Bargaining, Strike and Lockout FAQ’s

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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. A strike could take many forms, and does not necessarily have to consist of a traditional walkout.

Will the Executive Board / Bargaining Committee continue to be paid during a strike or lockout?

No, neither the President, Vice President, or any other Board or Committee member will be paid their regular salary during a strike.  They will be receive strike pay, if eligible.

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.

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 refusal of usual duties is considered a strike if it is collectively coordinated. If a union has not had a successful strike mandate vote, or if the no-board report and the waiting period have not been observed, striking is illegal, and a union calling a strike without these conditions is subject to penalties.

What is a no-board report?

If conciliation fails, the conciliator requests what is called a no-board report. At any point after the initial meeting with the conciliator, either of the parties may also unilaterally request a no-board report. If the conciliator feels he or she cannot effect an agreement or if either side calls for a no-board, the Ministry of Labour will issue a letter stating that a conciliation board will not be appointed (the no-board report). Effectively, a no-board report indicates a failure to resolve differences between the two parties. After a no-board report is issued, the parties must observe a sixteen-day period during which terms of employment are frozen but bargaining may continue. On the seventeenth day, lockout or strike is legally possible. A no-board report does not mean lockout or strike will occur; the decision to lockout or strike can be kept in abeyance until any point in time.

What is a conciliation board?

A conciliation board is a committee with three members, one from each party to the negotiations and one neutral, that is appointed by the Ministry to extend the conciliation process.  The conciliation board is a technical possibility under Ontario labour law but is almost never used since it does not materially change the situation dealt with by the conciliator.

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, 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.


Why do unions 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.  It is USW practice to always 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.