The ongoing Lockout at the Red Pine landfill in Allardville is revealing just how much worker’s rights have been eroded in New Brunswick.
New Brunswick labour laws were put in place with the promise of protecting and promoting employees’ collective voice in their workplaces. Now, after years of attacks through legislative, administrative and judicial ways, employees are left vulnerable to intense employer interference in bargaining.
In Allardville, the 23 locked-out workers have seen how their employer could drag on “bargaining” without ever intending to reach agreement with them. On top of this, workers have been subjected to a banana republic-like court injunction making the right to collective action virtually impossible. This is the same ridiculous injunction the Belledune Smelter workers got. Picketers must stay passive and let scabs – replacement workers – cross their picket lines as police give them protection. In Allardville, workers are told to stay quiet even as the employer brings in their own family members, friends and even students as scabs.
Unlike in Québec and BC, there is no law against the use of replacement workers in New Brunswick’s private sector. This means lockout can last indefinitely. When the playing field is so uneven, when employers have all the rights, this means trouble in the long run. Flawed and unjust laws only last so long until strife and social unrest boil up.
It’s time for a positive change in the labour relations in New Brunswick. It’s time we had rules that truly protected workers’ negotiating power in both public and private sectors.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents more than 700,000 members across Canada, including more than 26,000 in New Brunswick.