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Update: Anatomy of a Work Stoppage? No Board Report Issued

Follow my updates on the City of Toronto bargaining with its outside workers here.

January 18:  No Board Report Issued, Strike/Lockout Deadline Set for Feb. 5th

As expected, the Minister issued what is called a “No Board” report today, starting the countdown to a work stoppage.  The relevant section of the Labour Relations Act that governs this process is Section 79(2).  Part (b) says that “14 days” after the no board report, the parties are in a legal strike or lockout (it works out to 17 days for reasons that don’t really matter), putting the legal strike/lockout time as midnight on Sunday Feb. 5th.  That

is the time at which the employer can lockout the workers, or the workers can strike. It is also the date on which the City could unilaterally announce that it is changing the terms of employment, such as by cutting wages and benefits.

As I understand the offers on the table, the union has offered to roll over the terms of the existing agreement for another three years with no increase in pay or benefits.  The employer has offered some nominal lump sum payment to workers, and the abolition of the job security provisions for all employees except those with greater than 25 years’ service.

Neither of those offers has any chance if being accepted.   The employer has publicly locked itself into a promise to eliminate the provisions that prohibit the employer from terminating workers in order to contract out there jobs. So while most employers would love their unionized workers to accept a 3 year pay freeze, the employer is actually offering money while the workers are offering a wage freeze.

Here’s the situation from the workers’ perspective.  If  the employer’s proposal were accepted,  most of the workers could lose their jobs since the whole purpose of that proposal is to permit the Mayor and his supporters to fire the unionized workers and replace them with cheaper private sector workers.  Our law requires that every collective agreement be ratified (voted to accept) by the employees (section 44).  Therefore, you’d be asking for a workers to vote for their own dismissal, which won’t happen.

Here’s a hypothetical labour law question: What if the employer “improved” its offer, and proposed that the job security provision would protect people with, say, 15 or more sears of service (down from 25 in its current offer).  Now assume that 60% of the bargaining unit have 15 or more years of service.

[Note: I have no idea what the breakdown is.  This is just a hyopthetical question for my labour law students]

Question:  Could the 60% of members who are protected by the proposed language vote to accept it, and thereby save their jobs and avoid a lockout by permitting the employer to terminate the other 40% of members who will be left unprotected?

Look at Section 74 (Duty of Fair Representation).  Do you think this section permits a union to sign a collective agreement that disregards the minority of workers to protect the majority?

Would it make a difference if the Union also bargained higher termination packages for the 40% than they would otherwise be entitled to under the Employment Standards Act (or the old collective agreement).


One Response to Update: Anatomy of a Work Stoppage? No Board Report Issued

  1. cameron

    January 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    The strength of a union is rarely in it’s power position. That is particularly true today after governments have removed anti-scab legislation and a greater portion of workers are covered under mandatory service provisions. Further, Municipal , Provincial and Federal employers seem to reach for back to work legislation at the first sign of a labour dispute.
    In the case of an employer offering preferential treatment to a majority of their workers at the expense of the minority. Whether the carrot is job security, defined benefit pensions or wages the strength of the union is the adage that “an injury to one is n injury to all” There are numerous instances where Locals have chosen work stoppage in lieu of enhancements for selected members. This is often expressed as a loyalty to the entire bargaining unit and rarely anticipated by the employer. This misjudging of the union’s solidarity can often place the union and employer on aroad to a strike or lockout. Interestingly the employers often assume that individual members will choose to better their own situation at the expense of their union brothers and sisters
    An example would be the 2008 ATU Local 279 transit strike in Ottawa where the employer (city of Ottawa) attempted to divide the membership on work booking. They filed even after a second govt. forced vote in a Federally legislated workplace

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