‘Scab is a scab’: Outside help sparks debate

By Neil Scott, The Leader-Post, Monday 7 October 2002

The use of so-called replacement workers during strikes is provoking heated discussion once again, as the strike by 2,500 health sciences workers rages past the two-week mark.

Some replacement workers have been involved in assisting health officials in maintaining services during the strike, including eight used by the Regina Health Authority.

And Larry Hubich, the president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, said he objects to the use of replacement workers because he believes they increase the acrimony of strikes and often delay the settlement of strikes.

Bringing in replacement workers in the health sector is a red herring, Hubich said in a telephone interview Friday.

Hubich said public services workers in Saskatchewan—in the health-care sector and in other more general government services—have always provided essential services in a strike.

That provision of essential services has continued during the ongoing strike by members of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, Hubich said, adding that there is thus no reason for the use of replacement workers.

But Dwight Nelson, the president of the Regina Health Authority, defended the limited use of replacement workers made by that authority during the strike.

Five emergency medical services workers from Calgary have been employed to assist with ambulance services, and three respiratory therapists from out-of-province have also been employed.

Those out-of-province workers were needed to help maintain essential services during the strike and to give managers with the health authority (who have been working long hours to fill in for striking workers) a chance to get a small break, Nelson said.

While Nelson said there are no immediate plans to use additional replacement workers, he said that might have to be considered if the strike, now in its 18th day, continues for a further extended period.

In deference to union sensibilities, none of the replacement workers used belonged to unions and all the replacement workers were from out of province, Nelson said.

But those distinctions fail to impress Hubich, who opposes the use of replacement workers in all circumstances.

A scab is a scab, Hubich said.

The same opinion was expressed by Bob Bymoen, the president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union, who said he is disappointed that replacement workers have been used during the health sciences strike.

The use of replacement workers will only delay the bargaining process, thus extending the strike, Bymoen said.