Survey of CAPE members - “I don’t know enough about how a strike would work”
Many of you who responded to the survey would be reluctant to vote in favour of a strike at this point because you not know enough about how a strike would work. To be honest, nor do we. We are still at the bargaining table but it is becoming abundantly clear to all unions that all signs are pointing towards an impasse. Once this point has been reached, and if this happens before an election – which would suspend Treasury Board’s mandate - the only dispute resolution mechanism available to resolve an impasse is conciliation with the possibility of a strike. Therefore we need to envisage this possibility and prepare for it. It would be irresponsible not to.
Let’s be clear, a strike is the last resort in the conciliation process which includes the following steps:
- Once the talks break down at the table, either party can request conciliation. The employer can also force a vote on its last offer.
- Once the Chairperson of the Public Service Relations and Employment Board receives the request for conciliation, he or she evaluates whether a public interest commission (PIC) might assist the parties in reaching an agreement and that the parties are unlikely to reach agreement otherwise.
- As soon as possible after being established, the PIC must endeavor to assist the parties to the dispute and both parties are given a full opportunity to present evidence and make representations.
- The PIC issues a report with non-binding recommendations which are intended to encourage further dialogue and to assist the parties to the negotiations to reach a tentative agreement.
- Mediation is always available to the parties throughout the process. A mediator will be made available and will endeavor to assist them in settling the dispute.
- If the parties still cannot come to an agreement, a bargaining agent has the right to hold a strike vote among all of the employees in the bargaining unit. The vote must be conducted in a manner that ensures that employees are given a reasonable opportunity to participate in the vote and be informed of the results.
- The vote must have received the approval of a majority of the employees who voted.
- The bargaining agent may authorize or declare a strike only within the period of 60 days following the vote, provided that it has received the majority support of voters.
So a lot of water has to run under the bridge before a union can be in a legal strike position. Assuming there is a positive strike vote, there is plenty of time for CAPE to consult you on and inform you of what a strike would entail. A strike where employees walk off the job without pay is one of many options available. Strike actions could include any stoppage of work, refusal to work or to continue to work, a slow-down of work or any other concerted activity designed to restrict or limit output. Work-to-rule, demonstrations during breaks or lunch hour or a partial withdrawal of services will always be considered first before there is any escalation leading to a withdrawal of services, whether for a day or for a longer period. And rest assured, CAPE is not alone in this fight. All unions in the federal public service are in this together. The key issue in this round of bargaining is protecting current sick-leave benefits and the right to sick leave is so fundamental, all unions have signed an unprecedented solidarity pact to stand together to fight to protect this right.