Job Action – Strike Mandate Information

A Job Action Mandate = Respect at the Bargaining Table and a Stronger Contract

July 28, 2015

Helpful FAQ’s

For too long, the contributions of staff were placed on the lower rungs of the ladder by the Employer. Winning our union and our first collective agreement put us on the path toward better recognition and treatment. But we’re not there yet. Too often, our work has still been undervalued and underestimated.

A smart, fair-minded job evaluation process in which the Union and Employer work in partnership would help make Queen’s a leading employer, but the Employer wants to limit our involvement in the process. On pay equity compliance, the Employer has shown reluctance to do the right thing. Too often, budget balance is sought by eroding staff and our terms of employment. Too often the Employer tries to disregard the role of our union.

This same stance has been brought to the bargaining table. After 14 days of face-to-face negotiations to renew our collective agreement, the Employer has refused to consider many of our most fundamental proposals for improvement.

So while some progress on a limited list of items has been made, now is the time for a change in the Employer’s stance. We’ll continue to work hard at the table, but it takes two to negotiate. . The Employer needs to know that our members expect real movement toward a fair collective agreement.

It is time to make our voices heard. It is time to send the message that our hard work, loyalty and dedication deserves to be appropriately valued.

A world class staff…

Recently, Principal Woolf extolled the work of Queen’s staff by saying, “I know that your efforts and the ongoing support that you give our students are tremendously valuable.”

All of us can take pride in the truth of his statement.

But kind sentiments without concrete action are just words. Gentle words alone do not change the reality that our workloads are increasing, the complexity of our tasks expands steadily and that we all work very hard to carry out the increasing demands placed upon us. The mission of the Employer is weakened when staff feel undervalued, overworked and undercompensated.

But by supporting each other, we can build toward a collective agreement that reflects our true value to Queen’s.

Supporting each other with a strike mandate

Only you – the members – can give your elected Bargaining Committee the resilient voice we need at the bargaining table to negotiate a collective agreement that we can recommend to you. In the weeks to come, we may ask you to help strengthen the Committee’s position by voting in favour of a strong strike mandate. A strike mandate, also known as a job action mandate, is achieved by holding a secret-ballot vote among members of a bargaining unit to authorize collective action to help the bargaining process succeed.

Such a mandate is an important tool to encourage the administration to negotiate a fair collective agreement.

A strike vote doesn’t mean we are going on strike!

Rather, it is a vote by the membership to give us the authority to initiate collective job action, up to and including a strike if, and when, the Bargaining Committee concludes that such a step is necessary to reach a fair agreement.

Approximately 95% of USW collective agreements are settled without a strike, but in many of those cases a strong strike mandate was provided to the Bargaining Committee by the membership in order to achieve this goal.

United we bargain, together we succeed.

A strike vote will be called should we need this strengthened mandate in order to prompt better bargaining by the Employer. Without membership support, negotiating new entitlements, or strengthening existing language, becomes difficult.

When a strike vote notice is posted, please remember that the USW has a long history of university staff voting strongly in favour of strike mandates that give Bargaining Committees enough clout to negotiate a fair deal without resulting in any job action or strike. For example, in 2011 the University of Guelph staff (USW Local 4120) voted 91% Yes for their job action mandate and then arrived at an enhanced agreement without any strike. The staff at the University of Toronto (USW Local 1998) had successful job action mandates in 1998, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 and in each case arrived at enhanced collective agreements with no strikes.

The stronger the vote, the less likely a strike may be

That’s because a strong strike mandate vote alerts the Employer to the collective strength and resolve of the union membership. A strike mandate alone may be both necessary and sufficient to get the administration to take the Union seriously in negotiations. However, while a Yes vote with a strong mandate is the best way to secure a fair and equitable collective agreement without a strike, it does not guarantee that there will NOT be a strike. Rest assured that a full walkout – i.e. the traditional, complete strike – would not take place without a review by the membership of a final offer from the Employer followed by a membership vote.

>Updated July 28, 2015

Other Helpful FAQs


Are negotiations continuing?
What is conciliation?
What happens to our collective agreement during conciliation?
Does this mean that we will still get a raise? I didn’t see one on my July pay?
What is a lockout?
What is the definition of a strike?
What is job action?
Why do union members strike?
Who decides if we will go on strike?
Will the Local 2010 Executive Board / Bargaining Committee continue to be paid their regular salaries during a strike or lockout?
What is the difference between a strike mandate vote (vote 1) and a strike vote (vote 2)?
What percentage of USW members need to show up participate in a strike mandate vote (vote 1) or ratify an agreement?
What percentage of the vote does a strike mandate vote (vote 1) or strike vote (vote 2) need to pass?
When will the strike mandate vote (vote 1) be held?
What is a gag order or media blackout and what does it have to do with bargaining?
How can I help the Bargaining Committee directly?
Who do I speak to if I have more questions?
Where can I find information on what the other unions on campus are doing?

Are negotiations continuing?

Yes. Both your Union and the Employer are continuing to negotiate. Your Union applied for conciliation in order to move bargaining forward in light of the administration’s refusal to consider many of our key proposals.
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What is conciliation?

Conciliation is the process in which a Conciliation Officer, appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour at the request of either the union or the employer (or both) acts as an intermediary to facilitate communication and settlement. On June 24, your Union initiated this conciliation process.

Conciliation is non-binding, but provincial law requires at least one meeting with a conciliator before lockout or strike can occur. The role of the conciliator is to confer with the parties and endeavour to reach a collective agreement, but she/he has no authority to impose a settlement. The conciliator does not make judgments on the merits and positions of either side; she/he may make suggestions to either or both sides, but these suggestions are not binding and the parties are free to accept or ignore them. As previously announced, the conciliator in our case is Mr. Greg Long and he has met with the Union and the Employer on July 13 & 14. Note also that all CUPE locals and QUFA are also in conciliation.

If conciliation leads to agreement on a proposed new contract, it will be submitted to the membership for ratification.

If the differences appear too great for conciliation, either your Union or the Employer may ask the Ministry to issue a “no-board report”. This is a report terminating the conciliation process without the appointment of a conciliation board. (A conciliation board is three person panel appointed by the Ministry, a technical possibility under Ontario labour law but it is almost never used since it does not materially change the situation dealt with by the conciliator.) The conciliator, employer, or the union may demand that this report be issued at any time following the first meeting of the parties with the conciliator. Effectively, a no-board report indicates a failure to resolve differences between the two parties. This has not yet taken place in the current bargaining.

Following the issuance of a no-board report, there is a 17 day period during which bargaining can continue. On the seventeenth day, lockout or strike is legally possible. Note that a strike, including collective job action described below, is not legally possible at the end of the 17 day period if a successful strike vote has not been held. A no-board report does not mean lockout or strike will occur; the decision to lockout or strike can be kept in abeyance by the parties until any point in time.
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What happens to our collective agreement during conciliation?

Our negotiated collective agreement expired on December 31, 2014. We continue to work to reach a new agreement. As negotiations continue, including during conciliation, there is a statutory freeze on existing terms and conditions. In effect, this means that our terms of employment remain the same. If, however, there is a no-board report, seventeen days following that report, the employer is able to impose unilateral changes to our terms and conditions of employment, but may choose not to exercise that right, especially if we have a strong strike mandate in place.
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Does this mean that we will still get a raise? I didn’t see one on my July pay?

All compensation – including step and scale (cost of living) is negotiated during bargaining – and none of it is guaranteed. The Employer does not have to give you a step or cost of living increases, if it is not negotiated. Under the terms of the old agreement, our last step increase was July 2014. It is possible during bargaining for the Employer to offer a worse compensation package that would effectively have members bringing home less money. Retroactive payments to when our contact expired is a possibility, but again, not guaranteed.
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What is a lockout?

A lockout occurs when the employer denies access to the workplace in order to exert pressure on the Union and its members to settle on the Employer’s terms. Employers can legally lock out employees only after conciliation, and then only seventeen days after a no-board report. Lockouts rarely occur in the university sector.
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What is the definition of a strike?

Legal strike action is the right of unionized workers to withdraw services collectively with the aim of demonstrating their collective concerns and resolve to achieve fair terms of employment. A partial withdrawal of usual duties is considered a strike if it is collectively coordinated. A strike can take different forms and is not only a “walkout”. The Ontario Labour Relations Act states that a strike includes “a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue to work by employees in combination or in concert or in accordance with a common understanding, or a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit output.” If a union has not had a successful strike mandate (a.k.a. job action mandate) vote, or if the no-board report and the waiting period have not been observed, striking (including other types of collective job action described below) is illegal, and a union calling a strike without these conditions is subject to penalties.
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What is job action?

Job action can take many forms in addition to the traditional strike: a work-to-rule effort; a department by department rotating slowdown; study sessions of staff during work time; any organized work slowdown designed to restrict output; or other tactics. Job action is any concerted activity designed to give us support and strength in bargaining. In order to be smart, responsible and focussed, we need to be in the legal position to be able to engage in such activities. And, in order to be in that legal position, you the members must have voted in favour of it through a strike vote.

Having said this however, the Bargaining Committee would come back to the membership for a 2nd strike vote to actually call a walkout, if that step is ever necessary.
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Why do union members strike?

A strike is not an end in itself, but rather a means to obtaining a fair and equitable collective agreement. Legal strike action does not happen overnight and it is not a decision to be taken lightly. The decision to strike is actually made by the members of the Union by voting to give the Bargaining Committee a strike mandate. We will return to the membership for a second vote after a positive strike mandate if the Bargaining Committee feels that a full withdrawal of labour is necessary. It is critical for the Union to be prepared to strike if absolutely necessary and the mere demonstration of preparedness is an important lever for securing fair and equitable treatment.
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Who decides if we will go on strike?

The Members are the ones who decide whether or not they will go on strike. The Members will decide if they want to accept or reject the Employer’s final offer based on the recommendation of the Bargaining Committee. They will first review the document, and then a secret ballot vote will be held. If Members choose to accept the offer, then this will become the new collective agreement and no further action is necessary. If Members choose to reject the offer, then they will be on strike.
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Will the Local 2010 Executive Board / Bargaining Committee continue to be paid their regular salaries during a strike or lockout?

No, neither the President, Vice President, nor any other Board or Committee members will be paid their regular salary during a strike. They will be receive strike pay, if eligible.
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What is the difference between a strike mandate vote (vote 1) and a strike vote (vote 2)?

A strike mandate vote and a strike vote are two separate and distinct processes. A strike mandate vote is a tool used by the Bargaining Committee to secure a fair agreement with the Employer by reminding them of the strength of the Membership and their unwillingness to accept an unfair deal. In a strike mandate vote, the membership votes to give the Bargaining Committee the legal power to call a strike if the Employer is not negotiating with them fairly. This is a secret ballot vote. After the Bargaining Committee has a successful strike mandate, they are on more equal terms with the Employer. The strike vote (or ratification vote) will take place after the membership receives the final offer from the Employer. The Members will decide if they want to accept or reject the Employer’s final offer based on the recommendation of the Bargaining Committee. They will first review the document, and then a secret ballot vote will be held. If Members choose to accept the offer, then this will become the new collective agreement and no further action is necessary. If Members choose to reject the offer, then job action (eg: a traditional walkout) will be necessary.
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What percentage of USW members need to show up participate in a strike mandate vote (vote 1) or ratify an agreement?

The law does not require any specific percentage of members to either take a strike mandate vote, or ratify an agreement. Just like in Federal, Provincial or Municipal politics, the outcome of the votes will be determined by the will of the members who show up to the meeting and fill out their ballots. The strength of the vote to give the Bargaining Committee a strike mandate or ratify the contract will be calculated based on the number of votes cast. For example, if 800 out of our 1100 members attended the ratification vote and 720 vote in favour of ratifying the agreement, we would have a ratification vote of 90%. We strongly encourage every member to come out and vote.
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What percentage of the vote does a strike mandate vote (vote 1) or strike vote (vote 2) need to pass?

Just like in Federal, Provincial and Municipal politics, only a simple majority of the votes cast are needed to decide the vote.
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When will the strike mandate vote (vote 1) be held?

We are unsure of when exactly a strike mandate vote will be held. Please watch your email and our website for updates.
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What is a gag order or media blackout and what does it have to do with bargaining?

A gag order or a media blackout is the restricting of information or comment from being made public on a certain topic. This is an agreement that the Employer and the Union are mutually bound to observe in regards to the details of bargaining. Since bargaining is a fluid process, and issues come on – and off – the table regularly, it would not be wise to have the details of these matters public. This prevents prematurely upsetting people, or promising resolutions that just aren’t going to happen. While the Union can’t disclose details, it can give the Membership a good idea of the nature of the discussions, or what impacts changes in language or compensation packages may have.
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How can I help the Bargaining Committee directly?

Help your Bargaining Committee by sharing information with your fellow members, helping to organize events, and by distributing materials. No huge time commitments required! If you are willing to help out in any way, please email contact@usw2010.ca.
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Who do I speak to if I have more questions?

Please contact us at contact@usw2010.ca
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Where can I find information on what the other unions on campus are doing?

To see QUFA’s strike info page visit: http://qufa.ca/jobaction/2015/06/03/welcome/

To see CUPE’s updates visit: http://254.cupe.ca/www/bulletin
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