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Anti-scab measures harm Quebec and B. C. workers, says the MEI

Montreal, January 6, 2005 – Legislation that prevents employers from replacing striking workers has negative economic consequences, according to an Economic Note published today by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI). Quebec and British Columbia – the only two provinces that have measures of this sort in their labour codes – should abandon such legislation, the MEI concludes.

According to authors Guy Lemay, a lawyer specializing in labour law, and MEI economist Norma Kozhaya, “Anti-scab measures have had effects that are far from positive, whether for the workers they were intended to protect or for the economy as a whole.”

Reduced employment and investments

Small businesses are particularly affected by this legislation. Unlike large corporations, small businesses are poorly equipped to weather strikes and give in more readily to worker demands, leading to diminished competitiveness. Other businesses react by cutting back on unionized workers. In either case, the end result is reduced employment and investments.

The MEI document cites a study that links restrictions on the use of replacement workers with lower employment rates. In Quebec, this translates into the loss of approximately 30 000 jobs.

Another study, published in April 2004, shows that investment rates in provinces with anti-scab measures are 25% lower than in provinces without such legislation.

Duration of strikes and violence

Not only do anti-scab measures negatively affect the economy, they also do nothing to shorten the duration of strikes, one of the main justifications for their introduction. On the contrary, a recent study showed that anti-scab measures lengthen strikes by an average of 32 days.

As for the risk of violence associated with using replacement workers, the MEI suggests that the governments of Quebec and British Columbia could as easily have imposed stricter penalties on violent behaviour rather than forbid employers from using replacement workers during a strike.

Besides Quebec and British Columbia, other Canadian provinces are either silent on the issue or guarantee strikers’ reintegration in the workplace once the conflict is resolved. None, however, ban the use of temporary workers during the strike.

Titled The Perverse Effects of Anti-Scab Measures, this Economic Note is available on this site.

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For information and interviews: Patrick Leblanc, Director of Communications Montreal Economic Institute / Telephone: (514) 273-0969 / Cell.: (514) 347-4006 / Email: pleblanc@iedm.org

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