Pre-emptive strike at CP: Tories planning back-to-work law

Picket line at Smiths Falls, May 24 2012
Picket line at Smiths Falls, May 24 2012

by Doug Nesbitt

The federal Tories are already introducing back-to-work legislation against CP Rail workers’ unions who are still in bargaining with a Sunday morning strike threat. The two unions are the Teamsters and Unifor.

On Friday February 13 at 4:50pm, Minister of Labour Kellie Leitch introduced “An Act to provide for the resumption of rail service operations” to be rammed through on Monday, February 16.

Debate is being limited so all three readings can be accomplished in one sitting, overriding usual procedures. Mandatory committee consideration of the bill is limited to one hour.

2012 Deja Vu
The content of the bill is not yet known, but its name is like the 2012 bill that legislated Teamsters back to work during their May 2012 CP Rail strike: “An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations

The 2012 bill was introduced by then Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt on May 28 2012. It became law on May 31 2012.

(click here to read’s coverage of the 2012 strike)

Supreme Court Right-to-Strike?
Back-to-work legislation of these private sector workers was justified by the Tories in 2012 because rail service was essential to the economy (they said the same about Air Canada back-to-work legislation in 2011 and 2012).

The bill is a direct challenge to the spirit of the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling which many unions celebrated as enshrining the right-to-strike (check out Charles Smith’s analysis of the SCC decision). The SCC ruling was, however, a challenge surrounding public sector workers and essential service legislation which stripped them of the right-to-strike.

Labour versus the Law
Legal challenges remain a regular feature of organized labour’s work and they should not be abandoned. However, these challenges take years and are very costly. They leave the union rank-and-file out of the process, which can often lead to demoralization or apathy.

The greatest achievements won by workers have come through collective struggle. From the 1872 Toronto Printers’ Strike, to the 1945 Ford Windsor Strike, to the 1965 postal workers wildcat, the law has been bent in favour of workers when together they confronted the authorities and status quo.

Breaking the Tories and their anti-worker, anti-union agenda will require more than legal challenges. Until a serious blow is struck by workers in action, the Tories will continue to become bolder in their policies. Pre-emptive back-to-work legislation against private sector workers, from CP Rail to Air Canada, is already becoming the new normal.

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3 thoughts on “Pre-emptive strike at CP: Tories planning back-to-work law

  1. As mentioned the last strike ended this way. If the Canadian government can ignore workers rights and the union process and protection it brings the worker, then explain to me why anyone should follow the back to work order.

  2. I’m very disapointed on how our goverment is intruding against
    our rights to come to a fair agreement with this demanding and disrespectful company. Changes in the past few months
    at this company have been stressful, unsafe, and near intolerable for most employees but the grievance procedure is very slow and now swamped to a point where you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am a Canadian citizen and
    I will fight to the end to make sure we are treated equally and I will not be a slave to a greedy employer in my own country.
    We just want a fairly normal and good life. Is that too much to
    ask for?

  3. Im a non union driver in the trucking industry and the idea government strips the right to strike for better working conditions is intolerable. .especially a private sector-STAY OUT OF IT..yet funny how the government praises on equilty but quickly changes things to suit their what CP strike is an economic crisis…if the company paid attention to the working conditions in the first place it wouldn’t be in an economic threat to begin with..government back to work tips the scales to companies and the large share holders not the hard working labours..I don’t care how well they make it sound otherwise why introduce it by force..

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