The North Star


Quebec’s Bill 51

Quality of construction projects jeopardized by CAQ government’s “flexibility” mantra

Read Time:2 Minute

Subscribe to our newsletter:

No sooner tabled than criticized, Minister Jean Boulet's Bill 51 on the construction sector was very poorly received by the industry's unions. Among other things, this bill aims to decompartmentalize trades, thereby increasing the types of tasks that employers can ask their workers to perform. The bill also attacks the regional workforce by removing the obligation for contractors to hire local workers.

Bill 51 is seen as an attack on workers' bargaining rights. Indeed, if it is adopted, worker mobility will be excluded from collective agreements as of 2025. In a press release, Pierre Brassard, President of CSN-construction, denounces the impact of such a measure. "Limiting the right to negotiate mobility between regions risks creating major regional tensions when the number of jobs will be limited and unemployed workers will see people from other regions working near them".

The decompartmentalization of trades proposed by Bill 51 is presented by Québec's CAQ government as a solution to the labour shortage affecting the industry. However, this measure is likely to have an impact on the quality of the work carried out. According to the FTQ-Construction, which represents 80,000 construction workers, a choice must be made between the versatility demanded by the CAQ and qualified, quality work.

Indeed, Bill 51 would allow journeymen to perform tasks outside their trade. Thus, "how can we ask people who are not trained in their trade or occupation, or who do not have all the skills of the trade, to become multi-skilled by performing the tasks of another trade or occupation?" points out the FTQ-Construction in its paper on Bill 51.

According to Brassard, it's a measure that only satisfies the bosses. "We're not going to get there by squeezing the lemons of those who are already in place. It's going to take thousands of new skilled people […] the construction contractors' demand for 'flexibility', which is partly reflected in the bill, is a short-sighted position."

On March 12, the FTQ-Construction demonstrated in front of the National Assembly on the occasion of the parliamentary committee on Bill 51. The spokespersons denounced what they considered to be a "pro-employer" bill imposed by an "anti-union" government.

"We're here this morning to make ourselves heard, after which we'll continue to read this bill point by point. We'll keep hammering the opposition and the CAQ. We're going to protect your regional jobs. We're going to protect your trades, we're going to continue to be proud of our trades", said Éric Boisjoly, president of the FTQ-construction during a speech at the event.

The reform also contains several blind spots. For example, there is no mention of banning the use of strikebreakers in the industry. "While the federal government is in the process of banning the use of scabs in sectors under federal jurisdiction, the construction sector will soon become the only one in Quebec where scabs can be used legally. This is unacceptable," denounces Caroline Senneville, President of the CSN.

There is also no question of modernizing the process of choosing a union and voting for workers, which is still done by mail. 

Support journalism going against the tide ← To help North Star continue to produce stories from the majority's perspective and in the majority's interest, make a donation! Every contribution matters.