FAQ - Strikes and Lockouts







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Frequently Asked Questions

Strikes, Lockouts & Picketing

When a trade union is unable to negotiate a collective agreement, they sometimes choose to strike an employer. A strike includes (1) a cessation of work, (2) a refusal to work, or (3) a refusal to continue to work, by two or more employees for the purpose of compelling their employer to agree to terms or conditions of employment.

Similarly, employers may choose to lockout their workers. A lockout includes (1) the closing of a place of employment by an employer, (2) the suspension of work by an employer, or (3) a refusal by an employer to continue to employ employees for the purpose of compelling employees to agree to terms of conditions of employment.

Strikes and lockouts are often accompanied by picketing at the employer’s place of business.


Q:   When can a union go on strike?

A:   There are several requirements for unions to hold a legal strike. These include:

  1. Any collective agreement between the union and the employer must be expired.
  2. The parties must enter into collective bargaining.
  3. The parties must work with a government- appointed mediator.
  4. A 14-day cooling-off period must elapse following mediation.
  5. A Labour Board-supervised strike vote (unions) or lockout poll (employers) must be taken and a majority of those voting must agree to the strike or lockout.
  6. One party must serve the other (as well as the mediator) with 72 hours of notice before the strike or lockout commences.

More information is available in the Information Bulletin #17.


Q:   Is a striking or locked-out employee still considered an employee?

A:   Yes. Although employees are not working and are not entitled to pay, they are still considered employees and cannot be terminated simply because of being on strike or locked out. When the strike or lockout ends, they are entitled to be reinstated in preference to any employee hired as a replacement during the dispute. An employee must ask for this reinstatement as soon as the strike or lockout is over. This reinstatement provision does not mean that all employees will be automatically recalled as soon as a strike or lockout is over. For example, markets may be lost causing production to be reduced.


Q:   Do my benefits continue while I am on strike or locked out?

A:   Section 155 of the Labour Relations Code protects pension rights and benefits during a strike or lockout. There is also protection for medical, dental, disability, life and other insurance schemes. It is up to the trade union representing employees to take steps to ensure payment of the full premiums of the insurance scheme it seeks to protect during the strike or lockout.


Q:   What happens during an illegal strike or lockout?

A:   Strikes and lockouts are prohibited if they occur before the steps set out above have been taken. Any party alleging an unlawful strike or lockout can ask the Board to hold a hearing on short notice. If the strike or lockout is unlawful, the Board will order that it stop. It may also make other remedial orders. A Board order may be filed by the Board with the Clerk of the Court and is then enforceable as a judgment of the court. It is contempt of court to knowingly violate a court order.


Q:   We’re locked out. Can we picket our employer?

A:   Picketing may occur during a lawful strike or lockout. The picketing is restricted to the employees’ place of employment. Picketing must be peaceful and carried out without trespassing or other unlawful acts. Violent or unlawful acts can involve legal consequences and may affect the employees’ continued employment. Picketing is regulated by the Labour Relations Board.


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