Strike vote demystified: If I vote "Yes" to a strike mandate, does it mean there will be a strike?

July 20, 2015

Strike _vote

If I vote "Yes" to a strike mandate, does it mean there will be a strike?

Voting yes to a strike mandate essentially means giving your union the ability to put escalating pressure on the government to reach a fair collective agreement.

In the federal public service, the default dispute resolution process at the bargaining table is conciliation, a process that can
lead to employees having the right to strike under certain prescribed conditions. That is why it is often referred to as the
conciliation/strike route. A public interest commission (PIC) may be established to conciliate the matters in dispute. If the parties
do not reach a collective agreement after receiving the PIC's recommendations, the bargaining agent can declare or authorize a strike provided:

ECs and TRs who are assigned to a position that has been identified as providing an essential service are prevented from striking.

What is a strike? Under the Public Service Labour and Employment Relations Act a strike is defined as a coordinated cessation of work or a refusal to work, a slow-down of work, or any other concerted activity designed to restrict or limit output. For instance, a strike mandate might result in working-to-rule or rotating pickets.

The 2013 strike led by the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, as seen in the timeline below, illustrates how union members can escalate the pressure to reach a fair settlement.

PAFSO’s job action was not systematic, but it was strategic and it targeted priority files of the day. While 0members were technically in a strike position for over five months, there was only one half-day where the headquarters’ DFATD membership walked off en masse. As for the rest, it varied. Some members were never off work, while others withdrew their services for weeks; in some instances continuously,
in others, only a few days at a time. The key element that allowed for this nimbleness was the depth of PAFSO’s strike fund, which ensured that employees were fully reimbursed for the days during which they withdrew their services.

The PAFSO strike at a glance

Jan. 27, 2012 Impasse reached at the bargaining table
Feb. 3, 2012 PAFSO files for conciliation
July 17, 2012 Public Interest Commission (PIC) is established
Oct. 22, 2012 PIC renders its decision
Nov. 2012

Resumption of negotiations following recommendations
release of the PIC’s

Mar. 2013 PAFSO conducts a strike vote, 82% vote in favour of job action
Apr. 2, 2013 PAFSO is in a legal strike position. Job action measures (email auto-reply, work-to-rule) begin on the same day.
May 13, 2013 TBS’ failure to return to the table leads to an escalation in job action. Walkouts occur in select missions abroad and at headquarters in Ottawa.
June, 2013 New service withdrawals of escalating scope and intensity. Starting on June 20, 2013, FS employees engage in strike action at fifteen of Canada’s biggest visa processing centres around the world.
July 18, 2013 Out of concern about the magnitude of the strike’s effect on the Canadian economy, PAFSO offers the President of the Treasury Board to take the dispute to binding third-party arbitration.
July 23, 2013

President of the Treasury Board agrees to PAFSO’s offer of
binding arbitration subject to
six preconditions.

July 24, 2013 PAFSO agrees to some employer conditions; employer refuses unless PAFSO agrees to a condition that would predetermine the outcome.
July 26, 2013 President of the Treasury Board rejects PAFSO offer of binding arbitration.
July 31, 2013 PAFSO files a bad-faith bargaining complaint against the Government of Canada
Sep. 13, 2013 The PSLRB adjudicator finds that Treasury Board President Tony Clement engaged in bad faith bargaining.
Sep. 26, 2013 PAFSO reaches a tentative agreement which includes significant salary increases.
Dec. 6, 2013 Contract signed.