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Strike/Lockout Q's & A's

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Just writing the words "strike" and "lockout" sends a quiver up one's spine.  Nonetheless, here are some commonly asked questions and answers "just in case".

Benefits Q & A's

Click below for Benefit Q's and A's, released by OPSEU on May 27, 2005

How much is strike pay?

Strike pay is provided to members who complete strike related duties assigned by their Local Strike Committee.

During weeks one to three, each member is entitled to strike pay of $125 per week plus an additional $20 per week per dependent. The daily rate is $25 per day and $4 per day per dependent. Strike pay is calculated daily, based on 4 hours a day.

During the fourth week, strike pay increases and each member is entitled to $200 per week (or $40 per day). Dependent pay remains the same at $20 per week per dependent.

A dependent is defined as a non-working spouse (does not include a spouse on strike), children under 18,  (under 26 if attending school), or disabled and/or elderly (65+) dependents living with you. If both spouses are on strike, both spouses can claim the same dependents.

What about day care costs?

There are no provisions for day care costs while on strike. You must work with your local committees to make suitable arrangements or accommodations so that you can fulfill your strike responsibilities.

Is strike pay taxable?

No, strike pay is not taxable. According to Canada Revenue Agency "a member of a union who is on strike or locked out need not include in income payments of the type commonly referred to as ‘strike pay’ that are received from his or her union, even if the member performs picketing duties as a requirement of membership."

What if I am on an accommodation?

Local 340 members on accommodation will be assigned to appropriate strike duties. A member seeking accommodation has an obligation to inform their local strike committee of their need for accommodation and help their committee find accommodation solutions.

What happens if I'm on Short Term Disability when a strike starts?

The employer will stop short-term sick leave benefits, but you can apply for Employment Insurance (E.I) sickness benefits. You would have to show that your medical leave was anticipated and arranged for prior to a strike.

If you are currently on short-term sick leave, you may wish to consider applying for EI now.  Explain that you are anticipating a possible labour disruption.  This should help to reduce the waiting time for you to receive EI benefits should we go on strike or are locked out.

What happens if I'm on Long Term Disability when a strike starts?

Your benefits would still continue because LTD is not paid directly by the employer.

If I’m getting WSIB benefits, will they continue during a strike?

Yes, provided you continue to qualify medically and co-operate with WSIB-approved programs.

Can I get Employment Insurance Benefits while I'm on strike?

The short answer is NO.  This applies to classified and unclassified employees.

Below is an excerpt directly from the Human Resources and Development website:

"Labour Disputes

If a strike, a lockout or other form of labour dispute where you work causes you to lose your job or prevents you from going to work, you will generally not be paid EI benefits.  The following conditions apply whether you are a union member or not and whether your job is part of full-time.

You may, however, be eligible to receive benefits if:

  • you are not taking part in the dispute;
  • you are not giving money directly to support the dispute; and
  • you are not directly interested in the dispute - i.e. your wages or working conditions, etc., are not affected by the outcome of the dispute.

If you are taking part in a labour dispute, you are not eligible for EI until:

  • the strike or lockout is over; or
  • you have found another regular job where you pay EI premiums.

If you had already arranged for an approved absence from work before the work stoppage started, such as sick leave, maternity leave, parental leave or authorized training, you may still be paid EI benefits."

In summary, we are all directly interested in the dispute as it does affect our wages and working conditions.  Therefore, regardless if we are out because of a strike or a lockout, we are not eligible for EI benefits.   

Unclassified members would only be eligible for EI benefits if they are not called back to work after the strike is over.  Even then, there is a legal obligation to the applicant to inform HRDC that there was a disruption in their work due to a strike or a lockout. 

Failure to provide information to HRDC regarding a disruption in work due to a strike or lockout is fraud.

For more information, contact Human Resources and Development Canada at 1-800-206-7218.

If I am on Maternity/Parental Leave, do I receive any benefits?

Yes, you will still receive your E.I. entitlements, if you had arranged for leave prior to the strike, but you will not receive your sub-benefits (the top up to 93 per cent) from the employer. You will also receive strike pay only if you perform strike duties.

What insured benefits (basic life insurance, supplementary and dependent life insurance, dental, supplementary health and hospital including drugs, vision care and hearing aids, and LTIP) do we have while we are on strike?

This issue has yet to be determined/assessed. If a strike seems imminent, the issue of insurance premiums will be reviewed and/or negotiated. Full details will be provided to members at strike headquarters.

What if I am on vacation when a strike starts?

Any booked vacation time is considered cancelled upon the commencement of a labour disruption (strike/lockout). 

Your vacation time will be adjusted when we return to work.  You will be credited the number of vacation days you forfeited as a result of the disruption.  Your total vacation days entitlement for the year will be prorated based on the number of days the strike/lockout lasts.

If you chose to stay on vacation, you will not receive strike pay for those days that you remain away.

How can I help the Local prepare for a strike?

There are many things you can do before a strike vote is called: wear campaign buttons and tee-shirts, attend mobilizing meetings, particpate in campaign days, such as "Black Tuesday" and "Blue Thursday".  The most important thing you can do is stay informed and share the information with other members.  Ask questions when  rumours emerge and stay in the know.

The Local will need many people to help run a successful strike campaign. Volunteering for Local Communications, Finances and Strike duty committees is necessary. Painting signs, scrounging for items needed, and other vital tasks will need to be done to have a well-organized strike.

What are typical strike duties?

  • Picketing
  • Sign making
  • Finance Committee:  allocating strike pay, paying bills, etc.
  • Organization of resources:  managing strike headquarter, computers and other equipment
  • Phone tree: calling members
  • Childcare duties: caring for children of members on strike
  • Communications committee: lobbying MPPs and MPs, distributing pamphlets
  • Food bank organizers

I’m an unclassified employee. What happens to my contract if we go on strike?

Technically, your unclassified contract terminates at the onset of a work stoppage (strike/lockout).

However, in past labour disputes, contracts are usually extended by the amount of time we are out on a strike or lockout.  For example, if your contract is from January 1, 2005 until March 31, 2005 and we go on strike during that period for five days, your contract should be extended until April 7, 2005 - exactly five working days.

This provision is not guaranteed.  It is negotiated through the Bargaining Teams in the "Return to Work Protocols" with the Employer. 

The same is true of classified members in a seconded/developmental opportunity.  Technically, at the onset of a work stoppage, he/she returns to his/her homebase position. 

Again, the Bargaining Teams will be negotiating the continuation of contracts as they were prior to the work stoppage in "Return to Work Protocols".

As an unclassified member, do I have to picket?

As a dues paying member, entitled to union representation, you would be required to attend strike duties to receive strike pay.

I am a student.  Do I go on strike, too?  If yes, can I receive strike pay

If we are on strike or a lockout, students would not report to work.  Students are entitled to strike pay if they particpate in picketing.

I am a student.  Can I vote on the Contract?

If you are a dues paying member, you are entitled to a vote.  This applies to students, as well.

I know our contract expired on December 31, 2004. What agreement are we covered by?

Until such time as a strike or lockout is called, the terms & conditions of the Collective Agreement (that just expired) are in a freeze provision. The employer is required to abide by these conditions until either a new contract is reached or we’re in a strike or lockout position. If a strike/lockout happens, the old Collective Agreement is no longer valid and the terms and conditions no longer apply.

This means that our pay rate is frozen, too. Any changes to our pay will be paid retroactively once a new agreement has been reached.

I may have to get another job while we’re on strike and won’t be able to picket. Will I still get my strike pay?

No. You must perform strike duties to receive strike pay.

I support the bargainers but don’t support a strike. I don’t plan on crossing the line but won’t be participating in strike activities. Will I still get strike pay if I don’t join a picket?

No. You must perform strike duties to receive strike pay.

I can’t afford to be on strike. I plan on crossing the line. What can the union do about it?

If you’re thinking of crossing, think twice. Crossing means you’re giving up all your benefits, decent pay, pension, vacation days, etc. And once those are gone, you’ll never get them back! Stay home or get a part-time job to sustain your income instead of crossing. The damage you do by crossing will hurt everyone in the long run, including future generations of OPSers.

Also, consider this: Article 30.2.1 of OPSEU's Constitution clearly states "The assessment for damages to the union for strikebreaking shall be an amount equal to 100 per cent of the strikebreaker’s wages earned during the strike, to a maximum of $10,000 in consideration of the harm to the union caused by the strikebreaker’s action."

Article 30.2.2 goes on to state "The strikebreaker will be suspended from membership ...and the Member’s name will be recorded on a central public registry."

No one wants the reputation of being a strikebreaker and, financially, it’s not worth it. The Local is allowed to take civil action against any strikebreaking member to collect the fines described above in small claims court.

The bargaining team is negotiating a contract, not a strike. Support your bargainers for an A1 contract!

OPSEU Local 340 is a non-profit organization committed to serving its members within the Durham Region.  Questions or Comments?  Please contact us.
OPSEU Local 340
110-40 King St W
Oshawa, Ontario L1H 1A4
Phone: (905) 579-2658
Fax:  (905) 579-6619