Finding your way through labour relations (Web Sight)

Sites that explore effective communication and relevant legislation when going through a strike

Does your organization have a strategy in place in the event of a lockout or strike? Whether your HR department is planning ahead or you’ve been taken by surprise by striking workers, there are steps you can take before and during a strike to try to minimize its effects. The use of communication, whether it’s with striking employees or through the media, can be used effectively to get management’s position across during a strike. We take a look at websites that provide an overview of these issues, and we also investigate Canadian legislation and the use of conciliators during strikes.


“There is no such thing as a friendly strike,” writes Vancouver labour lawyer Gary Catherwood of law firm Fasken Martineau LLP. “A strike is a form of economic warfare.” The firm’s website posts Catherwood’s strike manual, entitled “Strikes and Picketing,” on its labour relations page. The manual is designed “to help management prepare for and live through a strike,” writes Catherwood, who adds that “strikes — both lawful and unlawful — are part of carrying on business.” He emphasizes that it’s management’s responsibility to prepare itself as much as possible for a work stoppage. He gives details on the steps management should take during pre-strike meetings with unions and what a firm can do during the course of a strike, including taking photos and writing a diary of events taking place on the picket line. There is also advice on how to communicate with striking employees, customers, suppliers and the media.


When Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., experienced a labour dispute with the Wilfrid Laurier University Staff Association in 2002, it maintained a page on its website that provided regularly updated information on university operations during the strike and issues surrounding negotiations. The site provides links to information bulletins, FAQs for researchers and graduate students, notices on rescheduling of events and a link to the complete text of the final offer for settlement. The site provides a good example of how to keep stakeholders informed on an ongoing basis during the course of a strike.


This article, “Conciliation: A Guide for Employer and Union Committees,” on the Nova Scotia Environment and Labour site offers a look at how the appointment of a conciliator in a labour dispute can help employers and trade unions reach a collective agreement. The article outlines the benefits of involving a conciliator, the rules involved, how conciliation is conducted and the main elements that are involved. There are also links to the Trade Union Act and the Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Act, and there’s a list of things to get ready for a conciliation, including pre-meeting preparation and selection of a spokesperson.


For a look at what the Canada Labour Code has to say about strikes and lockouts, the Canadian Legal Information Institute’s site separates the code into easy-to-read sections. Scroll down the page to Division V.1 and click on the “Obligations relating to strikes and lockouts” link. This includes information on strike notices, definitions, secret ballots and the reinstatement of employees after strike or lockout.


The Labour Relations Board of British Columbia’s site has a Guide to the Labour Relations Code, and this page gives information on strikes, lockouts and picketing. There’s information on work stoppages, bargaining and notice requirements, continuation of benefits and replacement workers.


The Canadian Union of Public Employees provides a mini-dictionary of union language. The list contains many common words and phrases but includes several more obscure ones such as “red-circling,” “super-seniority” and “transphobia.” The dictionary could provide a good reference for terms you may need to know during a strike or lockout.

Ann Macaulay is a freelance editor and regular contributor to Canadian HR Reporter. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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