated labor disputes.

However, since the lockouts in Journal of Quebec and at Montreal JournalThe court ruled that employees whose texts were published in these dailies, but who did not work “in the establishment” of the employer, could not be considered as scabs.

This notion “in the establishment” of the employer therefore becomes important in a context where teleworking has become widespread, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Absurd as a result”

What would happen today in the event of a strike and teleworking?

“It concerns me. The anti-scabs provisions, they risk losing their teeth if this interpretation [des tribunaux de l’époque] is resumed, ”opined in an interview with The Canadian Press Gilles Trudeau, professor of labor law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Montreal.

“We are caught with an anachronistic notion, that of the establishment” of the employer, underlines Professor Trudeau.

With teleworking today, “in the event of a strike, I don’t know how it would be received by the courts. It is so absurd as a result! It is so against the spirit of the law! »Opines the professor in labor law.

“We must correct the shooting”

In an interview, the president of the FTQ, Daniel Boyer, estimated that “we must correct the situation”, especially with telework which has become widespread. “Teleworking has increased the number of places where people work outside the establishment” of the employer.

“We want it to be amended according to the new realities. We don’t want more than what was at the time; we want what had been agreed, ”specifies the president of the largest labor center in Quebec.

“If it weren’t for that, it would be easy for employers, in the context of a balance of power exercised at a negotiating table, to say ‘I am putting you in lockout and I am going to hire other world “. Listen: there is something that doesn’t make sense here! It can’t work like that. It hasn’t worked like that for 40 years in Quebec. We have to adapt that. Otherwise, we come to undo what we did well 40 years ago, ”pleads Mr. Boyer.

The president of the 600,000-member central argues that the anti-scab provisions have had the effect of reducing tensions near the picket lines.

“It prevents conflicts from escalating and taking very long. It equalizes the balance of power. This is one of the reasons why there is industrial peace in Quebec, ”he says.

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