A forklift driver carefully moves a pallet in a warehouse as an extended labor dispute has the employer replacing a workforce entirely.

Can Employers
Replace a Workforce?

Can Employers Replace a Workforce During a Labor Dispute?

May 4, 2023

Can Employers Replace a Workforce?

Employers facing ongoing and extended labor disputes may be pondering if they can replace a workforce entirely. Contingent workers can certainly help employers continue to operate during a work stoppage, but there are a number of points to consider. 

Explore the legal challenges facing businesses during a labor strike. Work alongside a staffing company such as AFIMAC to ensure that you are capable of maintaining operations during a labor stoppage while adhering to the complex labor laws that come with strikes and union negotiations.

Can a Workforce Be Replaced with Contingent Workers?

In terms of the legality of replacing a workforce, it depends on where the labor strike is occurring and the reasons for the strike. Union strikes and work stoppages come with different challenges, along with constantly changing labor laws that dictate the legal nature of the strike.

Lean on AFIMAC to learn more about your options as a North American employer facing a labor stoppage.

Can Contingent Workers Replace a Workforce in the United States?

Workers who strike for improved wages or working conditions can be replaced but cannot be dismissed for striking. All workers have the right to strike in the United States, and should the employer hire bona fide permanent replacement workers, the striking employees are not entitled to their previous position that they once had. This is outlined in greater detail on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board and section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. 

Most striking workers, in a legal sense, are called economic strikers. These workers can be temporarily replaced by a contingent workforce or replaced by real permanent workers hired directly by the employer.

If an employer faces a strike due to unfair and potentially illegal labor practices, the strikers cannot be terminated or replaced under any circumstances. These workers are entitled to their jobs after the strike has ended and can only be dismissed if they have been found to have partaken in some sort of misconduct during the strike.

Can a Workforce Be Replaced with Contingent Workers in Canada?

Replace a workforce illustrated by construction workers planning a job site.

Canadian labor laws continue to evolve, and as of now, employers are not allowed to use contingent workers to permanently replace striking workers. Full-time workers in Canada have a legal right to their job upon the conclusion of a strike and cannot be replaced by an employer. 

If temporary workers are used to undermine a union’s ability to negotiate, employers can face legal consequences and be ordered to refrain from using such services until the strike is resolved. The legal grey area can be a complex hurdle to navigate as many employers continue to use contingent workforces to supply heightened demand and manage labor shortages.

Labor laws are, however, expected to shift in favor of workforces by the end of 2023 for federally regulated private-sector industries. At the end of the year, many employers will be prohibited from using replacement workers at all for several federally regulated industries. The full list of industries is listed on the Government of Canada website and includes banking, telecommunications, transportation, and many First Nations organizations.

Contingent Workforce Solutions Available from AFIMAC

For any employer expecting a labor strike or work stoppage, AFIMAC can help your business navigate these challenges with several offerings including fleets of contingent workers Plan for and address the risk of your business facing a complex union strike and ensure that, as an organization, you adhere to all labor laws across North America. Explore a number of contingent labor offerings that source talent from across the nation and bring them directly to your job site. 

Out-of-town resources from AFIMAC can ensure your business continues operations regardless of challenges related to strikes and worker shortages. AFIMAC can also aid with negotiating directly with a union itself, helping your business strike a fair deal with both parties and assist your business to refocus on productivity rather than labor turmoil.

Fill out the form below to learn more about your options when facing a work stoppage and begin the process of enlisting strike security, intelligence gathering, and temporary workers.

Fast food unionization illustrated by a chef working in a restaurant.
City worker strike in Ontario Canada illustrated by a construction worker on a job site.
Business continuity services shown by workers entering a job site while the sun rises.
Workers strike shown via a woman on a picket line.
Hospital Power Outage Services illustrated by a nurse helping a patient during a power outage.
Labor dispute guidance and planning is conducted with AFIAMC clients.
Port strikes illustrated by a large tanker of shipping containers.
Factory worker strikes illustrated by an empty factory in Rhode Island.

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