QUEBEC CITY - Quebec's labour laws are coming under question as the lockout at Le Journal de Montreal enters its third year.

A parliamentary hearing is underway in Quebec City to look explore the possibility of modernizing the province's labour laws.

MNAs are considering a Parti Quebecois member's bill that would amend labour laws by expanding the definition of the workplace to include so-called strike breakers who can do the task without working on-site.

One expert says new technology has changed the terms of labour disputes.

"The way that we thought about these conflicts has evolved, radically," Industrial relations Professor Gregor Murray told CTV Montreal on Wednesday.

"And in the conflict of the Journal de Montreal and the Journal de Quebec, we saw that -- that they were able to continue to produce the newspaper by using material produced off-site."

Peledeau defends lockout as 'altogether legal'

The head of the Quebecor media empire, which owns Le Journal de Montreal, dismissed suggestions at the hearing that the tabloid has survived only by circumventing anti-strikebreaker laws.

Chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau said Tuesday he agrees with the need to change them – but in a way that also helps companies, not just workers.

Peladeau said there's nothing wrong with wanting to create a business that adds a new revenue stream _ especially when the news business is going through such tough times.

"The present conflict is altogether legal,'' Peladeau said.

"I will say to you loud and clear that Quebecor has always been respectful of the law. . . Linking the QMI agency to the conflict is a demonstration of bad faith.''

Loopholes in labour laws exploited: union

The Journal de Montreal lockout, which involves more than 250 employees, is thought to be the longest work stoppage involving media employees in Canadian history.

Despite the lack of employees, the Journal de Montreal has not missed a single day of publication since the lockout began in January 2009.

The newspaper is relying on content written not only by managers and columnists, but by journalists working for the Quebecor-owned QMI News Agency. Union members argue the QMI agency is exploiting a hole in Quebec's Labour Code.

"It's a 30-year-old law, and the loopholes in it, because of the internet and new ways of work, are out of date," said union secretary Pascal Filotto.

"The holes have been exploited by Quebecor to keep us out on the street."

Louis Fortin, a McGill researcher who recently co-wrote an analysis article for the Montreal Economic Institute called the Quebec Unionization Model, says unions already have plenty of power in Quebec.

"I think that probably what [the union] has to do is go back to the barganing table and negotiate in good faith," said Fortin.

Negotiations recently resumed

Locked out Journal de Montreal employees have launched a daily news website,, which in October started producing a free weekly print edition.

Negotiations resumed two weeks ago, months after they had dragged to a halt.

Neither side had returned to the table after 89.3 per cent of employees voted in October against an offer from management.

That offer would have seen only 50 people return to work, including 17 journalists, and barred anyone who lost their job from working for competing newspapers. In exchange, those who lost their jobs were offered a severance package.

It would also have required the permanent closure of