TAKING A STRIKE VOTE
During bargaining and prior to a Union being able to order unionized employees out on strike (legally), the Union must have the support of a majority of the bargaining unit. In order to achieve this, a Union will hold a vote where all eligible members of the bargaining unit can vote for or against going on strike. You don’t have to vote or even go to the meeting, but the Union must give you an opportunity to vote.
Voting to strike does not necessarily mean you will. It does, however, give you leverage. Having attained the support of its members to show solidarity and strike often gets the Employer back to the bargaining table if talks are stalled; or makes it clear to the Employer that the union is serious about its negotiating demands.
What if I don’t want to go on strike? If I don’t vote, do I have to go on strike?
In order for your opinion or wishes to count you must vote. If you don’t vote, those who do vote make the decision – regardless of what you hope for.
If your workplace has 100 employees and 20 show up for a strike vote, suppose 11 vote to strike and 9 vote against a strike. The union can then call a strike with only 11/100 votes in favour.
If you don’t want to be on strike, show up and cast your vote. If you do want to strike then show up and vote in favour of a strike. Either way, it is important to participate.
If a majority of the bargaining unit votes in favour of the strike, does this mean that a strike happens right away?
NO, not necessarily. The Union has 60 days from the date of the vote to declare a strike. There are also other requirements that the Union must meet (such as providing at least 72 hour strike notice to the Employer) before it can lawfully go on strike.
How will I know when a strike vote is going to occur?
The Union has a responsibility to ensure that all eligible members are given a reasonable opportunity to participate in the voting process and to be informed of the results. For this to happen, the Union must conduct a secret ballot vote in a manner that ensures eligible employees are given a reasonable opportunity to vote. Generally, that would mean advance notice in writing, but there is no such legal requirement in the Canada Labour Code for written notice.
What if I don’t agree with the way that the Union handled the strike vote?
If a Unionized employee thinks that there was something wrong with the way the Union held the strike vote, he or she may bring an application to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) and ask to have the vote declared invalid. Such an application must be brought within 10 days from the announcement of the results of the vote.
Can I work during the strike?
Here’s a lawyer’s answer: “it depends”.
Often the Employer will “lock out” the Unionized employees. What this means is that the Employer will NOT allow you to cross the picket line to work.
Your Union will definitely want you to strike and may threaten members who cross a picket line with fines or the loss of their membership card. For the most part, Union members must agree that they enjoyed the spoils of membership while working because of the salary and benefits their Union negotiated for them. If you are willing to reap these spoils, then you have an obligation to not undermine your Union. Solidarity means standing together with other members to get the best contract you can.
What is the difference between a “strike” and “job action?”
Under the BC Labour Code, a job action refers to any collective action undertaken by Union members in order to put pressure on an Employer. These might include: refusing to work overtime, wearing Union buttons to work, refusing work not in your job descriptions, etc. You will be guided by your Union Executive Committee.
Our strength as a Union comes when we act together in solidarity. The more members participating in an action, the greater the impact and the louder the voice. Collective job action shows the Employer that Union members are invested in getting a fair contract, and are unified in their support of the Union’s proposals. Furthermore, if job action is effective in its earlier, less intense stages, there will be no need to escalate to full work stoppage (pickets).