Strike mandate vote, strikes and lockouts FAQs
What is a strike?
At 12:01AM March 24th, YUFA members will begin a strike if a fair and equitable deal cannot be reached. Members must impede the function of the university as much as it is safe and ethical to do so, including withdrawing our labour from York University. This withdrawal of labour includes: service to the university; regular job duties (teaching, grading, supervision of students and employees), and as much peripheral research activity as possible.
It is key to withdraw as much of our labour as possible from York University in order to motivate the employer to bargain and offer a fair deal.
What is the strike date?
The strike begins 12:01AM March 24th if the Employer does not offer a fair settlement.
What is a lockout?
A lockout occurs when the Employer denies employees access to the workplace and stops paying them in order to exert pressure on the union and its members to settle on the Employer’s terms. Lockouts have been rare in the university sector in Canada but it is a legal option open to our Employer.
Employers have two other options once a legal strike/lockout deadline has passed:
• they can impose their preferred terms and conditions on the matters under negotiation on the union; and
• they can ask for the Ministry of Labour to conduct a supervised final offer vote, which would require the union membership to vote on the Employer’s final offer (also called a forced ratification vote), independent of whether the Executive or Bargaining Team thought it was a good offer to present to members. An Employer can only use this option once during a bargaining round.
Will I be paid during a strike?
If a strike is called and picket lines are set up, the Employer will no longer pay us.
YUFA Strike Pay will be $1000 per week (non-taxable). To be eligible, members will participate for 4 days for 4 hours of onsite and/or remote participation (for those needing accommodation) in strike duties during weekdays. Members are encouraged to participate for 5 weekdays, if possible, although this would not result in additional strike pay. Members are also strongly encouraged to participate in in-person picketing on campus. Pro-rated strike pay will be available for reduced hours.
Members would also be expected to respect the picket line to receive strike pay.
Members on work visas are entitled to participate in a legal strike and to not have their work permits affected.
I don't want to perform strike duties? Will I still receive pay?
You must perform strike duties to receive strike pay.
How will I receive strike pay?
YUFA has hired an external payroll company to process strike benefits. Members will be invited to provide direct deposit information for strike pay. Members who do not provide direct deposit information will be mailed cheques.
Will I receive health benefits during a strike?
Yes. YUFA members will retain access to all normal health benefits during the strike. Health benefits will be accessed through Sun Life as normal but the Association will need to reimburse the Employer for any health benefit costs during the strike. This is being negotiated in the strike protocol.
Will I receive my pay for March?
The first day that YUFA members could be on strike is March 24th. York's payroll is typically processed by the 10th of the month so YUFA's expectation is that pay would still go through on the 25th even if YUFA members struck on the 24th. While that is the most likely scenario, the Employer wouldn't be legally obligated to process that pay for the full salary of March. It would be a significant administrative hurdle for York to change the pay of YUFA members but if they sought to do so, they would still be required to pay members for the time worked from March 1-23. York normally compensates employees on the 25th for work performed for the entire month.
How will YUFA address financial implications of a strike
Strikes do impose financial burdens on members, particularly if they last a long time. In addition to strike pay, unions find ways to assist members with particularly difficult financial situations so they will continue to participate in the strike. In the past, YUFA has advocated for interest-free loans with credit unions for those having a difficult time paying their mortgage. As well, as YUFA has done, unions express their support for others on strike by making donations to their local strike fund, which can be used to provide additional assistance to members experiencing acute financial pressures. Finally, if there is a remediation period in which we have to work to make up for lost class time, YUFA will insist on remediation pay for our members.
Mortgage relief: YUFA will write a letter that members can take to their banks and negotiate an interest-free loan or mortgage payment deferrals.
Remediation: It is common practice in labour relations, and YUFA fully expects that members will be paid their salaries for the duration of the strike period retroactively.
What about contributions to the pension plan?
This would have to be negotiated as part of a back to work protocol but YUFA would take the position that the period of the strike should be counted as continuous, uninterrupted service for pension purposes.
What is a strike protocol?
A strike protocol is set of ground rules that can be negotiated between the union and the Employer to govern the conduct of a strike. There is no legal requirement to negotiate such a protocol, or to include anything in particular in it. Issues that commonly feature in a strike protocol at a university include the length of time picketers can delay access to campus, the continuation of strikers’ benefits during strike action, continued access to employer-provided email, and the conditions under which strikers may access their offices or labs.
If a strike takes place, how long will it last?
The length of a strike is something we cannot predict. It depends on how strong the strike effort is and how much pressure it puts on the Employer to settle. The longer a strike lasts, the more the members have to weigh the costs of staying out versus the costs of returning to work with a settlement that may not meet all their goals. The YUFA Executive has the right to decide when to discontinue a job action once it has started, but clearly it will do this in consultation with the membership.
What does picketing involve?
Picket lines are primarily a means to communicate our grievances and to seek support for the strike. Picket lines are a way to build solidarity within the bargaining unit and with other supporters. Picketing involves attending a site at the entrance of campus to provide information and give visibility to YUFA’s demands. Your picket captain will give you directions on picketing procedure, and you should follow that direction. At all times, remain professional, courteous and non-confrontational. YUFA members have the right to walk the picket line, and the public has the right to cross it. Members can try to dissuade people from crossing the picket line by sharing information about why YUFA is on strike and what the issues at hand are. If there are any problems, the picket captain should be notified.
I'm interested in becoming a picket captain. How do I volunteer?
In preparation for possible strike action, the YUFA Mobilization Committee is organizing a picket captain training workshop on Thursday March 17th 6:30-8pm. All members are invited to learn more about picketing and the role of the picket captains. Picket captains take on leadership roles in answering questions, tracking picketing activity, and helping to keep morale strong and united. No prior experience is required. You do not need to hold any union positions or have formal leadership experience. In fact, this is a great way to gain experience if you are looking for it! Contact [email protected] for Zoom link details.
I cannot picket due to disability. How will I be accommodated?
Members with disabilities can perform in-office or remote strike duties which will involve various tasks, from assisting at the strike headquarters, to performing data entry and clerical work, engaging in social media, other communications work, securing materials, coordinating logistics, responding to questions online, researching bargaining and other university background information,coordinating actions and events, coordinating material support for the picket lines, etc.
The YUFA job action survey will invite you to indicate if you are physically able to picket, and if not, what particular skills or interests you may have so that we can best assign you to virtual strike duties. Not everyone can be guaranteed to be assigned to an area of interest.
What measures are in place to ensure the safety on the picket line?
The safety of a picket line is first and foremost in all of YUFA’s organizing. The picket line should not be a dangerous place. It should be orderly and disciplined. Sometimes, people who are being delayed at a picket will shout abuse or get angry. Picket captains are trained and equipped to deal with any incidents that might occur on the picket lines. Maintaining an orderly picket under the direction of your picket captain will maximize everybody’s safety.
Where will I be picketing?
Picket locations are still being identified and picket schedules are being developed. A survey will be circulated shortly to indicate your availability to picket. We anticipate that picket locations will be assigned by Unit. Once assigned a picket location, please only picket at that location. Picket pay will be processed based on location and ensuring adequate numbers at each picket site is essential to ensuring safety of all colleagues on picket lines.
Where can I park while picketing?
Faculty members should not park on campus while picketing. Depending on your picket assignment there are many nearby parking lots available and some on street parking. If you have mobility restrictions that require close proximity to your picket location, please indicate your needs on the forthcoming picket survey.
My child is in on-campus daycare, will I be able to access that during the strike?
Members who have children who attend one of the daycare centres on campus can contact YUFA to receive a picket pass enabling them to go on campus to drop off and pick up their children via an expedited lane earmarked for this purpose.
Will I have access to campus during a strike?
Faculty members are not expected to access campus during the strike. Those members who require access to campus where loss of access would cause irremediable harm to their research (such as the loss of life or decomposable materials) must notify their Dean as soon as possible and ideally no later than March 17. Members who do so shall be allowed access to the facilities usually associated with their research.
I'm on a work permit. Will going on strike affect my immigration status?
No. You are participating in a legal strike as part of your union at your place of employment. Your work permit should not be affected. If you anticipate your work permit expiring during the period of the strike (e.g. March or April 2022), we advise initiating the paperwork for renewal immediately. If you have not initiated the required paperwork, please contact YUFA as soon as possible.
Can I teach remotely during the strike?
A strike involves a withdrawal of your labour from York University. This means ceasing to perform all job duties for York University, including teaching, whether in–person or remotely, and submission of grades, as well as all service work. This would also include research tasks (except where it is time-sensitive and ethically required of you to continue, e.g. animal care).
Should I make my teaching materials inaccessible during the strike?
A strike involves a withdrawal of labour, including all remotely accessible teaching materials, e.g. e-class. Allowing courses to continue as if nothing is happening undermines the strike and fails to put pressure on the employer to negotiate a fair deal. YUFA is calling for all members to hide your course materials in the event of a strike by March 23 by end of day.
Can I meet with students off campus during the strike?
Advising and communicating with students is part of your regular job duties and should cease for the duration of a strike or lockout.
Can you advise what our out of office replies should read if we go on strike?
I am a member of the York University Faculty Association and am on legal strike as of Thursday, March 24, 2022. I will not be answering emails, working, teaching, or attending meetings outside of union activities until we have received a fair and reasonable contract.
Please contact the following individuals to voice your support for a fair deal for YUFA and an end to the strike:
Rhonda Lenton, York University President: [email protected]
Lisa Philipps, York University Provost & Vice President Academic: [email protected]
Sheila Cote-Meek, York University Vice-President Equity, People & Culture: [email protected]
Carol McAulay, Vice-President Finance & Administration: [email protected]
Dan Bradshaw, Assistant Vice-President Labour Relations: [email protected]
I'm a Post-Doctoral Visitor, am I on strike too? Will I receive strike pay?
Post-doctoral visitors as YUFA members will be on strike and are expected to withdraw their labour and participate in strike action in the same way that faculty members are. PDVs are entitled to the same strike pay as any other YUFA members.
As a PDV, I'm concerned about the timelines for my contract, external commitments to funders, and required deliverables?
YUFA is seeking a protocol with the Employer that grants PDVs greater time on their contracts, should a strike occur, and in which the employer would seek extensions on external deadlines with collaborators.
I'm a YUFA member and I supervise a PDV. Is there anything I should be aware of?
Your PDV is a fellow union member and will be participating in the strike just like you. Prior to going on strike, you should assure your PDV that they will not face any reprisal for participating in the strike. YUFA encourages its members to support PDVs by granting contract extensions following the strike. Communicating with funders prior to, or following, the strike (as appropriate) should be made in order to convey that any delays are beyond the PDVs control.
What about pay for my staff and graduate students
As part of the strike protocol that is under negotiation, YUFA is seeking agreement from the Employer that YUFA members will be able to authorize payment of salaries for their staff and graduate students.
What will happen with our research grants & graduate students we supervise?
YUFA is in the process of negotiating a strike protocol and is waiting for a response from the Employer on the issue of provisions for research grants and graduate students.
What will happen to members who are on sick leave, maternity/parental/caregiver leave?
YUFA is seeking agreement that these members continue to be on leave and will not experience any reduction in pay. This is a relatively standard practice during strikes and YUFA would consider it discriminatory for the Employer to withold pay of these members.
What happens to members on LTD?
Members on LTD are paid through the insurer and not York University. They will not be considered to be on strike and will not experience any change or disruption to their LTD payments.
What happens to sabbaticants?
YUFA's position is that faculty members on sabbatical are on a recognized leave and should continue to be paid by the employer. YUFA has initiated discussion of a strike protocol with the York administration and is seeking the Employer’s agreement on this matter. Our expectation is that sabbaticants could be considered to be not on strike and then would be eligible to maintain their pay, in which case they would be ineligible for strike pay (though they would still be encouraged to support their colleagues). If sabbaticants were considered to be on strike, they would not receive pay, and would be eligible for strike pay. We hope to provide a more definitive response on this matter very soon.
Do I need to withdraw my service from Senate, department or faculty committees in the event of a strike?
Withdrawal of service work during a strike means to withdraw all services including participating on committees. However, if Senate meets during a strike it may be important that Senators who are YUFA members participate in Senate meetings where discussions that will affect the operations of the University are discussed.
Why are you collecting contact information, has York blocked access to faculty email in the past?
YUFA needs reliable contact information for its members in the event of a strike to communicate effectively, coordinate actions and deal with issues processing strike pay. Although York has not blocked faculty email in the past, that is not guaranteed and the Association must ensure that it is still able to communicate with members.
Will I still have access to email/VPN/other York tech services during a strike?
YUFA has proposed that York maintain access to these services for members as part of the strike protocol negotiations. YUFA is awaiting a response from the Employer on this issue.
What is a strike vote?
A strike vote asks the membership whether they will give their Executive the authority to call a strike if and when the Executive decides it is absolutely necessary. The Executive can only call a strike if a majority of those voting in a strike vote say yes. A positive strike vote is known as a strike mandate. Once a strike mandate is given, the Executive does not have to come back to the membership for further authorization to use this mandate.
Rather than simply moving directly to a strike vote, on February 3, 2022, the YUFA Executive asked the membership to authorize the holding of a strike vote. This is an additional step was not required by labour law or our own Constitution. However, the Executive believes this is such an important decision that the members themselves should make it.
The last time YUFA held a strike vote was in 1997.
How do I vote?
For the strike vote on February 22-28, our constitution requires that the vote itself be conducted by secret ballot electronic vote. The strike vote process must also begin with a meeting whose sole topic is the question of the strike vote. This meeting will take place February 22, 2022, from 1:00pm – 3:00pm. All eligible members will receive an email with instructions on how to vote in the electronic ballot.
Who can vote in a strike vote?
All members of YUFA’s bargaining unit — meaning all those who are covered by the terms of YUFA’s collective agreement — are eligible to vote in both the vote in the strike vote. Appendix A in our collective agreement provides a list of those who are excluded from our collective agreement and therefore from voting in a strike vote.
What is conciliation and mediation, and how do they relate to normal negotiations?
Both conciliation and mediation are ways for a third party to help with negotiations and to identify the terms of a possible settlement.
Conciliation is required by the Labour Relations Act before a strike / lockout position becomes legal. A conciliator is a government-appointed third party that assists the two sides in clarifying their positions to each other. Mediation is not legally required, but is available if the two sides voluntarily agree.
A mediator (often the same person as the conciliator) takes a more active role in negotiations, suggesting possible ways to settle the issues in dispute. However, neither a conciliator nor a mediator has the power to impose a settlement. Both conciliation and mediation are phases in the overall negotiations process.
When can a strike or lockout happen?
A lockout or a strike may be called 17 calendar days after the “no board” report is issued. The Employer can impose a lockout anytime from then on, just as it can unilaterally rewrite the collective agreement. The union can take strike or other job action after this point, but with the added requirement of having had a successful strike vote..
What is binding arbitration and is it an option instead of a strike?
Binding arbitration is when the union and Employer agree that a third party — an arbitrator — will decide the terms of the new collective agreement. In sectors where the workers are delivering what the government has determined is an essential service, binding arbitration is mandatory and strikes and lockouts are illegal. In all other sectors, including the university sector, binding arbitration is voluntary and must be agreed to by both sides. Amongst unions, binding arbitration is generally seen as a poorer alternative to using the collective power of membership to get an acceptable settlement. There are some faculty associations in Ontario who routinely use binding arbitration to settle their negotiations (University of Toronto, McMaster, Waterloo, and sometimes Ryerson), but their collective agreements are weaker on salary, benefits, internal grievance processes, and rights under tenure and promotion.
Why does a union need a strike mandate?
A strike mandate sends a strong signal to the Employer (and in our case the mediator) that the members support YUFA’s Bargaining Team and their firm stance on our key priority issues. A strike mandate is a negotiating tool to put the maximum pressure on the Employer to come to a fair and equitable settlement with the union. It signals that the membership is willing to engage in actions to win a collective agreement with terms that meet our needs and interests.
What are the legal conditions for a strike action?
1. The collective agreement must have expired;
2. A Conciliation Officer must have been appointed and a “no board” report issued; and
3. A strike vote must have been held, with a majority of those voting in favour.
In our case:
• YUFA’s collective agreement expired on April 30, 2021.
• YUFA filed for conciliation on February 4, 2021 (after eight months of negotiations).
• The two bargaining teams have agreed to seek assistance from a third-party mediator.
• On February 3, 2022, the YUFA membership overwhelmingly passed a motion calling for the YUFA Executive Committee to conduct a vote authorizing possible job action if satisfactory settlement cannot be reached.
• On February 16, 2022 the YUFA Executive Committee overwhelmingly voted to conduct a strike vote.
• Unless a tentative agreement is reached beforehand, a strike vote will take place between February 22-28, 2022. If more than 50% of those voting are in favour, YUFA will have met all the legal conditions for strike action.
• On February 28, 2022 YUFA members voted in favour of a strike vote.
• On March 1, 2022, after meeting with a third-party mediator on February 28, YUFA requested a no board report from the conciliator.
YUFA will have met all the legal conditions for strike action. The no board report triggers a 17-day waiting period before the union and the Employer are in legal strike/lockout position.
What happens if the members vote against giving the Executive a strike mandate
If we fail to get a strike mandate, negotiations for all intents and purposes will be over. Without a strike mandate, the Employer will have no incentive to offer us contract terms that meet our members’ interests and priorities. They will be able to set the terms of the agreement in their favour. They could impose their preferred terms on the issues that have been discussed at the bargaining table or they could ask for a Ministry-supervised final offer vote. Our Bargaining Team could return to negotiations, but the Employer will know that they don’t have the members’ support. This will certainly put a limit on any progress we wish to make in this round of bargaining, and could in fact undermine our ability to make gains in future rounds.
How common are strike votes amongst faculty and librarians
It is becoming much more common for unions of faculty and librarians to take strike votes. Many faculty associations across the country and in Ontario have asked for—and received—a strike mandate to put their Bargaining Team in a stronger position in negotiations.
Most recently, UOITFA commenced strike action February 10, 2022 following an 80% strike mandate vote, and reached a tentative agreement on February 20, 2022.
Does a strike vote necessarily or automatically lead to a strike
No. Even if a majority of the membership votes yes in the actual strike vote, the vote itself does not automatically trigger a strike. A strike is triggered only if the Executive decides it is necessary. As well, a strong strike mandate—with a high turnout of members and a high percentage voting in favour of a strike—is considered the best way to avert an actual strike, because it signals to the Employer how committed the members are to progress on their key issues and gives them an incentive to make a better offer. The Bargaining Team can keep negotiating with a strike mandate in hand in order get a better deal and avert an actual strike. If the Executive believes that the Employer has made an offer that should be brought to the membership for a potential ratification vote, this can also mean that the strike mandate is not actually used.
Does bargaining stop if members vote in favour of a strike?
No. If both sides agree, bargaining can continue after there is a strike mandate. It is the intention of both the Executive and Bargaining Team to continue bargaining if we get a strike mandate. In fact, having a strike mandate helps the bargaining process to work, as it creates additional pressure to find an settlement acceptable to both sides.
If a strike vote fails, can another strike vote be held?
There is no legal barrier to holding a second strike vote if the first one fails. For instance, if the Employer attempts to impose a contract after a failed strike vote, this might anger the membership enough to trigger the desire for another strike vote. However, a failed strike vote could dramatically diminish what the Employer will feel it needs to offer to get a settlement. The more reluctant the Employer (and our Bargaining Team) thinks that YUFA members are to take job action, the greater the likelihood of a poor settlement.
What is a back-to-work protocol and what does it cover?
A back-to-work protocol is negotiated between the union and the Employer, and sets out the terms on which employees will return to work after a strike has ended. Back-to-work protocols often cover issues like how we will be paid for work that must be made up in any remediation period, or the reorganization of deadlines for various processes that may have halted during a strike. The leverage that a union has in negotiating a good back-to-work protocol rests in the members’ unwillingness to return to work unless these key issues are dealt with.
Unions at York University have always sought remediation pay for completing work missed or delayed owing to the strike.