Illegal Strikes in Canada and
What It Means For North

Illegal Strikes in Canada and What It Means For North America

December 26, 2022

Illegal Strikes In Canada May Act As Warning Sign For Future Labor Turmoil

Illegal strikes in Canada should have many employers and government entities concerned about similar events occurring in the future. As pending strike action loomed over the province of Ontario, support workers including custodians prepared to head to the picket line and strike for improved wages. While government officials such as Premiere Doug Ford looked to prevent such strike action by passing a bill called Bill 28: Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022, the union representing the workforce, CUPE, announced they were going to participate in an unlawful strike regardless of if the province’s judicial system deemed the strike legal, or not.

Illegal worker strike shown via a shadow of striking workers.

The Ford government invoked a rarely used element of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms called the Notwithstanding Clause, effectively taking away the legal right to strike the workforce. Such legal action would have seen individuals participating in a strike being fined up to $4,000 a day, while the union that facilitated the strike would be fined up to half a million dollars a day.

Despite the legal and financial consequences of striking, CUPE remained resilient and still planned to strike illegally. As an important chapter in labor relations for the province of Ontario, the lessons learned may be a taste of what the future has in store for other employers of unionized workforces.

Illegal Strikes and Use of The Notwithstanding Clause

Fortunately, the Ford government ultimately reached a deal with CUPE, it would be at the cost of stepping back and repealing Bill 28 in order to prevent the workforce from striking illegally. Heading into 2023, many employers and government bodies can use this case study as a potential sign of what may occur in other sectors across North America.

The high-stakes game that was being played out between the unionized workforce and the provincial government ultimately spelled disaster for the quality of education provided to the children of the province. After a challenging pandemic and a pivot to remote learning, reverting back to an online learning environment would be a less-than-ideal situation for children and caregivers alike. Further, many parents would have to make arrangements for childcare, potentially harming their own ability to make a living and head back to the job site. With a number of struggles harming the Ontario economy, such education strikes would likely have a ripple effect that could challenge the economy after a pandemic that has already experienced significant strain.

The use of the notwithstanding clause by the provincial government also drew the attention of many other unions across Canada, who threatened to participate in a general strike in support of CUPE-affiliated education workers. Even the legal resources available to the province proved ineffective at preventing a strike, and the province had no other option other than to quickly strike a deal with the union.

Illegal Strikes and Security Concerns Facing Employers

The use of the notwithstanding clause created a number of security concerns as not only did other unions threaten to strike in a sign of support, but the public organized in a show of support as well. While the workplace is typically the site of organized picketing and protests, many members of the public quickly organized on social media to picket the offices of government officials. Many of these demonstrations were peaceful, but still had the potential to turn sour on short notice.

Many politicians in similar predicaments are likely to experience verbal threats both online and in-person, while the possibility of physical harassment and vandalism is not out of the question. The safety risks are very real during such labor turmoil, and the politicians and employers tasked with resolving strikes with their workforces even go beyond the workplace. During especially complex labor turmoil, many government and corporate leaders can experience threats against their safety at their own homes, against their family members, and even at public appearances.

Full-Service Labor-Strike Solutions For Employers in North America

As the calls for increased security presences for politicians and corporate leaders grow, many should consider exploring additional services that can manage the risks of labor turmoil and bring an end to a difficult strike. Further, contingent workforces can buy an employer precious time during labor disputes and work stoppages.

Not only is AFIMAC capable of providing around-the-clock security and close protection for politicians and executives, but we are also capable of addressing every element of a strike. Ultimately, AFIMAC’s goal is to help you protect both people and property with several close protection services while guiding you through the difficult union negotiation process.

AFIMAC maintains a number of legal resources to aid in union negotiations, but also a number of social listening tools that can help predict spontaneous protests and demonstrations. Make efforts to prepare for strike action, both illegal and legal, alongside the global strike specialists at AFIMAC.

Expecting strike action? Contact us now and begin the planning process, fill out the form below to learn more.

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