Quebec government adopts law to break construction workers’ strike
31 May 2017
Quebec’s National Assembly passed a special law in the early hours of Tuesday morning to force 175,000 construction workers to return to work today after a five-day strike. The Liberal government of Premier Philippe Couillard, which recalled parliament one day early to rush the bill through, was joined in support of Bill 142 by the right-wing Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), while the separatist Parti Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire voted against.
The final vote totals were 76 in favour and 21 against.
The law criminalizing the job action marks a major intensification of the assault on workers’ rights. It provides the negotiating parties, the Alliance Syndicale de la Construction and the construction bosses, with five months to reach a settlement on a new contract with the assistance of a mediator. If no result is reached, an arbitration process, which invariably enforces the demands of the corporate owners, will commence.
The Liberal government stipulated several measures in the law to ensure that the employers’ concession demands, which include a below-inflation pay increase, increased “flexibility” in work scheduling and the slashing of overtime pay, will be met. The government reserved the right to appoint the arbitrator and Labour Minister Dominique Vien will be able to determine which issues are submitted to the arbitrator. The Liberal government can also select the method of arbitration and determine the criteria by which the arbitrator will reach their final decision.
Although it was clear even prior to the launching of the strike last Wednesday that the Liberals were ready to resort to such draconian methods to end the dispute, the trade union officials…