Monday, March 19, 2007

Labour Delegation Meets With Stéphane Dion Over Anti-Scab Law (Bill C-257)

On Saturday March 17, 2007, the St. Catharines & District Labour Council organized a demonstration outside a Liberal fundraiser in St. Catharines to protest Stéphane Dion and the Liberal flip-flop on anti-scab legislation (bill C-257). The demonstration was very successful. In fact, we had more people on the picket lines than there were Liberals attending the fundraiser!

The demonstration was timely given that Parliament will be voting on third reading of bill C-257 on March 21, 2007. Before Dion arrived, one of his staff members approached the organizers and suggested Dion would speak to a small delegation regarding his position on anti-scab laws before addressing the party faithful.

Our delegation consisted of Ontario Federation of Labour President Wayne Samuleson, a CLC staffer, a representative from CAW 199, a strking worker from COPE 343, and yours truly.

When Dion arrived, he rolled down his back seat window to take a flyer from a demonstrator before being whisked across our picket line. The delegation was already inside waiting to meet him. We met for about ten minutes with Dion, Welland MP John Maloney, and a Liberal staffer who took notes.

The CLC staffer argued that the Liberals could not justifiably use essential services arguments to withdraw support for bill C-257, given that that one has no impact on the other.

The striking COPE 343 worker gave a personal story about her 6-month long strike and how the use of scab labour is undermining bargaining efforts.

Samuleson suggested to Dion that he could not talk about social justice with a straight face without supporting anti-scab laws.

Dion agreed to disagree with the CLC position on essential services. He then suggested that should the bill not pass, his party will commit to including in its election platform a promise to implement a federal anti-scab law that fits within the Liberal framework. The meeting then came to an end.

Dion’s response to the protest signaled to me that the Liberals have no intention of revisiting their most recent flip-flop. Instead, he made some ridiculous empty promise about including a promise to implement an anti-scab law in the next Liberal platform. I think it’s clear that Dion’s decision to shift gears on anti-scab laws has more to do with partisan politics than with the public interest. When bill C-257 passed at second reading in October 2006 by a vote of 167-101, Dion was not the party leader. As leader, Dion is out to settle some old scores. I would suggest that Dion’s flip-flop was instigated by the fact that bill C-257 was the brainchild of the Bloc Québécois, introduced as a private members’ bill by Gatineau MP Richard Nadeau. Despite the merits of anti-scab laws, supporting a BQ bill would be seen as a political liability for Dion in particular.

In effect, Dion is willing to sell out working class families on anti-scab laws for his own narrow partisan interests. It is becoming painfully clear that Stéphane Dion is not a leader.

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