Essential services designation no panacea

Binding arbitration doesn’t necessarily resolve underlying issues
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/22/2010

When private sector workers strike, the only party hurt by the action is the employer. But when public sector workers strike, such as transit workers, teachers or, in more extreme cases, police and firefighters, the public ends up getting hurt because there is no one else available to deliver the service, says Anil Verma, a professor of industrial relations at the University of Toronto.

To mitigate this damage, most Canadian jurisdictions have imposed essential services legislation to ensure these services are continuously provided. Also, some collective agreements include special essential service provisions.

One way to ensure the public isn’t affected by essential service workers going on strike is by legislatively removing their right to strike and implementing compulsory arbitration as the ultimate dispute resolution procedure. Police and firefighters usually fall under this category