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G.M. Closure and Strikes in Canada

Check out this excerpt from the Canadian Press Story today on G.M.’s surprise announcement that it is closing its truck assembly plant in Oshawa:

Hargrove said the union wasn’t ruling out anything and “will explore all options.” He declined to be specific, but when asked whether the options included a wildcat strike or legal action against the company, the union leader said “everything is on the table.”

“Legal action” is almost certainly on the table.  As this Blog noted yesterday, the factory shutdown may very breach both the collective agreement and Section 17 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act (duty to bargain in good faith).   But what do you think about Buzz’s suggestion that “wildcat” strikes might be “on the table”, if that is what he meant? 

In Canada, we have an extremely narrow right to strike.  Unions can not strike during a collective agreement (Section 46 of the OLRA).  Period.  Doesn’t matter how awful the employer behaves.  The union must file a grievance and try and get a remedy for breach of the collective agreement.  It cannot take matters into its own hands.  If workers do walk off the job, or engage in a “slow-down”, that is an illegal strike, and workers can be disciplined.  And if the union encourages or supports the job action, it can be held liable for damages suffered by the company as a result of the job action.   So Buzz’s comments can become “evidence” that the union encouraged an unlawful strike.

Do you think our strike laws strike a reasonable and fair balance between the interests of employers and those of the workers when it bans workers from striking to protest employer decisions that will see the entire workforce displaced? 



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