Labour Friendly Amendments buried in Manitoba Budget Bill - Retail Council of Canada
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Labour Friendly Amendments buried in Manitoba Budget Bill

May 9, 2024

Buried within an 89-page omnibus budget bill presented before the legislature Monday, May 6 – Manitoba’s NDP government has introduced labour friendly legislation that would ban the use of replacement workers during labour disputes and eliminate the use of a secret-ballot during workplace unionization campaigns that secure over 50% support.

While RCC and other business groups have for many years and with all political parties argued against the disruption of a balanced approach to labour regulations that favours neither the employer nor workers, with the election of the new NDP government labour groups were successful in their campaign for these amendments.  

The Labour Relations Amendment Act is included as Schedule D of the Budget Implementation and Tax Status Amendment Act Bill, and the two most notable changes are as follows:

New Lower Thresholds for Automatic Union Certification:

The legislation would see a new lower 50% threshold replace what has been since 2016, where currently if 65% of workers sign a union membership card, the Manitoba Labour Board, after ensuring that all other aspects of the law have been upheld, will certify the union as the official bargaining agent. 

Additionally, if between 40% and 50% employees in a workplace union sign their desire to have a union represent them as their bargaining agent, the labour board shall direct that a secret ballot vote be conducted.   This is a change from the current 40% to 65% support expressed, that triggered the secret ballot vote and opportunity to proactively address worker concerns.

RCC advocated for the right for balanced communication and informed employees, as well as their right to vote through a secret confidential ballot.  While we supported an employee’s right to join a union, lunchroom peer pressure to sign a card may not reflect the true wishes of the employee.  Only 4 of 10 provinces in Canada have a single step certification process, and here they do, only Quebec provides for a threshold of 50% +1.

Elimination of Replacement Workers:

The regulatory changes would also make the use of replacement workers during labour disputes prohibited, except in essential roles or workplaces.  While the parties under a collective agreement may enter into an agreement that sets out unionized services and roles that may continue in the event of a lockout or legal strike, generally employers under the new rules would be prohibited from hiring replacement workers or transferring staff from other operations within their system to maintain the operation.

The NDP legislation choses to undermine a balanced mechanism in place where either party can initiate binding arbitration after 60 days – a compromise position supported by previous NDP premiers Gary Doer and Greg Selinger that has successfully reduced the length of strikes and lockouts.

RCC will continue to argue that on the occasion that private sector dispute is unavoidable, replacement workers are typically engaged to protect the business, such as ensuring perishable systems like refrigeration are kept up and running in food stores, and in highly competitive sectors, caretake the business for the future where often once customers are lost to another option, its difficult to get them back and sales and jobs are lost permanently.

Only two other provinces probit replacement workers, as the policy is generally considered anti-employer, and tipping the scale in favour of unions.

Next Steps:

While introduced this week, the omnibus budget bill is not expected to be passed by the majority NDP government until the Fall session, that resumes in October 2024.  For more information, contact John Graham, Director of Government Relations (Prairie Region), at

For questions or more information contact

John Graham
Director, Government Relations (Prairies)
204 926-8624