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INFORMATION BULLETIN

 

 

     

#16 STRIKE AND LOCKOUT VOTES

Revised: June 1, 2007

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I.                 INTRODUCTION

The Labour Relations Code requires that the Board supervise all strike or lockout votes. The Board has certain powers to make sure that a party conducts a fair vote. Votes should permit the free and private expression of opinion of persons entitled to vote.  See:  Section 76.

A Board-supervised vote is necessary before taking lawful strike or lockout action.  See:  Section 73(b).

Board-supervision means that the applicant party, not the Board, actually conducts the vote.

Parties conduct votes under rules and guidelines established by the Board. These encompass the entire voting process, from application to declaration of the result.  See:  Voting Rules, Part III.

This Bulletin advises parties of information required in strike or lockout vote applications. It sets out the procedures to use when conducting votes. It also outlines the Board's role in supervising these votes.

The procedures set out in this Bulletin do not apply to employers and employees covered by the Public Service Employee Relations Act. The Public Service Employee Relations Act prohibits all strikes or lockouts.

II.              TIMING OF THE APPLICATION

A party cannot take a strike or lockout vote unless:

        no collective agreement is in effect; or
        if a collective agreement is in force, it is in force under the bridging provisions of section 130;  and
        the 14 day cooling-off period following the end of the mediation process has expired, but less than 2 years has passed since that expiry.  See:  Section 65(7).
See:  Section 75. 

If there is a vote on the mediator's recommendations, the cooling-off period follows the date the results are known.

Unions must apply for Strike votes at least seven (7) calendar days before the planned voting date. Employers' organizations must apply for a lockout vote at least fourteen (14) calendar days in advance. The Board has abridged Rule 24(2) for single employers. It polls single employers as soon as possible after they apply for a lockout poll.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 24(1), (2).

Parties can apply for strike or lockout votes during the cooling-off period as long as the proposed date falls after its expiry.

The Director of Settlement may, with the consent of the other party to the bargaining relationship, reduce the 7 or 14-day requirements. Without consent, only the Board can shorten this time requirement.  See: Voting Rules, Rule 24(3).

Section 77 of the Code limits the time after a vote during which any strike or lockout action can occur. These votes only remain current for 120 days, and to take action, a party must take a new vote, if strike or lockout action has not commenced within that period.  See:  Section 77.

III.          APPLICATION

A party seeking a supervised vote must use the forms provided by the Board.  See:  Rules of Procedure, Rule 4.

A complete application includes the completed form and: 

        a completed Notice of Vote, as prescribed or approved by the Board;
        an alphabetic list of voters; and
        a sample ballot as prescribed or approved by the Board.

IV.           APPLICATION FORM

The application form includes the following: 

        applicant's name, address and telephone number;
        name, address and telephone number of a contact person;
        respondent's name, address and telephone number;
        description of the bargaining unit;
        date of expiry of any collective agreement;
        date of mediator's appointment;
        date the cooling-off period began;
        proposed date and place for the vote;
        proposed locations and times for polling stations;
        proposed method to notify persons of the vote;
        names, addresses and telephone numbers of the Returning and Deputy Returning Officers; and
        signature of the applicant party. 

The application must also include a statement in a form prescribed by the Board, confirming the application has been served in a manner approved by the Board, on any parties known to be affected by the proceeding or subsequently added by the Board.  See:  Rules of Procedure, Rules 5.1, 6.

Parties should consider the following when planning the vote.

The date chosen for the vote should allow as many eligible voters as possible to vote. Consider using more than one voting day if the vote involves more than one employer, work site or shift. A party may conduct advance polls if approved by the Board.

The place of voting should allow the maximum number of eligible persons to vote. More than one place may be necessary, if it is not possible for everyone to vote at the same location.

The number and location of polling stations should provide maximum convenience for voters.  Locate polling stations in central, easily accessible locations. They should provide voter privacy and locked ballot boxes.

Select polling station dates and hours to maximize the ability of voters to vote. Set the voting hours after considering the number of eligible voters, shifts worked and convenient hours for voting.

If the vote includes advance polls, the same considerations apply in choosing times and locations.

If voters are geographically dispersed or other circumstances require, the Director of Settlement may approve a supervised vote by return mail. The applicant must propose procedures for distributing and controlling ballots.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 29.

The applicant must appoint a Returning Officer and if necessary, also appoint Deputy Returning Officers. The appointment of such deputies depends upon the number of polls, times of voting or the number of people voting.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 26.

V.              LIST OF VOTERS

Attach a copy of the alphabetic List of Voters to the application. This list helps the Returning Officer establish a person's eligibility to vote.

The eligible voters for a strike vote, are those employees in the unit affected by the dispute who worked at any time during the 60 days before the date, (or the last date if more than one) of the vote.  See:  Section 76(5).

For a lockout vote, the eligible voters are those employers who employed employees affected by the dispute at any time during the 60 days before the date, (or the last date if more than one) of the vote.

VI.           NOTICE OF VOTE TO EMPLOYEES / EMPLOYERS

Complete the Notice of Vote and attach it to the application. The applicant must say on the application form where and when it intends to post the notices.

In multi-employer vote applications, the Board requires an outline of alternative means of notification. This is to ensure that the applicant attempts to notify all persons eligible to vote. These alternative means might be a newspaper advertisement or some fast form of letter communication. The applicant should include draft advertisements or sample letters in the application.

VII.       BALLOT

The applicant must attach a sample of the proposed ballot. The ballot must be in a form approved by the Director of Settlement.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 30.

VIII.    PROCESSING OF THE APPLICATION

Upon receiving such an application, the Director of Settlement may appoint one or more Supervising Officers.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 25.

Either the Director or a Supervising Officer reviews the application for conformity with Board Rules. They may refer an incomplete application back to the applicant. They may amend the application with the consent of the applicant. The Director of Settlement or a Supervising Officer may also amend the List of Voters with the agreement of the applicant.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 27.

Notice of an application for a strike or lockout vote, with a copy of the application and list of voters must be provided to the other party by the applicant union.  See: Rules of Procedure, Rules 5.1, 6.

The Director of Settlement may decide to refer an application to the Chair or a Vice-Chair for directions. The Rules allow this when: 

        the application is incomplete;
        the proposed voting procedures may not reveal the true wishes of the eligible voters;
        the proposed procedures may not give all eligible voters a reasonable opportunity to vote; or
        the procedures do not protect the secrecy of the ballots cast.
See:  Voting Rules, Rule 28.

The Supervising Officer may attend during the vote and the counting of ballots. If not in attendance, the Supervising Officer is available by telephone for consultation during the vote.

IX.           OBJECTIONS

The Voting Rules permit an objection that the list of voters is generally unrepresentative of the persons entitled to vote. Such an objection must be in writing and include detailed reasons. The objecting party must submit the objection at least 48 hours in advance of the vote.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 33.

The Board may investigate any objection and may conduct a hearing. It can order the vote to proceed with any conditions or it may postpone the vote. It may amend the list of voters or make any other appropriate order.

An employer is not entitled to have a representative present during the conduct of a strike vote. A trade union is not entitled to attend at the conduct of a lockout vote.

Disputes over the eligibility of individual voters may arise at the polling station. The Returning Officer should attempt to resolve these disputes at the time. If not resolved, the Returning Officer seals the ballot and separates it from the other ballots. The Returning Officer does not count the ballots but refers the disputed ballots to the Board. The Board determines whether to count the disputed ballots.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 34.

The Rules also allow objections to the manner in which the vote was conducted. The objecting party must submit its objections in writing with detailed reasons within 24 hours of the closing of the polls.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 36.

X.              CONDUCTING A VOTE UNDER BOARD SUPERVISION

The Returning Officer is responsible for conducting the vote under the approved procedures and Voting Rules. This person also supervises the duties of any Deputy Returning Officers.

There are no mandatory procedures for conducting a strike or lockout vote. However, the following procedures are recommended and may help those responsible for conducting such a vote, after obtaining Board approval.

Step One
Post the approved Notice of Vote at least seventy-two hours in advance of the vote. Notices should appear at all locations where there are eligible voters.

Step Two
Make available the necessary materials for each poll conducting the vote.  Be sure to include:

1.  Ballot box,
2.  Ballots,
3.  Polling Booth (if available),
4.  Voters List for Returning Officer,                                                                             
5.  Copy of Notice of Vote with sample ballot attached,
6.  Double envelopes (large and small) for disputed ballots,
7.  Sealing labels and tape, and
8.  Pencils and ruler.

Step Three
At the poll, the Returning or Deputy Returning Officer must do the following:

        Arrange for easy entrance and exit of voters.
        Establish a voting booth to provide secrecy for voters.
        Make sure that the ballot box is empty, then close and lock it.
        Declare the poll open at the approved time. Be sure that the polls are open during the times stated on the Notice of Vote. Do not deviate from the announced voting times.
        Control activities at and around the polling station to be sure that no interference, coercion or intimidation takes place. Do not allow electioneering at the poll unless approved by the Board. See:  Voting Rules, Rule 3.
        Be sure that persons attending to vote do so in an orderly fashion.

The Board does not permit voting by proxy. All votes under the Labour Relations Code are by secret ballot.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 2.

When a person arrives to vote, check the name against the List of Voters to confirm the person's eligibility to vote. If eligible, initial the back of a ballot and give it to the person. If someone challenges the person's eligibility, follow the procedures for contested ballots.

Be sure that a minimal number of ballots are in circulation at any one time. This is to maintain control of who is marking a ballot and who has cast a ballot.

Make sure that persons who have voted leave the polling station after casting their ballot.

Declare the poll closed at the time approved.

If there is more than one poll, properly seal and transport the ballot boxes to where the counting will occur.

Step Four
Contested ballots or objections to the vote may remain. In either case, do not open the ballot boxes or count the votes.

If the count is to proceed, first establish clearly what a spoiled ballot is. As a guideline, a proper ballot is normally any ballot which gives a clear indication as being yes or no. If it is not clear that the ballot signifies a yes or no vote, it is a spoiled ballot. For information on spoiled ballots, please refer to the Board's Voting Rule 2.1 and Information Bulletin 14 on representation votes.

If the vote used more than one ballot box, count the ballots one of two ways. Open the boxes at one time and count them separately or mix the ballots and then count them. The count must take place in the presence of any scrutineers.

When finished counting, complete the Declaration of Vote and deliver it immediately to the Board's Supervising Officer. Keep the ballots until the time for objections passes. If there are no objections, and a reasonable period has passed, you may destroy the ballots.

Step Five
If no-one objects to the vote within 24 hours, the Director of Settlement releases the results of the vote.

Parties receive written notice of the results.

XI.           CONTESTED BALLOTS

At the polling station, a dispute over eligibility may arise. If so, follow the steps below.

Ask the person seeking a ballot for evidence of entitlement to vote.

If the person provides evidence which resolves the dispute, add the person's name to the list of voters, if necessary. Allow the person to vote.

If the person cannot provide such evidence or the dispute remains unresolved, give the person a ballot and an unmarked envelope. Allow the person to vote.  Instruct the person to place the ballot in the envelope and seal the envelope. Make sure no one marks this envelope in any way.

Place the voter's sealed envelope in another envelope. On the outside envelope, write the name of the voter, and the reason why the ballot is disputed.

Put the sealed ballot in the ballot box in the presence of that voter.

When the polls close, ask the persons objecting to each sealed ballot whether they wish to waive the objection and count the ballot. If any objection is maintained, seal the ballot box and forward the ballot box to the Board's Supervising Officer.  See:  Voting Rules, Rule 34.

If all objections are waived, open the ballot box. Open the outside envelope and include the voter's name on the list of voters. Destroy the outside, marked envelope.

Open the unmarked envelope and, without examining the ballot, allow that ballot to drop into the box with the other ballots.

See also:

Voting Rules, Part III

For further information or answers to any questions regarding this or any other Information Bulletin please contact:

Director of Settlement
Labour Relations Board
501, 10808 99 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 0G5
Telephone:  (780) 422-5926

Manager of Settlement
Labour Relations Board
308, 1212 31 Avenue NE
Calgary, Alberta  T2E 7S8
Telephone:  (403) 297-4334

Email:  alrb.info@gov.ab.ca
Website:  alrb.gov.ab.ca