Anti-worker violence at lawful picket shows need for anti-scab legislation in Ontario | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Anti-worker violence at lawful picket shows need for anti-scab legislation in Ontario

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) condemns the violence directed at striking workers on a lawful picket line in the township of Black River-Matheson in Northern Ontario this week. Two equipment operators were struck by two different scabs driving a pickup truck through the picket line on Wednesday.

The operators are among 14 municipal workers, represented by CUPE 1490, who have been on strike since January 22, 2024, after first being locked out in October 2023.

“Anti-worker violence of any kind is deplorable,” says Laura Walton, OFL President. “Incidents like these show why Ontario workers urgently need anti-scab legislation: the use of scabs to replace striking workers almost always causes violence and makes all of us unsafe.”

The OFL echoes the call by CUPE Ontario for the Ontario Provincial Police to fully investigate the matter and bring charges against those responsible, including Township managers who have a legal duty to ensure the safety of workers and the public in directing the work of others.

The municipal workers have been locked out or on strike for over 120 days, more than a third of the year. The OFL is alarmed that, in addition to targeting a legal picket line, the employer appears to have hired unqualified drivers, which represents a health and safety threat to the entire community.

“As the employer, Mayor Doug Bender and the Township Council are ultimately responsible for this anti-worker violence,” added Walton. “They must act immediately and get a fair settlement for these workers. Any further delay, along with the continued use of scabs, is a safety risk for all residents.”

The OFL has long called on Doug Ford’s government to introduce robust anti-scab legislation, as has been passed in Quebec and British Columbia, where labour disputes are fewer and settled more quickly.

“Ford’s sloganeering about ‘working for workers’ would be more believable if his government actually supported workers, instead of going to bat for the bosses,” said Walton. “When Ford returns from his two-month vacation next week, his first order of business should be passing an anti-scab law in Ontario.”

In November 2023, Ford used his majority at Queen’s Park to defeat Bill 90, Anti-Scab Labour Act, which had been introduced by the Ontario New Democratic Party in March last year. At the federal level, over 70 labour experts have urged Parliament to pass Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations, making the same case as supporters of Bill 90.

Click here to support municipal workers in Black River-Matheson and learn more about their strike.